President Biden couldn’t lift all Iran sanctions if he wanted to, says Trump envoy

Elliott Abrams says the comprehensive sanctions structure means a change of leadership won’t alter reality for Tehran anytime soon

US Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, testifies during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on US Policy in the Middle East on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 24, 2020. (Photo by Susan Walsh / POOL / AFP)

If former Vice President Joe Biden wins the November 3 election, it will be neither simple nor swift for his administration to remove sanctions on Tehran, US Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams told The National.

Mr Abrams, who served in four different administrations including that of President Donald Trump, said US sanctions on Iran, especially those imposed outside the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will not be lifted anytime soon.

"Those who believe that a President Biden could come to office in January and by the second or third day all sanctions will be gone, will find out that it's not feasible even if they wanted to do it," Mr Abrams said in an interview with The National.

“The US now has a comprehensive sanctions structure in place that will stay for a while.”

Some of those sanctions have been imposed since 1979 and have nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear programme. “In some of these cases we put sanctions in place under counterterrorism authorities … to lift those sanctions requires stating that Iran is not engaged in supporting terror. So how do you reverse that? No, you don’t,” Mr Abrams argued.

The US envoy was reluctant to get into US politics and what Mr Biden would do with the 2015 nuclear deal that America left under the Trump administration two years ago.