US Reportedly Mulling ‘Near Wholesale Rollback’ of Trump-Era Iran Sanctions to End Nuclear Standoff

Tehran’s hopes for a speedy US return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Joe Biden’s election were soured after the new administration began demanding that the Islamic Republic dramatically scale down its nuclear enrichment activities first. Iran’s authorities have balked at the demands, stressing the US must first terminate its illegal sanctions.

The Biden administration is considering a ‘near wholesale rollback’ of Trump-era Iran sanctions related to the nuclear deal as a major sweetener to get Tehran back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, AP reports, citing current and former US officials said to be familiar with the discussions.

Officials did not clarify which sanctions specifically may be scrapped, but did indicate that they would consider restrictions said to be inconsistent with the JCPOA or which deny Iran the sanctions relief it was promised when it signed the nuclear deal. This, it is said, may include some non-nuclear sanctions related to terrorism, the country’s missile programme, and alleged human rights abuses, if they are thought to have been improperly imposed by the previous administration.

State Department spokesman Ned Price indirectly confirmed that a sanctions rollback was being considered, but emphasised that the US was “considering removing only those sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA”.

“Even if we rejoin the JCPOA – which remains a hypothetical – we would retain and continue to implement sanctions on Iran for activities not covered by the JCPOA, including Iran’s missile proliferation, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses,” Price said.

Meanwhile, a senior State Department official said to be involved in the negotiations indicated that staff will now “have to go through every sanction” issued during the Trump period “to look at whether they were legitimately or not legitimately imposed”.

Iran has seemingly softened its own position on the sanctions rollback, retreating from its previous stance that all US sanctions are illegal and must be removed before Washington can rejoin the nuclear accord, and now saying that all sanctions introduced after the JCPOA was signed must be scrapped.

Speaking to Press TV on Tuesday following another round of the ongoing JCPOA talks in Vienna, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said that all sanctions introduced by Presidents Obama and Trump after the JCPOA’s implementation must be terminated before Iran would pull back on its nuclear activities and allow the US to return to the deal. Araqchi stressed that Iran was coordinating its position on the issue with Russia and China, and that the three nations enjoy “very close cooperation” on this area.

If the proposed sanctions rollback does include scrapping restrictions which prevent Iran from enjoying the fruits of signing the JCPOA, it would effectively mean an end to the penalties imposed by Trump targeting the country’s banking, oil, industry and construction sectors, as well its ability to trade with other countries in dollars. At present, such trade is severely restricted, with Washington threatening to slap other countries with secondary restrictions if they do business with the Islamic Republic.

The Biden administration’s manoeuvres are said to have been complicated by fierce resistance from Republicans in Congress, who have attacked the Democratic president for negotiating with Tehran, and have proposed legislation to stop a US return to the nuclear accord. One resolution before legislators supported by a large bipartisan group of lawmakers calls on Biden to recognise “the rights of the Iranian people and their struggle to establish a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear Republic of Iran while holding the ruling regime accountable for its destructive behaviour”.

US allies including Israel, which proved instrumental in lobbying the Trump administration to get out of the JCPOA, have also warned Biden against returning to the deal, with Tel Aviv stressing that it would stop at nothing to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon. Iran has said repeatedly that it has no ambitions in that direction, and has pointed out that the Jewish State as the only country in the Middle East with an actual suspected nuclear arsenal. Israel neither confirms nor denies its nuclear status.

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