U.S. Restores Sanctions Waivers to Iran in Effort to Sustain Nuclear Deal Talks

American sanctions and USA flag on table.
Sanctions waiver. | Image by designer491

As of Monday, February 21, indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran over reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are inching forward. As reported by Reuters, two sources close to the talks say that a deal may be reached by the end of the week.

On February 5, 2022, the United States reissued sanctions waivers for Iran in order to facilitate these discussions on restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear arms deal.

According to a report by Radio Free Europe, the Trump administration rescinded the sanctions waivers. One of the hallmarks of the Trump administration’s foreign policy was its withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its decision to re-implement stiff sanctions on Iran.

In a recently released report from the U.S. State Department, signed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Blinken explained that the restoration of waivers is intended to assist in the process of returning to the nuclear deal.

Currently, diplomats from both countries are conducting indirect talks in Vienna.

“The waiver with respect to these activities is designed to facilitate discussions that would help to close a deal on a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA and lay the groundwork for Iran’s return to performance of its JCPOA commitments,” the report stated.

“It is also designed to serve U.S. nonproliferation and nuclear-safety interests and constrain Iran’s nuclear activities. It is being issued as a matter of policy discretion with these objectives in mind, and not pursuant to a commitment or as part of a quid pro quo,” the report added.

According to Radio Free Europe, a senior State Department official stated that the restoration of the waiver was a necessary step to allow for technical discussions to occur. From there, further talks about a return to the JCPOA could take place. However, the official added that the waiver’s restoration did not signify that the U.S. is on the cusp of coming to an understanding with regards to returning to the full deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abhollahian expressed similar sentiments on February 5. He called attention to how the U.S.’s move to restore sanction waivers for Iran was not sufficient, and Washington should establish guarantees for the return of the 2015 JCPOA.

“The lifting of some sanctions can in itself translate into good faith,” Amir-Abdollahian declared. “While what is on paper is good, it’s not enough,” he continued.

“We demand guarantees in the political, legal and economic spheres. Certain agreements have already been reached,” Amir-Abdollahian emphasized.

A spokesman for the State Department clarified its decision, specifying that the waivers were not sanction relief, which would not be granted unless Iran agrees to certain terms.

“We did NOT provide sanctions relief for Iran and WILL NOT until/unless Tehran returns to its commitments under the JCPOA,” State Department spokesman Ned Price posted on Twitter on February 4.

“We did precisely what the last administration did: permit our international partners to address growing nuclear nonproliferation and safety risks in Iran,” Price continued.

Since April, the U.S. and Iran have held nine rounds of indirect negotiations over the issue.

Following the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the deal in 2018 and bring back stiff sanctions against Iran, the Middle Eastern country started to back out of its original commitments under the JCPOA.

President Joe Biden has made rejoining the JCPOA a central foreign policy pillar of his administration. However, the Biden administration believes that Iran is not in full compliance with the original JCPOA.

Until Iran takes steps towards complying with the original JCPOA, the Biden administration has maintained its ground in not fully returning to the deal.

Arta Moeini, the Research Director of The Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, offered his perspective on the recent developments regarding the JCPOA to The Dallas Express.

“Relations between Iran and the United States are at an all-time low, even by the standards of 40-plus years of hostilities between Tehran and Washington,” he said.

Moeini stressed, “Returning to the Iran Nuclear Deal was a major campaign promise of Joe Biden. While not perfect, the JCPOA remains the only practical solution to prevent the Iranian leadership from making the ultimate decision to pursue nuclear weapons.”

Iran is increasingly ambivalent about resuscitating the deal — having not experienced the boost to its economy it had originally expected —and wants guarantees that sanction relief will be comprehensive and permanent this time around,” the foreign policy analyst added.

Moeini also observed that “years of ‘maximum pressure’ campaign by Iran hawks in the Trump administration have emboldened Tehran, reassuring it [that], one, [Iran] can withstand almost any duress, and, two, [the country] has leverage because of it.”

Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, supports a nuclear agreement with Iran but with more punitive measures.

On Twitter, he stated that the “Only guarantee this regime won’t pursue nuclear weapons is to help end this regime.”

Dubowitz added, “In the meantime, we negotiate a longer & stronger deal to complicate their nuclear pathways. [Ronald] Reagan pursued arms control w/USSR with a max pressure strategy to end the Soviet regime.”

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