The Biden administration is considering a near wholesale rollback of some of the most stringent Trump-era sanctions imposed on Iran in a bid to get the Islamic Republic to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, The Associated Press reported Wednesday, citing current and former US officials and others familiar with the matter.
American officials have refused to discuss which sanctions are being considered for removal, but have stressed that they are open to lifting non-nuclear sanctions, such as those tied to terrorism, missile development and human rights, in addition to those related to the nuclear program.
Biden administration officials say this is necessary because of what they describe as a “deliberate attempt” by the Trump administration to stymie any return to the deal. Under the 2015 agreement, the United States was required to lift sanctions tied to Iran’s nuclear program, but not the non-nuclear sanctions.
When former President Donald Trump re-imposed sanctions after withdrawing from the deal in 2018, he not only put the nuclear sanctions back in but also added sanctions related to terrorism and other sanctions on many of the same entities.
A senior State Department official involved in the negotiations told AP that US officials now “have to go through every sanction to look at whether they were legitimately or not legitimately imposed.”
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the US would be prepared to lift sanctions that would otherwise deny Iran the benefits it’s entitled to under the deal, not just those specifically related to nuclear activity.
Those sanctions could include restrictions on Iran’s ability to access the international financial system, including dealing in dollar-based transactions.
The report follows recent talks in Vienna aimed at bringing back the US to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The talks in Vienna involved diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia who met the Iranian representatives, while US diplomats participated indirectly in the talks from a nearby hotel.
The US and European Union both said last week that more work was needed to revive the 2015 deal, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the "negotiations have achieved 60-70 percent progress."
A senior State Department official told reporters last week that the US provided Iran with an outline of the sanctions it is prepared to remove as part of a mutual return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.