Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed several sanctions waivers on Friday related to Iran’s atomic program reversing former President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the same.
The move is being seen as an attempt to persuade Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal was signed in July 2015 between Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, UK and the US, whereby Iran pledged to limit its nuclear activities to non-aggressive purposes in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions by the EU, UN and US.
However, Trump withdrew the US from the agreement and reimposed sanctions in 2018. The following year, Iran announced that it was ending compliance with parts of the 2015 nuclear deal and completely abandoned it in January 2020 following the US assassination of General Qassem Soleimani. An additional series of US sanctions followed after Iran’s retaliatory strike on US troops in Iraq that inadvertently brought down a Ukraine passenger plane killing everyone onboard.
President Joe Biden declared during his election campaign that returning to the JCPOA would be a priority in his administration and he has since pursued that goal. The restoration of waivers means that foreign countries and entities that work in civilian nuclear facilities in Iran are now exempt from US penalties. In a notice to Congress, the State Department said:
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…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. We are focused on working with partners and allies to counter the full range of threats that Iran poses.
Stating that the waivers are essential to build support for a return to the deal, the State Department highlighted that the government is not granting Iran any concessions. Specifically, State Department Spokesman Ned Price tweeted “We did NOT provide sanctions relief for Iran and WILL NOT until/unless Tehran returns to its commitments under the JCPOA. We did precisely what the last Administration did: permit our international partners to address growing nuclear nonproliferation and safety risks in Iran.”
Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian welcomed the sanctions waivers stating that “lifting some sanctions in a real and objective manner could be interpreted as the good will that Americans talk about” but noted that the move is inadequate: “Good will, in our viewpoint, means that something tangible happens on the ground.” Essentially, Iran is demanding the restoration of all sanctions relief as promised under the deal before it returns to compliance.
However, opponents of the deal are criticizing Biden Administration as it is and stated that it should have demanded concessions from Iran upfront before restoring the sanctions waivers.