Nuclear Deadlock? Iran Envoy Says US Won’t Lift Sanctions On 500 Entities
The United States is refusing to lift sanctions on 500 Iranian individuals or entities in returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said.
In an interview notably published on the website of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Gharibabadi said Washington had refused to rescind President Donald Trump's executive order designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a ‘foreign terrorist organization.’
Gharibabadi said that the 500 had all been designated for "non-nuclear" reasons, and that this was incompatible with the JCPOA and contrary to UN Security Council resolution 2231, passed in 2015 and endorsing, with US support, the JCPOA.
The US stance made clear, the ambassador said, that the administration of President Joe Biden would continue the ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions introduced by Trump when he withdrew the US from the JCPOA in 2018.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday the negotiating process with Iran could not go on indefinitely.
Addressing a news conference in Kuwait, he said the United States had demonstrated good faith and the desire to return to compliance with the nuclear deal, adding that "the ball remains in Iran's court."
Gharibabadi also said the US had rejected annulling the CAATSA, the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanction Act, ratified under President Trump against Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The US refused, the ambassador said, to remove a Trump executive order purporting to bar Iran buying or selling weapons, an order passed September 22, 2020, a month before the UN arms embargo against Iran ended.
According to Gharibabadi, the US had conditioned lifting all these sanctions on further Iranian concessions over non-nuclear matters including regional security and Iran's missile program.
Gharibabadi revealed that the US wanted a paragraph in a “ministers' statement" on the JCPOA committing signatories to further negotiations in three areas: "measures to strengthen Iran's international economic and trade relations including a change in the United States' policy about sanctions, guaranteeing Iran's interests as a result of long-term non-proliferation, and taking steps to support and reinforce regional security including reducing tensions and confidence-building in the region through dialogue."
Gharibabadi dismissed the notion of “guaranteeing Iran's interests as a result of long-term non-proliferation," suggesting this reflected attempts to extend JCPOA provisions. Iran has insisted that once the JCPOA expires, it should be dealt with on the same terms as any signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.
The envoy argued that "taking steps to support and reinforce regional security" could reflect a desire among US and other Western states to use nuclear negotiations to open other issues including Iran's missile defense. While Iran has not ruled out future talks with regional powers over defense and security, it has insisted that separating the nuclear issue was a cornerstone of the JCPOA. Gharibabadi reiterated that the Vienna negotiations “should be solely about nuclear issues and any unrelated subjects must be taken out of the agenda."
Gharibabadi said the US had refused to accepted that it, as the party that left the JCPOA, should first fulfil its obligations under the agreement, and be verified to have done so, before Iran began to fulfil its side – a reference to Tehran’s expansion of its nuclear program since 2019, including uranium enrichment to 60 percent.
The ambassador said the Vienna talks were far from concluded and that everything needed to be in place before they were: "This means, even if only 10 percent of matters are still outstanding, the negotiations would be incomplete and there is no agreement."
The talks, which began in April, are on hold until president-elect Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) takes office in August. Formally the negotiations are between remaining JCPOA signatories – China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and the United Kingdom – with a US delegation participating indirectly.