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Biden agrees to Iranian demands of sanction relief to advance nuclear deal talks: report

President Joe Biden in the White House Oval Office.(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
April 22, 2021

President Joe Biden has agreed to ease sanctions against aspects of Iran’s economy, including oil and finance, if the Middle Eastern nation agrees to once again comply with the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a senior official familiar with the matter who spoke with the Associated Press.

During planned talks in Vienna on reviving the nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers., the U.S. reportedly communicated which sanctions on Iran it is willing to lift, which it is not willing to lift and those that need closer examination before making a determination, the official said.

Earlier this month, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the nation would not communicate, either directly or indirectly, with the United States in Vienna.

“Iran’s policy in this regard is clear and simple: the United States must return to the Vienna nuclear agreement, fulfill the deal in accordance with the treaty, and lift sanctions against Iran,” said Araqchi, who heads the Iranian delegation.

Ahead of the Vienna talks, Fox News reported that an unnamed source for Iran’s state-run Press TV also indicated the nation will not accept a “step-by-step” easing of U.S. sanctions. The source said, “In line with the unchangeable guideline of Iran’s [Supreme] Leader, any result of the [nuclear accord commission] which would be based on the idea of a step-by-step removal of the sanctions or indirect negotiations with the U.S. will not be acceptable.”

Sanction relief is expected to be strongly opposed by GOP lawmakers, who recently unveiled legislation to make sanctions imposed under former President Donald Trump permanent.

In May 2018, Trump pulled out of the 2015 deal that afforded Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for limiting its nuclear capabilities. The U.S. subsequently started a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, re-imposing expired sanctions and implementing new ones.

Iran has also increased its nuclear activities beyond the limits permitted in the 2015 agreement, far exceeding the 3.67 percent uranium enrichment threshold under the deal, having recently reached 20 percent uranium enrichment. Iran has said it would not stop its 20 percent enrichment until the U.S. first lifts all sanctions.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday that “some signs of progress” have appeared during the talks, but “we probably have a longer road ahead of us than we do in the rearview mirror at this point. And that is because of the inherent challenges in this process. And many of those challenges, at least, are not going away.”

Delegates from Iran reported little progress, according to the Associated Press.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, said no agreements on sanction relief have been reached between the United States, Iran or other parties involved in the negotiations occurring in Vienna. As of Wednesday, the talks are in recess, and the person familiar with the situation did not provide a timeline on when they would resume.