The United States is stepping up sanctions pressure against Iran …
Talks between the parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iranian nuclear deal) resumed in Vienna on December 9, after a six-day hiatus, with low expectations, as we report here and here.
As negotiators meet again, Biden administration steps up enforcement of sanctions against Iran, sending high-level delegation to UAE to warn banks and businesses that Washington has “deal visibility that do not comply with the sanctions “and” that these banks and businesses face extreme risks if this continues.
Upcoming stops by U.S. officials to convey this tougher line on sanctions compliance could include Malaysia, Turkey and China, Iran’s main trading partner, as The Wall Street Journal reports here.
The Biden administration’s position is “compliance for compliance”: the easing of economic sanctions for Iran in return for Iran respecting the constraints on its nuclear program, imposed by the International Agency atomic energy (IAEA), to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.
The american president Donald trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and reimposed and added new sanctions on Iran, which affected Iran’s ability to export oil and engage in international trade and finance, harming to the economy. Iran has responded by ramping up its production of highly enriched uranium (HEU), needed to make a nuclear weapon, and reducing IAEA compliance.
Iran maintains that the onus is on the United States to unilaterally lift the sanctions, as that is the party that withdrew from the deal.
There were six rounds of talks between the JCPOA parties in Vienna between April and June 2021. A seventh round of talks began on November 29 and ended on December 3, amid recriminations between the West and the United States. ‘Iran on the other’s intentions.
Gantz, Austin discuss ‘other options’ if nuclear talks fail
Following his meeting with the Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the Biden administration is “ready to look to other options” to stop Tehran’s nuclear program if diplomatic talks fail, as Jared Szuba reports here.
The United States has been careful with explicit military threats against Iran, but that could change. Ahead of Gantz’s visit, Reuters reported that Gantz and Austin were planning to discuss joint military exercises in preparation for a possible future attack. Pentagon press officer John kirby neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying: “We regularly conduct exercises and training with our Israeli counterparts.”
Ben Caspit has the scoop here on how Gantz’s visit and shift to increased pressure for sanctions and hints at a credible military option are justification for Gantz and the Israeli coalition government, which has sought, delicately and in a spirit of partnership, to remove the “dark shadow” of differences over Iranian policy in US-Israeli relations.
Iranian economy needs sanctions relief
Iran still has compelling economic reasons to return to the JCPOA. In a detailed assessment of the Iranian president Ebrahim RaisiIran’s Economic Roadmap, Bijan Khajehpour concludes that “securing sanctions relief in the Vienna talks would enable the Iranian government to achieve a number of its economic goals. At a minimum, accessing Iran’s frozen funds in international accounts will improve the country’s financial situation. “”
In his inaugural remarks as president to the Iranian Consultative Assembly (parliament or majles) on August 3, Raisi said that “the sanctions against Iran must be lifted and we will support any diplomatic plan that achieves this goal.”
As we wrote here in August, “There are four reasons why Raisi may consider closing negotiations on the nuclear deal: The Iranian economy needs relief from US oil and financial sanctions, especially in the US. cause of the COVID-19 pandemic; the JCPOA was popular, Raisi’s victory as president was marked by voter apathy and the lowest turnout on record for an Iranian presidential election; Raisi did not oppose the JCPOA during its presidential campaign; Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Javad Zarif, in his “final report” on the JCPOA, wrote that he leaves with a “framework for a possible deal” in place. “
Our opinion: look at the United Arab Emirates….
The United Arab Emirates provides a regional complement and a channel for the nuclear talks. US regional partners were excluded from JCPOA diplomacy in 2015. Not this time. Prior to the resumption of the Vienna talks on November 29, the United States sent a high-level official delegation led by Austin and including the United States envoy to Iran. Rob malley and White House Coordinator for the Middle East Brent McGurk at the IISS Manama Dialogue for a meeting with senior Gulf officials to show a united front between the US and the GCC in the run-up to nuclear negotiations. Three days later, on November 24, Iran’s main nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, made a quick visit to Abu Dhabi.
US Secretary of State Antoine Blinken met with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin zayed on December 5, two days after the December 3 break in nuclear talks, on “important regional issues”.
The next day, December 6, the UAE national security adviser Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan traveled to Tehran, where he met Raisi and other senior officials. Ali Hachem reports that “a source familiar with UAE-Iran ties told Al-Monitor that the visits were linked to nuclear talks.”
Hashem adds that the UAE and Iran have discussed how Abu Dhabi could help coordinate and implement the easing of sanctions against Iran, including money and asset transfers, in coordination with the United States, if there is an agreement between Tehran and the world powers on the JCPOA.
Dr. Anouar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the President of the UAE Sheikh Khalifa, declared on December 9: “We hope that the process [the nuclear talks] will also lead to some sort of agreement on a dialogue that involves more countries and this path in itself will also help cement this vision that we [the UAE] are trying to spread stability and prosperity in the region. He added: “I don’t see additional sanctions as a solution … There are already enough sanctions against Iran,” as Joyce Karam reports for The National.
… and connoisseurs
While the United States and its European partners rejected Iran’s positions in the latest nuclear talks, the expert / technical committees of the JCPOA parties continued to discuss and exchange documents on the lifting of sanctions in exchange of respect by Iran for the IAEA. Amwaj has the scoop here on the committees, and here on why Iran is optimistic about the talks.
As we’ve written here, Iran is also looking for a sign the United States has so far been reluctant to give, rejecting talks of an interim deal. Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian stated last week that “there must be some sign proving that they [the West] were determined and serious and had to make a gesture to show their goodwill; for example, by releasing $ 10 billion from Iran’s frozen assets. The United States and its EU partners, however, are unlikely to take any action until Iran complies with JCPOA constraints and guarantees on its nuclear program.