While the European Union is trying to play the honest broker between the US and Iran to revive the nuclear deal, the bloc slapped sanctions on Iranian officials on Monday over alleged human rights violations surrounding protests in 2019.
The EU sanctioned eight Iranian military and police officials. The measures mark the first time since 2013 that the EU slapped sanctions on Iran over alleged human rights abuses. The timing could damage the delicate indirect talks that are ongoing between the US and Iran in Vienna.
Also on Monday, the EU warned against any attempts to “undermine” the efforts to revive the JCPOA, a response to the apparent Israeli attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. While not as provocative as the Natanz attack, the EU sanctions could also undermine the JCPOA talks since the EU is mediating between the US and Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denounced the EU sanctions and said Tehran is considering reciprocal action. “Iran strongly condemns this measure and considers it as lacking any credibility,” he said. Khatibzadeh said Iran was suspending “comprehensive talks” with the EU related to human rights, terrorism, illicit drugs, and refugees.
The US and Iran are reportedly at odds over which sanctions the Biden administration needs to lift to return to the JCPOA. Since 2018, the US has slapped an enormous number of sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Some were related to the country’s civilian nuclear program, while others were supposedly imposed over alleged human rights abuses and claims of terrorism.
On Friday, a US State Department official told reporters that if “Iran sticks to the position that every sanction that has been imposed since 2017 has to be lifted or there will be no deal, then we are heading towards an impasse.” The EU measures reaffirm the fact that the West views non-nuclear-related sanctions as legitimate.