According to a report from The Associated Press, the Biden administration is considering a “near wholesale rollback” of some of the stringent Trump-era sanctions on Iran as the two sides are negotiating a revival of the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
Iran is willing to return to the nuclear limits set by the JCPOA if the US lifts all sanctions that have been imposed since 2018 when the US withdrew from the agreement. But because the Biden administration refuses to do so, the US and Iran are negotiating what sanctions will be lifted.
Unnamed US officials who spoke with AP did not specify which sanctions the Biden administration is now considering lifting but said the US is becoming “increasingly expansive about what they might be prepared to offer Iran.”
In public comments, Biden officials have been vague about what sanctions the US is willing to lift. State Department spokesman Ned Price has said the US would lift measures that are “inconsistent” with the JCPOA, but it’s not clear what that means.
The Trump administration slapped an enormous number of sanctions on Iran. Some were related to the Islamic Republic’s civilian nuclear program, while others were imposed over claims of terrorism or alleged human rights abuses. For example, the sanctions implemented on Iran’s central bank and state shipping companies are considered terror-related.
One thing Biden officials have been clear about is that they are not willing to lift all non-nuclear-related sanctions, which greatly complicates negotiations. An unnamed State Department official told AP that the US now has “to go through every sanction to look at whether they were legitimately or not legitimately imposed.”
In the final months of Trump’s presidency, his administration ramped up sanctions on Iran, purposely imposing more non-nuclear-related ones to sabotage Biden’s plans to return to the JCPOA. The strategy seems to be at least slowing down a revival of the agreement and sets up Biden for criticism from Iran hawks if he lifts a lot of other sanctions.