Indirect negotiations between the US and Iran that have been ongoing in Vienna to revive the nuclear deal are dragging out due to the fact that the Biden administration refuses to lift all Trump-era sanctions. On Thursday, a State Department official blamed the lack of progress on the Iranian side and said Tehran was making “unrealistic demands” for sanctions relief.
The unnamed official told reporters that a deal could be reached quickly if Iran has the political will. “If Iran makes the political decision that it genuinely wants to return to the JCPOA as the JCPOA was negotiated, then it could be done relatively quickly and implementation could be relatively swift,” the official said.
Iran has been very clear that if the US lifts sanctions imposed since the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, Tehran would quickly return to the nuclear limits set by the agreement. But President Biden refuses to do so, complicating the negotiations.
The Vienna talks are set to start a fourth round this Friday. The State Department official said that Tehran needs to drop its “unrealistic demands” for sanctions relief for the next round of negotiations.
“We just have to see whether the next round actually moves things forward or whether we still are faced with unrealistic demands by Iran in terms of demanding more than the JCPOA requires in terms of our sanctions relief,” the official said.
President Trump imposed an enormous number of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program but also for claims of terrorism and alleged human rights abuses. The Biden administration has been clear that it is not willing to lift all non-nuclear-related sanctions.
Some of the non-nuclear-related sanctions are detrimental to Iran’s economy. For example, sanctions on Iran’s central bank and state oil and shipping companies fall under the “terror” category.
The State Department official said the US was willing to lift sanctions that could give Iran the “economic benefits” of the JCPOA. But there are other sweeping measures that the US is reportedly unwilling to lift, such as the designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization. If Biden refuses to lift the terror designation, that could be unacceptable to Iran since the sweeping designation sanctions any members of the IRGC.
The US is also making a big deal about new centrifuges that Iran has developed. It’s not clear what the US is demanding with these centrifuges, but it would be simple for Iran to disconnect them, which could be easily verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency.