On Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the US agreed to lift most major sanctions on Iran during the latest round of nuclear talks in Vienna. He said only “minor issues” need to be worked out in the fifth round of negotiations which will begin next week.
“The talks in Vienna are about minor issues. They have accepted to lift sanctions on Iran’s oil and shipping sectors as well as sanctions on the central bank and others,” Rouhani said during a televised cabinet meeting.
Rouhani’s comments offered the most optimistic assessment of the Vienna talks to come out of Iran. But also on Thursday, an unnamed Iranian official told Iran’s PressTV that the US has not agreed to lift all major sanctions but instead said it would temporarily suspend them. “Washington intends to temporarily suspend some of the sanctions over a long period of time and in various steps,” the official said.
It’s possible that the US agreed to lift major sanctions in a long-drawn-out process that is not acceptable for more hardline elements in Iran, which would explain the comments from the anonymous official. Rouhani’s government has previously raised issues with PressTV’s sources for the Vienna talks, who generally portray the negotiations in a negative light.
Up until this point, the Biden administration has been refusing to lift all non-nuclear-related sanctions, dragging out the Vienna talks as the two sides negotiate what sanctions the US will lift and what will be acceptable relief for Iran.
The Trump administration imposed an enormous number of sanctions on Iran. Some were implemented over Tehran’s nuclear program, while others were put in place over claims of terrorism and alleged human rights abuses. The sanctions on Iran’s central bank and state shipping company, which Rouhani mentioned, are considered “terror” sanctions.
The fact that Iran is negotiating at all is a concession in itself since the US is the party that violated the JCPOA. Iran’s presidential elections are upcoming in June, and Rouhani is expected to be replaced with a more hardline candidate who might not be patient and willing to negotiate with the US.