On Thursday, the US lifted sanctions on three former Iranian officials, and two companies it said were involved in trading Iranian oil. The move comes amid stalled talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, although US officials are downplaying the idea that the move is related to the negotiations.
The sanctions were removed from three Iranians who formerly worked for the state-owned Iranian National Oil Company. The Biden administration said the measures were removed because the individuals no longer work for the sanctioned entity.
“These actions demonstrate our commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. State Department spokesman Ned Price insisted that the lifting of sanctions had “absolutely no connection” to the JCPOA talks.
The sanctions relief also came with new sanctions against Iranians that the US claims are funding Yemen’s Houthis. The US sanctioned individuals it claimed were involved in a “smuggling” scheme that helps fund the Houthis and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, which is blacklisted as a “foreign terrorist organization” by the US.
The sanctions targeted a person named Sa’id al-Jamal, who the US described as an “Iran-based Houthi financier.” The sanctions also hit individuals that the US claimed are part of the network in Turkey, the UAE, and Somalia.
Whatever good faith lifting a few minor sanctions might have shown to Iran was likely negated by the new measures. The talks to revive the JCPOA are set to resume this weekend in Vienna.
The negotiations are stalled because the Biden administration refuses to lift all Trump-era sanctions on Iran. On Tuesday, Blinken said even if the US returns to the JCPOA, “hundreds” of sanctions would remain on Iran, including Trump measures, a sign that the Biden administration is not serious about reviving the deal.