Blinken Says Hundreds Of Iran Sanctions Will Stay, Some Trump's
Speaking to the United States Senate Appropriations Committee over President Joe Biden’s 2022 budget request Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Biden outlined the administration’s priorities over Iran, fending off questions from Republican senators who opposed Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
Blinken stressed a need to lift US sanctions “incompatible with the JCPOA” if Iran came back into compliance with the deal, but added that even so, “hundreds of sanctions would remain in place, including sanctions from the Trump administration.”
Blinken claimed that these remaining sanctions would “deal with the multiplicity of Iran’s malign actions in a whole series of areas.”
His remarks highlighted an array of sanctions introduced by President Donald Trump after withdrawing the US from the JCPOA in 2018. Most were part of ‘maximum pressure’ designed to force Iran to accept demands, from ending all uranium enrichment to stop supporting regional allies and proxies.
But Trump officials said that many sanctions couched in terms of human rights or terrorism were designed to complicate the task of any successor administration in reviving the JCPOA.
The Trump-era sanctions were widely condemned by remaining parties to the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and the United Kingdom – and it is unclear how Blinken’s statement relates to talks underway in Vienna since early April designed to revive the nuclear agreement. Iran has been arguing that all sanctions from the Trump era, and all others incompatible with the JCPOA, should go before it agrees to reverse steps taken in its nuclear program since 2019 beyond JCPOA limits.
Blinken told senators that reviving the JCPOA would put the US in a “better place to insist” on Iran answering questions currently raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over uranium traces found in sites not declared to the agency in activities long before the JCPOA.
Iran in February reduced the access of IAEA inspectors, following November’s killing of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, from that required by its Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or by the JCPOA. Access currently takes place under arrangements agreed with the IAEA in February that expire June 24.
A US statement to the IAEA Board of Governors Tuesday said that any failure to extend those arrangements “would, at a minimum, seriously complicate ongoing efforts to reach an understanding on how Iran can return to compliance with its JCPOA commitments in return for a similar US resumption.”
Blinken was also questioned over Iran’s relationship with the Palestinian group Hamas, centered on exchanges of fire May 10-21 that left 256 Palestinians and ten Israelis dead. Blinken said “our best assessment...is that most of these [Hamas] rockets are unfortunately indigenously produced by Hamas.” Iran had, however, given support “in terms of know-how, rockets, all of that.”
Blinken told the senators that Iran’s relationship with Hamas would not be changed by opposing the JCPOA: “An Iran with a nuclear weapon or the ability to produce one in very short order is an Iran that’s going to act with even greater impunity when it comes to support for proxies, terrorist groups like Hamas, destabilizing activities in the region.”