Iran Claims Biden Admin Prepared to Cancel Major U.S. Sanctions

Iranian government report says U.S. will lift sanctions on banks, oil trade, other sectors

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif / Getty Images
July 14, 2021

The Biden administration is prepared to lift American sanctions on Iran, including on its oil trade and banks, providing the hardline regime with a lifeline as its economy teeters on the brink of collapse, according to an Iranian government report outlining the status of negotiations with the United States.

Sanctions are the key sticking point in talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna, as diplomats from both countries work to finalize an agreement that would see the Biden administration rejoin the 2015 nuclear accord.

Iran says it has extracted guarantees from the United States that a full range of sanctions will be lifted, including those impacting Iran's illicit oil trade, financial sector, state-controlled banks, automotive industry, aviation sector, and mining industry. Iran also claims the United States will suspend the implementation of several laws that have targeted Iran's regional support for terrorist groups, including those in Syria. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif disclosed these concessions in a 264-page report sent to the country's parliament this week, portions of which were translated from Farsi for the Washington Free Beacon.

While the extent of sanctions relief was widely reported in Iran's state-controlled press, Zarif's report has garnered little attention in the United States as the Biden administration attempts to sidestep questions about just how far the country will go in relieving pressure on Tehran's economy. If the report is accurate, the number of new concessions goes even further than the original nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration. Republicans in Congress have been warning the Biden administration against removing sanctions and also say they have not been briefed about the status of talks. Most lawmakers have had to rely on media reports and leaks from the Iranian government to gain insight into the issue.

Regional experts say the Biden administration is giving up its negotiating leverage by removing these sanctions, making it less likely that Iran will stick around to ink a tougher nuclear deal.

"The deal, if what Zarif reports is true, is even worse than the original JCPOA," said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "It removes many non-nuclear sanctions and sets a precedent that Washington should not punish bad actors in Iran for their non-nuclear behavior even though on paper the U.S. keeps its human rights, terrorism, and missile sanctions."

Furthermore, he said, "It gives up Washington's leverage and gives Tehran everything it wants in exchange for limits and commitments that will expire in a very short time. There will be no longer and stronger deal and there will be no concession by Iran on other issues."

Many of the sanctions Iran claims will be lifted were imposed by the Trump administration through executive orders. These can easily be canceled by the Biden administration and include sanctions on Iranian-backed proxies in the Middle East and businesses tied to the country's nuclear program, according to the Iranian report, which was also translated by the National Union for Democracy in Iran.

The report further claims that the United States is willing to suspend the implementation of several congressionally mandated laws, including the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act, the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act, and the Iran Sanctions Act. Each of these laws applied wide-ranging sanctions on Iranian officials and businesses. The Biden administration has the power to suspend their implementation under national security carveouts included in the bills.

Sanctions also will be lifted on Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and those affiliated with his office, the report claims. Most Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, also will be removed from the U.S. sanctions list.

The United States intends to keep in place sanctions on Iran's human rights abuses, terrorism networks, and missile program, which includes ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

A State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon it is "not a secret that these specific sanctions have been raised as priorities by Iran throughout our negotiations, so they have been part of the discussion." However, "we do not have an understanding yet; nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and we will not negotiate this in the press no matter what Iran says at home, so we are not going to comment on specific claims about the negotiations."

Talks about the "precise nature and sequence of the sanctions-related steps" continue to take place, the State Department said.

Published under: Iran