US withdraws Trump era letters to UNSC claiming re-imposition of international sanctions against Iran

The withdrawal of the letters is being seen as a positive move towards the revival of the Iran nuclear deal. However, Iran wants the US to take firm action and lift all unilateral sanctions before it reverts back to full adherence to the provisions of the deal

February 19, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Sanctions on Iran

In a move signalling the possibility of the US rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, the Joe Biden administration on Thursday, February 18 withdrew “three letters” written to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) during the last months of the previous Trump administration. The letters had claimed the re-imposition of international sanctions against Iran.  

Writing on behalf of Biden, acting US ambassador to the UN Richard Mills sent a letter to the UNSC declaring the withdrawal of the letters sent in September last year. Mills’ letter points out that international sanctions against Iran that were terminated after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the nuclear deal in 2015 by UNSC resolution 2231 “remains terminated.” 

The set of international sanctions imposed against Iran by the UN through various resolutions were lifted after Iran signed the JCPOA with six other powers in 2015. Donald Trump, after unilaterally withdrawing from the deal in 2018, tried to reimpose the sanctions last year claiming violations by Iran.

On the one hand, the US imposed a number of unilateral sanctions. On the other hand, the Trump administration also tried to “snapback” the UN sanctions last year. However, 13 out of the 15 members in the UNSC rejected the proposal on the grounds that since its withdrawal in May 2018, the US had ceased to be a party to the deal. According to provisions of the JCPOA, only a participant in the deal can ask for “snapback.”

Despite its failure to get the endorsement of the UNSC, the Trump administration went ahead and claimed that the UN sanctions against Iran had been reimposed due to Iranian “violations” of its commitments under the JCPOA. Iran has breached some of the provisions of the deal citing failure of the other signatories to protect it from effects of the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration under its so-called “maximum pressure” campaign. 

Iran to stop implementing IAEA additional protocol if sanctions not lifted soon

Iran announced on Thursday that it will stop implementing additional protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) if the US sanctions are not lifted soon. Iran, a signatory of the NPT and IAEA’s additional protocol, allows comprehensive inspection of its nuclear facilities by IAEA inspectors. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, special assistant to the speaker of parliament for international affairs, said that the US and European signatories of the nuclear deal have four days to lift the sanctions.

Iran had earlier reiterated that all its breaches of the provisions of the deal and other nuclear agreements are “reversible” within hours of the US rejoining the deal and lifting the sanctions.   

Biden, under whose vice-presidency the deal was signed, had expressed his intention to rejoin the deal during his presidential campaign. However, since his assuming office, secretary of state Antony Blinken has maintained that the US rejoining the deal is a “long process”. He has also demanded Iran to revert back to all its commitments under the deal.

Replying to a EU and US joint statement on Thursday which expressed concern over Iranian breaches of the deal and asked Iran to adhere to its commitments, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said in a tweet that “Instead of sophistry & putting onus on Iran, E3/EU must abide by own commitments & demand an end to Trump’s legacy of #EconomicTerrorism against Iran.” 

Zarif, however, welcomed the Biden administration’s move to withdraw the three letters from the UNSC and demanded that the “US unconditionally & effectively lift all sanctions imposed, re-imposed or re-labeled by Trump. We will then immediately reverse all remedial measures.”

Thursday’s move is being seen as a positive step after US state department spokesperson Ned Price stated that the US is ready to meet Iranian officials and other world powers to negotiate the process to end the stalemate. Price was confirming a statement issued after a meeting between Blinken and three European signatories of the deal on Wednesday, expressing Washington’s willingness to “engage in discussions with Iran.” 

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