Fresh US sanctions on Iran despite claims of wanting to revive nuclear deal

The current round of sanctions add to the numerous rounds of similar coercive measures imposed by the US on Iran after the Donald Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the multi-party JCPOA in May 2018

July 07, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Fresh US sanctions on Iran
(Photo: Tehran Times)

On Wednesday, July 7, the US Treasury and State Departments announced fresh sanctions on various entities involved in Iranian oil trade with China and other East Asian countries. The fresh sanctions come despite the ongoing efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear deal, in Qatar.     

The US Treasury Department targeted companies based in Iran, the UAE and Hong Kong that are allegedly involved in the trade of Iranian oil with China and some other countries in East Asia.

Brian Nelson, the US Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement that the US will use all its power to stop the sale of Iranian petrol and related products until both the countries agree to “return to mutual compliance” under the JCPOA.  

Another set of companies was targeted by the US State Department. It sanctioned companies based in Iran, Vietnam and Singapore that were accused of buying and selling Iranian oil. 

The sanctions would mean freezing of all assets of these entities in the US, a ban on US citizens from doing business with these entities and cutting them off from the US financial system. The current round of sanctions add to the numerous rounds of similar coercive measures imposed by the US on Iran after the former Donald Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the multi-party JCPOA in May 2018. 

The current Joe Biden administration in the US has failed to revive the deal despite expressing its commitment toward the same. Meanwhile, attempts to revive the deal have been made by the rest of the signatories since the Biden administration came to power. However, eight rounds of talks in Vienna failed to yield any agreement primarily due to the US’ reluctance to concede to the main Iranian demand of lifting all sanctions imposed since 2018 with guarantees that the agreement will be effectively implemented. 

Talks in Doha       

A fresh round of indirect talks between the Iranian and US delegations was held in Qatari capital Doha last week after the Vienna talks failed to produce significant results. However, so far, not much progress has been made in these talks. The US has accused Iran of introducing fresh demands unrelated to the nuclear deal. These allegations have been denied by the Iranians. 

Iran has been demanding guarantees that the Biden administration will respect the deal in the future and protect Iran’s economic interests from its sanctions. However, the US has been evading the issue of guarantees and pressuring Iran to resume its commitments under the deal in return for lifting of the sanctions. The US has also refused to agree to one of the key Iranian demands – to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) from its terror list.  

Some Western media organizations claimed that Iran refused a comprehensive proposal put forward by the US in Qatar. Syed Mohammad Marandi, who was part of the Iranian delegation in the indirect talks in Vienna, claimed that there was nothing new in this so-called detailed proposal and reiterated the Iranian demand of lifting of all sanctions imposed since the US unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May 2018. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, in a joint press conference in Tehran with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdul Rahman, who visited Iran as part of the process of the indirect talks, said that “our demands are completely within the framework of the 2015 deal,” Tehran Times reported. 

Amirabdollahian was responding to claims made by the US lead negotiator in Doha, Rob Malley, that Iran has “added demands” that have “nothing to do with the nuclear deal.”  

Blinken faces backlash over justification of fresh sanctions    

In a statement on Twitter, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken justified the fresh US sanctions, claiming that Iran is primarily responsible for them as it has delayed the revival of the JCPOA. He alleged that Iran has so far refused to return to full compliance under the nuclear deal. Blinken’s claims led to a large-scale backlash on social media with commentators and anti-war groups accusing him of lying and twisting the facts to justify the US government’s lack of sincerity in the efforts to revive the 2015 agreement. 

US-based anti-war group CODEPINK said on its Twitter page that the Biden administration “has forced Iran to choose between unreasonable concessions or more sanctions which kill the Iranian people. It’s really that simple.” 

Israel had objected to the original deal in 2015 and was considered a crucial reason behind Trump’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018. Successive Israeli prime ministers have publicly opposed the talks in Vienna and warned that Israel will not support any future agreement to revive the JCPOA.   

Though the US sanctions have had damaging effects on the Iranian economy and prevented it from accessing crucial help during the COVID-19 pandemic, Iran’s increasing exports to China in recent times have helped mitigate their effects. Marandi claimed that the latest rounds of sanctions will have zero effect on Iranian exports but may harm the West more, just like the sanctions on Russia have backfired.