Blinken Discusses Iran With European Counterparts

Blinken Discusses Iran With European Counterparts
Blinken Discusses Iran With European Counterparts

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Iran on Friday in a virtual meeting with his British, French and German counterparts as the group weighs how to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
“We just had an in-depth and important conversation on Iran ... to handle together nuclear and regional security challenges,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Twitter.
Britain’s Dominic Raab and Germany’s Heiko Maas also took part in the meeting, according to Reuters. 
The high-level conversation is the latest step by US President Joe Biden’s new administration to explore how to restore the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with world powers but was abandoned in 2018 by Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.
The nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, limited Iran’s uranium enrichment activity in return for the unfulfilled promise of easing US and other sanctions.
In abandoning the deal, Trump restored the US sanctions it had removed and then piled on more.
Iran also scaled down its commitments in response to the maximum economic pressure until it can enjoy the JPCOA benefits once again.  
Biden, who took office last month, has said if Tehran returned to strict compliance with the pact, Washington would follow suit and use that as a springboard to a broader agreement that would cover Iran’s missile development and regional activities.
Tehran has insisted that Washington ease sanctions before it resumed compliance, and ruled out negotiations on wider security issues. But Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hinted last Monday at a way to resolve the impasse over who goes first by saying the steps could be synchronized.



Tangible Relief 

Meanwhile, Bloomberg citing four people familiar with the US administration’s thinking reported that the Biden administration is weighing ways to ease Iran’s financial pain without lifting crushing economic sanctions, including on oil sales, as a step toward reviving the agreement.
Some options US officials are debating include providing backing for International Monetary Fund lending to Tehran for coronavirus relief and easing up on sanctions that have stymied international coronavirus aid from getting into Iran.
Such moves could be justified on humanitarian grounds, but issuing sanctions waivers to allow Iran to sell oil on the international market is not currently under serious consideration, according to the people.
“Over recent months there’s been a lot of thinking in both Europe and the Democratic camp on a number of immediate measures the US can realistically take,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. 
She described the ideas under consideration as measures that “can still give Iran tangible relief.”
Nevertheless, Trump’s terrorism-related sanctions, including on the Central Bank of Iran, pose a big challenge.
Any sanctions relief, even on humanitarian grounds, could fail to deliver if the terror designation remains because the central bank oversees virtually all the country’s financial activity.
Moreover, Iran’s key demand for a return to compliance is for the removal of crippling restrictions the US put on the country’s ability to sell oil.
“To do a deal reset that requires compliance for compliance, the Biden administration recognizes they’ve got to allow those [oil] barrels back on the water,” Scott Modell, managing director at Rapidan Energy group, said. 


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