A senior US National Security Council (NSC) official says Washington will not take pressure off until Iran’s nuclear program is capped and its remedial measures are reversed.
Speaking to American Jewish leaders on Friday, NSC coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk stressed that Washington would remove no sanctions before it got commitments on the American demands.
“Until we get somewhere and until we have a firm commitment, and it’s very clear that Iran’s nuclear program is going to be capped, the problematic aspects reversed and back in a box, we are not going to take any of the pressure off,” he said.
A year after the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and the Europeans’ failure to support Iran, the Islamic Republic took a series of remedial measures in several stages as part of its legal rights stipulated in Articles 26 and 36 of the agreement.
Tehran and the remaining signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are holding talks in Vienna – with the new round to begin on Monday – with the aim of removing US sanctions.
But despite the Biden administration’s verbal pronouncement to undo former president Donald Trump’s wrongs, Washington is showing a dogged willingness to maintain the sanctions as a tool of pressure.
Talks in Vienna have yielded no results so far, with Iran’s top negotiator saying there has been no agreement yet on how the sanctions will be removed or how their removal will be verified.
McGurk said, “There’s a very long way to go and this process is complicated.”
The US is “not going to pay anything upfront just to get a process going. We have to see from the Iranians a fundamental commitment and agreement to put their nuclear program back in a box that we can fully inspect and observe,” he added.
Iranian officials, however, have warned that Tehran would not accept “attritional negotiations”.
The US is not part of the discussions since Trump pulled the country out of the deal in 2018 and imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran.
Three working groups have been working on drafting a comprehensive list of the sanctions that the US would need to remove before Iran reverses its remedial measures.
Tehran says Washington, as the first party that reneged on its commitments, should take the first step towards the JCPOA’s revival and unconditionally remove all the anti-Iran sanctions in a verifiable manner.
As the Biden administration engages in efforts to bring Washington into line, Republicans in Congress are using their legislative and oversight authority to hamper the push.
On Wednesday, Congressional Republicans unveiled what they described as the largest package of anti-Iran sanctions in history.
The legislation, dubbed the Maximum Pressure Act, would formally codify the Trump administration’s sanctions campaign on Iran and force the Biden government to submit any decision to Congress for review before it is approved.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the Republicans seek to make clear that any decision to remove the sanctions “will not last beyond Biden’s term in office”.
The Obama administration never brought the Iran deal before Congress for a vote, fearing that it could not pass. Because the agreement was never formally ratified, the Trump administration was easily able to scrap it in 2018.
A senior US official said there is no guarantee that a future administration would necessarily stick to a revived Iran nuclear deal, which was abandoned in bad faith by Trump.
“I think it’s clear there is no such thing as a guarantee,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying by the US State Department during a briefing on Wednesday, when asked about Iran’s insistence on getting a written guarantee from the US that a future administration will not exit the deal again.