By Vish Gain for AMLi
The top US envoy to Iran has said the Trump administration plans to continue to increase sanctions on Iran before his presidency comes to an end in January next year, it’s been reported.
Elliott Abrams, speaking at a Beirut Institute conference Wednesday, said that the sanctions were related to arms, weapons of mass destruction and human rights, adding that the incoming Biden administration has a “great opportunity because there is so much leverage on Iran through the sanctions”.
Abrams argued that a return to Obama-era negotiations, which he said was a “mistake”, should be avoided to reduce the regional and nuclear threats posed by the Islamic republic. He also praised Biden’s National Security advisor and nominee for Secretary, calling them “terrific people”.
Donald Trump unilaterally left the Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of A Action (JCPOA), two years ago, followed by a steady stream of sanctions to compel Iran to compromise on its nuclear programme. Iran responded by declaring it no longer needed to abide by the agreed restrictions on further uranium enrichment, a move that usually precedes nuclear weapon development.
Biden has been quite vocal about his intention to re-establish US involvement in the deal as it was under Obama, while Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said a return to the deal would be “very easy” if the US lifted its sanctions.
Abrams said that he sees the tightening grip of Trump’s sanctions as an opportunity for Biden to work with France, Germany, UK and other allies in the region to strike a deal that addresses regional and nuclear threats from Iran.
He added: “If we discard the leverage we have, it would really be tragic and foolish. But if we use it there is a chance I think for constructive agreement that addresses all of these problems.”
On Wednesday, Abrams announced Iran-related sanctions on four entities in China and Russia, accusing them of activities promoting Iran’s missile program, Reuters reported.
On the Iranian front, there have been inconsistencies in what they expect from a Biden administration. While its clerical body led by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that there will be no negotiations over Iran’s missile program or changes to its regional policy, the President Hassan Rouhani said he is open to returning to the original deal he helped make happen.
In a televised cabinet meeting on November 25, Rouhani said that the new U.S. government “will have to compensate for the bad policies that were enacted over the last four years by the [outgoing] administration” adding that “Iran and the United States can agree and declare that both sides are willing to return to the [Obama-era] terms and conditions”.
In a recent webinar on Biden’s impact on global sanctions, experts suggested that while Biden might ease, or even undo, the many Trump sanctions, the return of business to the country may take more time because of “how quickly companies had to retreat after sanctions as well as broader money laundering risks”.
It will be hard to rebuild trust with the Middle-eastern regional power after what has been a gruelling four years for the country’s economy under US sanctions, with its oil-exports sector hit hardest.
To further complicate matters, Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was shot dead near the country’s capital Tehran Friday morning.
While no one has been blamed for the attack yet, Hossein Dehghan, military commander and adviser to Khamenei, tweeted: “We will strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr and will make them regret their action.”
The nuclear scientist was mentioned by Israel’s prime minister in a 2018 public presentation as the director of Iran’s nuclear weapons project. Benjamin Netanyahu said during the presentation.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM, mentioned the nuclear scientist in a 2018 public speech as the director of Iran’s nuclear weapons project. “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” he said.
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