Biden administration eyeing new sanctions on Iran oil sales if nuclear talks fail: report

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The Iranian flag is seen in this June 10, 2021, file photo.

The Biden administration is reportedly considering slapping new sanctions on Iran’s oil sales to China if talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal fail.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the U.S. is looking into placing stricter sanctions on the oil sales to China, a key client for Iran, as negotiations with European and other international partners in Vienna appear to lose momentum.

The potential sanctions, which would only be enforced if nuclear talks fail, would target the shipping network that includes 1 million barrels of oil a day, a significant revenue source for Iran, the Journal reported, citing U.S. officials and people familiar with the matter.

No decisions about next steps have been made, the officials told the newspaper, which reports there is a chance that the effort may backfire and motivate the Iranians to advance their nuclear program.

Officials are also reportedly considering other options to induce Iran into rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which include diplomatic efforts to convince China, India and other large crude oil buyers to stop importing the commodity and halt non-oil trades, debt financing and financial transfers.

Negotiations for Iran to rejoin the JCPOA, from which the U.S. withdrew under the Trump administration in 2018, have stalled since the election of Iran’s hard-line president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi has said that Iran will not consent to a deal unless the U.S.’s sanctions are removed, which the U.S. has refused to do while Tehran is in violation of the original terms of the agreement.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Seyed Abbas Araghchi, said in a tweet Saturday that the Vienna talks must be delayed until Raisi is inaugurated next month.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price, however, warned during a press briefing last week that “this process is not indefinite,” cautioning that “there will come a point where our calculus will change.”

He said that point will be when “the gains that Iran is able to make in its nuclear program, the benefits it accrues might one day outweigh the benefit that the international community would accrue from a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.”

“We’re not there yet, but that is why we believe we should — the international community, the United States together with our closest allies and some of our partners in the form of the P5+1, should return to Vienna for these talks just as soon as we can,” he added, referring to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.

Price also reiterated that the U.S. is “prepared to resume indirect talks with Iran, to resume that seventh round of negotiations.”

“We are ready to go if and when the Iranians signal they are as well. And that’s precisely because we want to see Iran’s nuclear program once again verifiably and permanently constrained and Iran permanently barred from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he added.

Tags China Iran Iran nuclear deal Iran nuclear deal framework JCPOA Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Nuclear energy in Iran Nuclear program of Iran P5+1 Sanctions against Iran
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