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Iran: US will lift sanctions soon and return to nuclear deal

Washington downplays any progress in negotiations as Israel dispatches Mossad chief to DC for talks

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Photo: Twitter)

An Iranian foreign ministry official said he believes that a deal with the United States to lift sanctions against Tehran is imminent, even as Washington continues to downplay any progress.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state media that he expects most of the individual sanctions to be lifted.

“Sanctions ... on Iran’s energy sector, which include oil and gas, or those on the automotive industry, financial, banking and port sanctions, all should be lifted based on agreements reached so far,” he said.

However, Araghchi did not elaborate on the critical issue of how Iran intends to reverse its repeated violations of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Despite his optimism, Araghchi said the two negotiating sides still have many gaps to close as talks are ongoing in Vienna talks between Iran, China, Russia and Western powers. 

“We will negotiate until the two sides’ positions come closer and our demands are met. If they are met there will be an agreement, if not there will, naturally, be no agreement,” Araghchi said. 

In 2018, former U.S. President Donald Trump left the controversial deal after criticizing it for rewarding the Iranian regime’s continued aggressive policies throughout the Middle East. 

Returning to the deal would be one of President Joe Biden’s most controversial foreign policy moves – both in the U.S. and in Israel.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan expressed cautious optimism without admitting any U.S. concessions in the negotiations with the Iranians. 

“We’ve seen willingness of all sides, including the Iranians, to talk seriously about sanctions relief restrictions and a pathway back into the JCPOA,” Sullivan said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal’s official title. “But it is still uncertain as to whether this will culminate in a deal in Vienna.”

Meanwhile, Israeli officials are increasingly worried that the Biden administration will remove sanctions without strengthening the deal or demanding concessions from the Iranian regime.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched Mossad Director Yossi Cohen to Washington for talks with Sullivan and to reinforce Israel's position. Biden dropped in on the meeting to offer his condolences for the 45 Israeli pilgrims killed during the Mt. Meron disaster last week.

But he also reportedly reassured the Mossad chief that Washington is currently far from returning to the Iran deal, which might signal that the Biden administration is seeking a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear crisis without repeating the mistakes of the former Obama administration.

Officials in Jerusalem are increasingly frustrated by its government's own apparent failures to convince the Biden administration to refrain from re-entering, or at least strengthening, the nuclear agreement with Tehran – the purpose of Cohen's trip to D.C.

The Iranian regime has stated repeatedly that it will not accept any changes or additional components to the original 2015 deal.

However, Iran’s economy is in free fall due to the strict U.S. sanctions imposed by the former Trump administration and consequently – despite harsh official Iranian rhetoric – time is not on Tehran’s side. 

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