Among the many obstacles which might block the US and Iran from their mutually professed desire to return to their 2015 nuclear deal, one of the stickiest issues is the complex sanctions infrastructure left behind by the Trump administration.If former president Trump had merely snapped back the Obama administration era sanctions, it would have been much easier for the Biden administration to remove them.Instead, Trump left a booby-trapped minefield that could be difficult for the Biden administration to untangle even if it wishes to.Throughout his term and especially in his waning months in office, Trump ordered a range of new sanctions relating to the Islamic Republic’s actions regarding human rights and ballistic missiles.What is special about sanctions that fit into these categories is that the 2015 nuclear deal allowed them to continue and even the Obama administration never removed these “non-nuclear” sanctions.Technically, that would mean Iran would have no basis to demand the removal of any of these sanctions.Yet, Tehran has demanded that all new Trump era sanctions be removed and that only non-nuclear Obama era sanctions can remain if a return to the deal is to occur.In both public statements and comments to reporters over the weekend, the US State Department flagged this issue as a messy one to navigate.It is not only that Biden officials see no reason to remove human rights or ballistic missiles sanctions which are valid, but just happened to come out during the Trump era. It is also because the Biden administration at least partially agrees with Iran that Trump era officials labeled some nuclear sanctions under the category of human rights or ballistic missiles to make it both functionally and politically harder for Biden to undo them.So even if Iran really is ready to return to the 2015 deal’s nuclear limitations and Biden is ready to remove all nuclear sanctions, will Iran trust the Biden administration to “play it straight” and remove sanctions which the Trump administration allegedly intentionally mislabeled non-nuclear?How can the US convince Iran it is only keeping “real” human rights and ballistic missiles-related sanctions, while removing those which are allegedly mislabeled?To date, the US State Department does not appear to have a direct answer to this issue other than referring to it as a sticky one.
Another sticking point between Washington and Tehran seems to be that the Iranians are trying to feel out whether the US is serious in general.Iran seems to have been surprised that the Biden administration did not rush back into the 2015 deal. It was put off by American officials’ statements that they want to “lengthen and strengthen” the original deal.For their part, US State Department officials implied that it was not even clear that Iranian negotiators came into the first negotiating round with full authority to jump forward.An Iranian narrative that a deal is less rather than more likely would suggest that Iran’s negotiators and decision-makers are not actually committed at all or remain undecided.Next, US State Department officials said that Iran has not defined what verification they would require for removal of US sanctions.A US official implied that Tehran would need to define this before negotiators can decide the issue of sequencing a return to nuclear limitations with sanctions removal.One formula under discussion appears to be a private agreement to sequence between the sides while publicly presenting any deal as though it happened all at once so that the Iranians can save face.The Jerusalem Post asked the US State Department what it would demand of Iran regarding advanced centrifuges which were not yet operating in 2015.Under the 2015 deal, Iran was allowed a limited number of advanced centrifuges, but it has now gone way beyond that number.Turning back the clock might mean more than simply putting currently spinning centrifuges on ice.This issue will also be politically delicate for Iran as it nurses its wounds from Sunday’s operation which wiped out its electricity at the Natanz nuclear facility. On Tuesday it threatened to enrich uranium up to the 60% level.It is still unclear how these events will impact the side’s negotiating positions, but with all of the above question marks, it is looking more likely that nothing beyond an interim deal can possibly be reached before Iran’s June elections.This means that the next Iranian president, who many observers believe will be a more overt hardliner than President Hassan Rouhani, will try to halt or reset negotiations.If both sides are truly committed to overcoming the obstacles, a deal may still be reached.But if they do fail, Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have achieved one of their major mutual goals. The question then would be what will come next?
The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."