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Biden’s handlers mulling wholesale rollback of most stringent Trump sanctions on Iran in bid to revive nuke deal

The mullahs understand the world in terms of strength and weakness. They see Biden’s handlers as weak. And Biden’s handlers are doing everything they can to reinforce that impression. And so the mullahs are more emboldened and aggressive than ever.

“US eyes major rollback in Trump-era Iran sanctions to revive nuclear deal,” Associated Press, April 28, 2021:

The Biden administration is considering a near wholesale rollback of some of the most stringent Trump-era sanctions imposed on Iran in a bid to get the Islamic Republic to return to compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear accord, according to current and former US officials and others familiar with the matter.

As indirect talks continue this week in Vienna to explore the possibility of reviving the nuclear deal, American officials have become increasingly expansive about what they might be prepared to offer Iran, which has been driving a hard line on sanctions relief, demanding that all US penalties be removed, according to these people.

Americans officials have refused to discuss which sanctions are being considered for removal. But they have stressed that they are open to lifting non-nuclear sanctions, such as those tied to terrorism, missile development and human rights, in addition to those related to the nuclear program.

Biden administration officials say this is necessary because of what they describe as a deliberate attempt by the Trump administration to stymie any return to the deal. Under the 2015 agreement, the United States was required to lift sanctions tied to Iran’s nuclear program, but not the non-nuclear sanctions.

When President Donald Trump re-imposed sanctions after withdrawing from the deal in 2018, he not only put the nuclear sanctions back in but also added layers of terrorism and other sanctions on many of the same entities. In addition, the Trump administration imposed an array of new sanctions on previously unsanctioned entities.

This has put the current administration in an awkward position: Iran is demanding the removal of all sanctions. If the US doesn’t lift at least some of them, Iran says it won’t agree to halt its nuclear activities barred by the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

But if the Biden administration makes concessions that go beyond the nuclear-specific sanctions, Republican critics and others, including Israel and Gulf Arab states, are likely to seize on them as proof that the administration is caving to Iran. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has led the charge among Trump alumni to denounce any easing of sanctions.

Former Trump administration officials say all the sanctions are legitimate. Gabriel Noronha, a former State Department senior adviser on Iran, said all the Trump-era sanctions had been approved by career Justice Department lawyers and would have been rejected if they weren’t legitimate.

But a senior State Department official involved in the negotiations said officials now “have to go through every sanction to look at whether they were legitimately or not legitimately imposed.”

The official, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks, also said the US would be prepared to lift sanctions that would otherwise deny Iran the benefits it’s entitled to under the deal, not just those specifically related to nuclear activity. Those sanctions could include restrictions on Iran’s ability to access the international financial system, including dealing in dollar-based transactions.

“There are sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA and as we have said, if Iran resumes its compliance with the nuclear deal … we would be prepared to lift those sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week. He declined to elaborate on what might be “inconsistent” with the deal….

“The administration is looking to allow tens of billions of dollars into the coffers of the regime even if it means lifting sanctions on major entities blacklisted for terrorism and missile proliferation,” said Mark Dubowitz, a prominent Iran deal critic and CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“They’re even looking to give the regime indirect access to the US dollar through the US financial system so that international companies can clear transactions with Iran through the US dollar,” said Dubowitz, who is frequently criticized for his hard-line stance on Iran but has also been asked for his views on sanctions by the administration….

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