US sanctions won’t create leverage in nuclear talks, Iran warns

The US blacklisted two Iranian government agencies and several officials on Tuesday, accusing them of rights abuses.

Indirect nuclear talks between the US and Iran resumed in Vienna last week for the first time since June 2021 [File: European Union Delegation in Vienna/Handout via Reuters]

Iran and the United States exchanged barbs on Tuesday after the Biden administration imposed fresh sanctions on Iranian entities and officials, with Tehran warning Washington that the measures would not “create leverage” in nuclear deal talks.

The US Treasury Department blacklisted the Special Units of Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces and Counter-Terror Special Forces and several officials linked to the agencies, accusing them of human rights abuses.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh rebuked Washington for announcing the sanctions while the two countries are engaging in indirect talks to revive a multilateral 2015 nuclear deal.

“Washington fails to understand that ‘maximum failure’ & a diplomatic breakthrough are mutually exclusive,” he wrote on Twitter. “Doubling down on sanctions won’t create leverage—and is anything but seriousness & goodwill.”

Khatibzadeh’s statement appeared to mirror previous remarks by American officials who have cautioned Iran that escalating its nuclear programme would not benefit it in the negotiations.

“They [the Iranians] believe that they could accumulate more enriched uranium at higher levels and use more advanced centrifuges as leverage for a deal that they think they could extract more from us and give less their part,” a senior US official told reporters on condition of anonymity on Saturday. “And that’s not a negotiating tactic that’s going to work.”

The seventh round of indirect talks between the US and Iran in Vienna concluded on Friday with Washington accusing Tehran of not being serious about reviving the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iranian officials say they submitted two proposals that would secure a return to the deal, which saw Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions against its economy.

Since former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018, Washington has been piling sanctions on Iranian industries, government agencies and officials. In response, Iran has been enriching uranium beyond the limits set by the accord, while also restricting international monitors access to its nuclear facilities.

Iran insists that all US sanctions must be removed to restore the agreement and maintains that – unlike the US – it is still party to the pact.

But Biden administration officials have cast doubt on Iran’s willingness to revive the JCPOA.

“What we’ve seen in the last couple of days is that Iran right now does not seem to be serious about doing what’s necessary to return to compliance, which is why we ended this round of talks in Vienna,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Reuters news agency in an interview on Friday.

Last week’s talks in Vienna were the first since conservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took office in August. The negotiations have been paused since June.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that he expects the talks to resume on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Later in the day, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the ball is in Iran’s court to demonstrate that it wants to revive the deal.

“The more Iran demonstrates a lack of seriousness at the negotiating table, the more unity there is among the P5+1, and the more they will be exposed as the isolated party in this negotiation,” said Sullivan, referring to the six world powers negotiating in Vienna – the US, UK, China, Russia, France and Germany.

Source: Al Jazeera