What Could Go Wrong? Biden Reverses Sanctions On Iranian Oil Companies Ahead Of Nuclear Deal Talks
TEHRAN, IRAN - APRIL 19: Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (not seen) meets with Iran's religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (C) and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (not seen) in Iran's capital Tehran on April 19, 2015. (Photo by Pool / Iranian Religious Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

As nuclear deal talks between the United States and Iran appear set to resume, the Biden administration is nixing sanctions against Iranian oil companies.

The announcement from the Biden administration follows negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — the Iranian nuclear deal proposed in 2015 by President Obama. Indeed, the Biden administration hinted in April that it would be willing to roll back sanctions “inconsistent with the JCPOA.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a June 10 press release:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of State are lifting sanctions on three former Government of Iran officials, and two companies previously involved in the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of Iranian petrochemical products, as a result of a verified change in status or behavior on the part of the sanctioned parties. These actions demonstrate our commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons.

The Treasury Department also cited a “change in behavior” in their parallel release:

These delistings are a result of a verified change in behavior or status on the part of the sanctioned parties and demonstrate the U.S. government’s commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in behavior or status for sanctioned persons.

Last year, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the National Iranian Oil Company and other Iranian entities as the nation’s government used the revenues to fund Islamic terrorism.

The Wall Street Journal reported in October: 

The Trump administration on Monday imposed counterterrorism sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum, the National Iranian Oil Company and its tanker subsidiary… The Treasury Department also blacklisted more than a dozen other Iranian state energy firms and their subsidiaries, and top officials at the ministry and the firms, which include the National Petrochemical Company and the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company. Those targeted represent a large portion of Iran’s most important revenue-earning sector.

Former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin remarked that “the regime in Iran uses the petroleum sector to fund the destabilizing activities of the IRGC-QF.” 

Likewise, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “the few remaining buyers of Iranian crude oil should know that they are helping to fund Iran’s malign activity across the Middle East, including its support for terrorism.”

Both of the Biden administration’s announcements were buried in the two agencies’ press releases, which levied new sanctions on members of a smuggling network “led by Iran-based Houthi financier Sa’id al-Jamal” that “generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of commodities, like Iranian petroleum, a significant portion of which is then directed through a complex network of intermediaries and exchange houses in multiple countries to the Houthis in Yemen.”

Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, explained that “ending the suffering of millions of Yemenis is of paramount concern to the United States, and we will continue to hold accountable those responsible for widespread misery and deny them access to the global financial system.”

For the past six years, the Iran nuclear deal — from which President Trump withdrew in 2018 — has been the subject of criticism from those in charge of Israel’s national defense.

Last month, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his concerns about the deal to Secretary Blinken. 

“I can tell you that I hope that the United States will not go back to the old JCPOA because we believe that that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy,” said Netanyahu. “We also reiterated that whatever happens, Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself against a regime committed to our destruction, committed to getting the weapons of mass destruction for that end.”

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