The EU has proposed watering down the US sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a move to salvage the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, Politico reported on Friday, citing a draft of the agreement.
The text in question was submitted by the EU and negotiated in Vienna by all parties to the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on Monday after 16 months of talks. For the agreement to take effect, it must be approved by the governments in Iran and the US, which unilaterally pulled out of the deal.
According to Politico, the text’s provisions mean that the US is set “
to make greater concession than expected” to revive the deal, including easing the US sanctions on the IRGC, an influential branch of the Iranian Armed Forces.
The issue of lifting or diluting the sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard Corps has been especially contentious, since Washington has designated it as a terrorist organization. Earlier, many high-profile US lawmakers and officials spoke against any efforts to drop the restrictions placed on the organization.
Nonetheless, the European initiative, brokered by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in close cooperation with his American counterparts, would not remove the sanctions entirely, but significantly curb them, the report says.
According to Politico, under the proposal, non-Americans, including Europeans, would be able to do business with Iranians involved in “
transactions” with the IRGC in a way that would not trigger US sanctions. In practice, this reportedly means that the EU, which views Iran as a valuable market, would have the opportunity to conduct trade almost unimpeded. One source told the outlet that the IRGC could evade the sanctions by operating via shell companies.
However, the US special envoy for the Iran talks, Rob Malley, denied that the US is willing to budge when it comes to altering standards of enforcing sanctions. He reiterated that Washington is “
not engaged in any negotiation about changing due diligence, know-your-customer” procedures in this field.
In addition to watering down the sanctions on the IRGC, the European proposal would reportedly allow Iran to swiftly resolve its spat with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Earlier, the UN watchdog, which has been in charge of monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, detected uranium traces at three previously undeclared sites and demanded an explanation from Tehran, which has so far refused to cooperate, Politico claims.
At the same time, Iran insisted that the IAEA should wrap up its probe into the matter, portraying this as a precondition for resuscitating the nuclear deal. The US and EU refused, saying the IAEA investigation is a separate issue not tied to the deal.
However, according to the report, the EU has now agreed to link the UN nuclear probe to the accord. The EU-proposed text apparently reads that Washington and Brussels “
take note of Iran’s intent” to address the problem by “ re-implementation day” – the date when the agreement enters into force again.
One diplomat interviewed by the magazine voiced concerns that the approach of the US and EU signals that they are ready to sweep the issue under the carpet in pursuit of the deal, and are willing to “
sacrifice IAEA’s credibility as an independent agency by politicizing its mission in Iran.”
On Friday, Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s representative at the negotiations, revealed that the talks to salvage the Iran nuclear deal were drawing to an end, with the final text of the deal almost agreed upon. The end purpose of the talks, he said, is to return to the initial 2015 accord with some slight changes that had to be introduced because so much time had passed since the original document was signed.
The initial nuclear deal signed in 2015 by Iran, the US, UK, France, and Germany – as well as Russia, China, and the EU – involved Tehran agreeing to certain restrictions on its nuclear industry in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions and other incentives.
In 2018, however, it was torpedoed by the US under then-President Donald Trump, who unilaterally withdrew from the agreement, saying it was fundamentally flawed. As a result, Iran started gradually reducing some of its commitments under the accord, such as the level of enriched uranium it produces, which could potentially enable Tehran to build an atomic bomb. According to the Iranian authorities, however, this “
is not on the agenda.”
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