The U.S. State Department declared that it is ready to lift sanctions against Iran to restore compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal term for the 2015 Iran agreement.

“We are prepared to take the steps necessary to return to compliance with the JCPOA, including by lifting sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA. I am not in a position here to give you chapter and verse on what those might be,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday, April 7.

To get the deal finished, the Obama administration had to appease the Iranian government, which involved easing sanctions and exchanging $1.7 billion in cash in non-U.S. currencies.

The Obama administration’s policies emboldened the extremist regime, which was able to finance its operations across the Middle East through proxies like Hezbollah.

Former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA in May 2018, reimposing sanctions on Iran due to Iran’s repeated violations of the agreement.

The landmark Abraham Accords were signed on September 15, 2020, as the U.S. brokered peace deals between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain and peace deals between Israel, Sudan, Morocco, and Oman as a result of the region’s destabilization.

The shared fear about an Iranian extremist regime that had been emboldened and funded by the Obama administration was one of the most significant contributors to the accords. Iran was required to slash large amounts of extremist money and reduce the scale of threats due to the Trump administration’s sanctions.

Tensions in the area have risen since President Joe Biden took office and signaled his intention to re-enter the Iran nuclear pact. Iran and its jihadist allies have attacked U.S. military bases in the area as well as Israel.

Although Biden has suggested returning to the deal as a priority since taking office, insisting that Iran demonstrated that the terrorist regime is abiding by the agreement before the U.S. offers sanctions relief, two countries have been stuck in a holding pattern as Tehran insists that Washington has to lift sanctions first.

On March 26, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted the “aim” of the meeting would be to “rapidly finalise sanction-lifting & nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures.”

In recent months, the White House has resisted additional European pressure to lift restrictions on humanitarian supplies and release Iranian reserves in foreign banks as confidence-building steps, demanding that Tehran first scale back a number of practices it has engaged in breaching the 2015 agreement, such as enriching more uranium than allowed and to higher concentrations. 

Europeans have also pressed Washington to reinstate exemptions that enable other countries to engage in Iran’s civil nuclear program. The agreement, a centerpiece of the 2015 nuclear deal, was designed to limit Iran’s nuclear program by redesigning the Arak heavy water reactor to ensure that it can not be used to produce plutonium.

Iran, for its part, has declined to participate in negotiations with nuclear agreement signatories unless the U.S. agrees to lift sanctions, putting the two sides in a deadlock.

“No Iran-U.S. meeting. Unnecessary,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif added in his tweet on March 26, 2021.

The European parties said they would have “separate” meetings in Vienna with the U.S. and Iran, which has already declined a joint meeting with the U.S., according to Reuters.

“Iran and the U.S. will be in the same town, but not the same room,” a European diplomat told Reuters.

In the attempt to resurrect the nuclear deal, the U.S. and Iranian officials are currently holding indirect talks in Vienna and speaking by European intermediaries.

The governments of Great Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, who are all still parties to and backers of the nuclear agreement signed by former U.S. President Barack Obama, have also attended the Vienna negotiations.

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