The Biden administration lifted sanctions on more than a dozen former Iranian officials and energy companies on Thursday, an action that comes amid stalled nuclear negotiations, but U.S. officials said the move signals Washington’s commitment to easing a broader pressure campaign if Tehran changes its behavior.
The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday repealed sanctions against former senior National Iranian Oil Co. officials and several companies involved in shipping and trading petrochemical products.
However, the U.S. also levied new sanctions against a group of men and companies that U.S. officials said are helping fund Iran’s blacklisted military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
U.S. and Iranian negotiators, meanwhile, have struggled to bridge major gaps in nuclear and security talks in Vienna.
“These actions demonstrate our commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an accompanying statement.
U.S. officials are preparing to resume a sixth round of negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and a group of major powers. Discussions are expected to start up again this weekend in Vienna, according to people involved in the talks.
The negotiations now look very likely to drift past Iran’s presidential elections on June 18, which some Western officials saw as a target date to complete the talks.
The Trump administration reimposed sweeping sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the nuclear accord in 2018. Iran has consistently demanded the U.S. ease sanctions upfront before it agrees to start restricting its nuclear activities in line with the 2015 agreement.