US will scrap Iran deal before agreeing with Russia on sanctions – media
The US will not negotiate the easing of any Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia to ensure that Moscow can trade with Tehran under a new iteration of the Iran nuclear deal, a US official told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. Despite a deal being reportedly close at hand, the official said that Washington would pursue an alternate agreement before granting Russia any exemptions.
“I don’t see the scope for going beyond what is within the confines of the JCPOA,” the official said, referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which guaranteed Iran limited sanctions relief in exchange for a halt to its nuclear program. “I think it’s pretty safe to say that there is no room for making exemptions beyond those.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has demanded written assurances that sanctions imposed on Russia since the start of its military offensive in Ukraine won’t impact any trade between Russia and Iran under a successor deal to the JCPOA, which is currently being negotiated.
Despite US Secretary of State Tony Blinken describing the Ukraine-related sanctions as “irrelevant” to the deal last week, the Iranians are apparently siding with Russia. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh stated last week that “Iran’s peaceful nuclear cooperation should not be affected or restricted by any sanctions, including Iran’s peaceful nuclear cooperation with Russia.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Russian negotiators are likely to specify their precise demands in writing in the coming days, and the Americans will “know within a week whether or not Russia is prepared to back down,” the US official added.
Should Russia remain firm on its demands, the US would be open to negotiating a “replica of the JCPOA” without Russian involvement, the official said, noting that “we...at this point wouldn’t rule anything out.”
However, it is far from clear whether the other parties to the 2015 deal would agree to a new accord without Russia. The original agreement was signed by Iran and the US, UK, Russia, France, Germany, China and the EU. While the Wall Street Journal claimed that European diplomats are exploring “options for pursuing a deal without Russia,” China is a major nuclear power and generally a diplomatic ally of Russia, and may balk at any deal that excludes Moscow.
Negotiators have been attempting to hammer out a replacement for the JCPOA for nearly a year, meeting regularly in Austria’s capital Vienna for negotiations. The French Foreign Ministry said last week that the parties are “very close to a deal,” but admitted that disagreements between the US and Russia could scupper any potential accord. The anonymous US official echoed these concerns on Sunday, describing Russia’s demands as “the most serious stumbling block and obstacle to reaching a deal.”