U.S. Lifts Sanctions on More Than a Dozen Former Iranian Officials, Energy Firms

U.S. Lifts Sanctions on More Than a Dozen Former Iranian Officials, Energy Firms

17:35 - U.S. officials say action shows commitment to easing pressure campaign if Tehran changes its behavior

The Biden administration lifted sanctions on more than a dozen former Iranian officials and energy companies, an action that comes amid stalled nuclear negotiations and that U.S. officials said 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The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday repealed sanctions against former senior National Iranian Oil Co. officials and several companies involved in shipping and trading petrochemical products.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.

“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.

U.S. and Iranian negotiators, meanwhile, have struggled to bridge significant gaps in nuclear and security talks.

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.

U.S. and European officials have said significant differences remain between Washington and Tehran over who should do what to restore the nuclear deal. 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.

People involved in the talks said the Biden administration had been looking at what scope it had to inject further momentum into the talks.

U.S. officials have said they would be prepared to lift most energy sanctions on Iran’s oil, petrochemical and shipping sectors as part of a deal on restoring the 2015 agreement. So far, the U.S. has insisted it will maintain the terror listing that applies to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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.