Biden diplomatic nominee suggests some Iran sanctions will remain

03 Mar 2021

Biden diplomatic nominee suggests some Iran sanctions will remain

Deputy secretary of state nominee says she agrees that US should keep some sanctions on Iran, regardless of nuclear deal talks

By Middle East Eye stafff

March 3, 2021

Wendy Sherman, US President Joe Biden's nominee for deputy secretary of state, has suggested that Washington should keep some sanctions on Iran - even if the United States returns to the multilateral nuclear deal.

During a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Sherman - a veteran diplomat who helped negotiate the 2015 nuclear pact - agreed with senior Democratic Senator Bob Menendez that some sanctions must remain in place against Iran.

"It is a fair statement that we have to keep sanctions on [Iran] that deal with human rights abuses, state sponsorship of terrorism, arms sales, et cetera, what we've done in terms of Hezbollah and Hamas. So yes, I think there are many things that need to stay in place," she said.

During the hearing, Menendez, an Iran hawk who now chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pushed Sherman on the kinds of sanctions relief that reviving the Iran deal may grant Tehran, arguing that non-nuclear-related sanctions should not be lifted.

"There are sanctions which I helped fashion that are not about the nuclear portfolio and issue but about terrorism and other things. Iran likes to try to claim that all sanctions that we levy are just about their nuclear portfolio.

"We cannot tolerate that or else we will have nothing in our arsenal of peaceful diplomacy to deal with Iran's other nefarious activities," Menendez told Sherman. "Is that a fair statement?"

Sherman agreed with the chairman's take and promised the Biden administration sought "true consultation [with], not just notification" of Congress. 

Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral nuclear accord with Iran in 2018 and imposed an ongoing series of sanctions against the country.

Fresh rounds of sanctions against Iran had been imposed by the Trump administration up until its final days in office. During the end of Trump's term, however, the administration began to shift the focus of sanctions, specifically imposing non-nuclear-related measures.

The moves appeared strategic and in anticipation of the Biden team's plans to re-enter the deal with Iran, as analysts warned non-nuclear sanction would be difficult to reverse during negotiations. 

The nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), had seen Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting US-led international sanctions against its economy.