Blinken: Sanctions on Russia ‘Have Nothing to Do With the Iran Nuclear Deal’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a meet in Iceland last May. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a meet in Iceland last May. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

( – As talks on salvaging the Iran nuclear deal edge closer to an agreement, Russia wants guarantees from the U.S. that the raft of sanctions targeting Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine will not impact Russia-Iran economic ties.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday waved off the demand, saying sanctions being imposed against Russia “have nothing to do with the Iran nuclear deal and the prospects of getting back into that agreement.”

“These things are totally different and are – just are not in any way linked together,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“It’s also in Russia’s interest, irrespective of anything else, for Iran not to be able to have a nuclear weapon or have the capacity to produce a weapon on very, very short order,” Blinken said. “That interest remains, again, irrespective of where we are in our relationship with Russia as a result of its aggression in Ukraine.”

Russia is a party to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and in recent weeks the Biden administration has sought to justify Moscow’s ongoing key role in the talks in Vienna, even as the U.S. and allies ramp up efforts to sanction and isolate Russia on the international stage.

On Saturday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow wants guarantees from the U.S. that the “wave of aggressive sanctions” being imposed on it will not affect Russia’s trading, economic and investment relations with Iran.

Those relations were boosted after the JCPOA took effect, with Russian businesses engaging in intense activity in Iran from 2016 through the first quarter of 2018 – until President Trump withdrew from the deal.

(Iran’s economy grew by 13.4 per cent in 2016, after having contracted by 1.3 per cent the previous year. GDP growth in 2017 was 3.7 percent, then slumped to -6.0 percent in 2018.)

Lavrov said under the 2015 agreement there should be no barriers to trading, economic and investment ties with Iran.

“We need guarantees that these sanctions (imposed by the West against Russia) in no way would affect the trading, economic and investment relations set down in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Lavrov told reporters after talks with his Kyrgyz counterpart.

“We have asked the American counterparts, who reign supreme here, to provide us with guarantees – at least at the level of the secretary of state – so that the (sanctions) process that has been launched by the United States in no way would undermine by no means affect our rights on the free and comprehensive trade, economic, investment, military-technical cooperation with Iran.”

After Trump exited the agreement in 2018 and restored sanctions on Iran, the regime began to violate the terms of the JCPOA, abandoning restrictions on both the quantity and levels of purity of enriched uranium allowed under the deal.

The Biden administration is seeking a mutual return to compliance with the agreement by the U.S. and Iran, which would require the U.S. to lift the sanctions again while Iran would have to reverse its violations and resume fulfilling its obligations.

Russia’s lead negotiator in the nuclear talks in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov. (Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia’s lead negotiator in the nuclear talks in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov. (Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

In Vienna, Russia’s lead negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, frequently tweets about his active and central role in the negotiations, and makes little secret of Moscow’s sympathy for the Iranians and their positions.

Russia’s pro-Iran tilt has been evident as the talks progressed.

“We have always supported Iran’s position in Vienna,” Tehran’s foreign ministry quoted Lavrov as having assured his Iranian counterpart in a phone call on February 26, two days after President Vladimir Putin launched the war in Ukraine.

In his remarks on Saturday Lavrov said the Iranian still wanted to clear up some last remaining issues in the talks in Vienna, then added, “We believe their expectations are quite fair.”

(Iran in turn has thrown its support behind Putin’s war. An editorial in a paper whose editor is appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Russia had no choice other than to send in its armed forces “to safeguard the security of the Ukrainian people and prevent their absorption into a dangerous military bloc.”)

Leaks from the behind-closed-doors nuclear talks have sparked alarm among JCPOA critics, concerned that the deal-in-the-making will see the U.S. lift sanctions against the world’s foremost terror sponsor, leave nuclear infrastructure intact, and may allow Russia to resume arms sales to Iran – alluded to in Lavrov’s comment about Russia’s rights on “military-technical cooperation with Iran.”

Last month more than 75 percent of Republicans in Congress signed letters urging Biden to submit any Iran nuclear agreement to the Senate, a step they said was required by U.S. law, and warning that failure to do so would make any such deal be temporary and non-binding.

“I don’t think most Americans understand,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), one of two initiators of the House letter, told Fox Business last week, “as Biden’s threatening to turn Putin into a total pariah, the Biden administration is relying on Russia to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program.”

Gallagher said Russia wants to sell uranium and weapons to Iran.

“If this administration announces an Iran deal brokered by Putin, that won’t just be billions of dollars for the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism, it’ll be a massive win for Vladimir Putin.”

In a new weekend letter to Blinken, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) voiced concern that the administration was “working through Russian intermediaries to finalize an Iran nuclear deal without submitting it for congressional consideration, as required by law.”

See also:
Biden Administration Will Continue to Work with Russia to Prevent Iran from Developing Nuclear Weapons (Feb. 25, 2022)

77 Percent of GOP Lawmakers Warn Biden About Securing Iran Nuclear Deal Without Congress’ Approval (Feb. 18, 2022)

After Biden Waives Iran Sanctions, Senators Remind Him They Must Sign Off on Any Deal (Feb. 8, 2022)


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