For a year, Iran and the United States have been in negotiations aimed at a mutual return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA; formally, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The United States withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 under the previous administration, and Iran has been breaching its obligations under the deal since then, including by enriching uranium to prohibited levels and producing uranium metal, which, as Germany, Britain and France have said, has “no credible civilian use.”
Significant progress has been made during the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries for a U.S.-Iran return to the JCPOA. U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley recently said, however, that a return to the deal is “not inevitable,” because of unresolved issues that are important to both countries.
During a recent visit to Israel, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the United States’ view that a full implementation of the JCPOA “is the best way to put Iran’s nuclear program back in the box.” But, Secretary Blinken emphasized, “Whether there’s a JCPOA or not, our commitment to the core principle of Iran never acquiring a nuclear weapon is unwavering.”
Secretary Blinken noted that Iran’s malign activities in the region have intensified. “The United States will continue to stand up to Iran when it threatens us or when it threatens our allies and partners,” he said, “and we’ll continue to work…to counter its aggressive behavior throughout the region.”
In line with that commitment, on March 30, the United States announced it was designating five individuals and entities for sanctions because of their involvement in Iran’s ballistic missile-related activities, including Iran’s recent missile attack on Erbil, Iraq, as well as missile attacks by Iranian proxies against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in statement announcing the sanctions, “While the United States continues to seek Iran’s return to full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we will not hesitate to target those who support Iran’s ballistic missile program. We will also work with other partners in the region to hold Iran accountable for its actions, including gross violations of the sovereignty of its neighbors.”