The U.S. earlier this week lifted sanctions on Iran’s oil sector, allowing Tehran to access frozen funds from Japan and South Korea, reports The Washington Free Beacon.
The move came the same day four members of an alleged Iranian spy network were charged with plotting the kidnapping of an Iranian-American journalist and activist based in New York.
The Trump administration last October imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum, the National Iranian Oil Company, and an oil-tanker subsidiary for providing financial support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the military unit designated as a terrorist group by the U.S.
But the Biden administration has been working to revive the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran and earlier this week lifted sanctions on three former Iranian officials and several energy companies amid stalled negotiations, signaling Washington’s willingness to get a deal done.
The waiver on Iran’s oil sector, signed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, allows for the "transfer of Iranian funds in restricted accounts to exporters in Japan and the Republic of Korea," according to a notification sent to Congress by the State Department.
It also allows frozen Iranian funds to be freed up without violating the law.
"Allowing these funds to be used to repay exporters in these jurisdictions will make those entities whole with respect to the goods and services they exported to Iran, address a recurring irritant in important bilateral relationships, and decrease Iran’s foreign reserves," the waiver states.
A State Department spokesman told the Beacon the waiver “does not allow for the transfer of any funds to Iran.”
Discussions on the nuclear deal are expected to start up again this weekend in Vienna. Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, calling it one-sided and arguing it supplied Iran with funding directed to its military, militant groups, and weapons program.
His administration’s sanctions helped pitch the country into a deep economic depression.
Richard Goldberg, the former director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction on Trump's White House National Security Council, told the Beacon that the waiver will relieve pressure on Iran's economy.
"There’s a reason we talk about accessible foreign exchange reserves versus inaccessible foreign exchange reserves. If you free up money that’s trapped in foreign accounts for Iran to pay off debts, you are bailing out the regime and rescuing the mullahs from a balance of payments crisis," said Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "This is a bailout, plain and simple. And to announce it right as DOJ tells us Iran tried to kidnap an American journalist out of New York City — that’s a national outrage."
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