On Friday, the Biden administration restored sanctions waivers for Iran’s civilian nuclear program, a move the State Department said was meant to help facilitate talks to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
The waivers mean any foreign countries, including Russia, China, and countries in Europe, that work with Iran on its nuclear program cannot be targeted by US sanctions. The waivers are an aspect of the JCPOA and were rescinded by the Trump administration in 2020.
"The waiver with respect to these activities is designed to facilitate discussions that would help to close a deal on a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA and lay the groundwork for Iran’s return to performance of its JCPOA commitments," the State Department said in a notice to Congress.
According to The Associated Press, the waivers allow foreign countries and companies to work on civilian projects at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power station, its Arak heavy water plant, and the Tehran Research Reactor.
The waiver is a hopeful sign for the JCPOA. Negotiators are expected to return to Vienna soon in what could be the final round of talks, although Iran said earlier this week that "significant issues" remain.
Iran hawks were quick to criticize the move, and State Department spokesman Ned Price insisted that the waivers were not "sanctions relief."
"We did NOT provide sanctions relief for Iran and WILL NOT until/unless Tehran returns to its commitments under the JCPOA. We did precisely what the last Administration did: permit our international partners to address growing nuclear nonproliferation and safety risks in Iran," Price wrote on Twitter.