US To Lift Sanctions Against Terrorists, Human Rights Abusers As Part Of Iran Nuclear Agreement: REPORT

(Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The Biden administration will lift sanctions against several human rights abusers and terrorists employed at the highest levels of the Iranian government, a former State Department staffer said.

Most prominently, sanctions will be lifted against Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, according to Gabriel Noronha, a State Department official during the Trump administration. Raisi will be one of more than 100 Iranian leaders no longer sanctioned by the U.S. State and Treasury departments, Noronha tweeted, citing former colleagues at the State Department, National Security Council, and European Union. The move is part of plans to prepare for a new nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran.

Chief negotiator Rob Malley, a long-time critic of American sanctions in countries like Cuba, is also prepared to release up to $7 billion in sanctioned cash to Iran as part of a prisoner exchange, Iranian state-run media reported. The U.S. government denied the report to Reuters. Noronha added that his former colleagues say the report is accurate.

When reached for comment, a State Department spokesperson declined to respond to Noronha’s list of Iranian officials who would no longer be sanctioned, saying, “We are not negotiating in public.”

“We are prepared to make difficult decisions to undo the previous administration’s failed ‘maximum pressure’ policy, which has led to an escalating nuclear crisis and to greatly increased threats to U.S. citizens, interests, and partners in the region,” the spokesperson said. There is very little time remaining to reach a deal given the pace of Iran’s nuclear advances.  Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, so we will not have a deal unless we quickly resolve the remaining issues. The Administration will carefully consider the facts and circumstances of any U.S. return to the JCPOA to determine the legal implications, including those under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). We are committed to ensuring the requirements of INARA are satisfied.”

Raisi is one of 261 Iranians sanctioned by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. He was added to the U.S. sanctions list in 2019 when President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13876 to target individuals “appointed by the Supreme Leader of Iran or the SLO to a position as a state official of Iran.” Before his 2021 election, Raisi served as chief justice of Iran, and as the country’s prosecutor general.

As a judge, Raisi served on the 1988 “Death Commission,” which ordered the executions of up to 15,000 political prisoners.

Several members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for carrying terrorist attacks overseas are also expected to be removed from sanctions list, according to Noronha. Those include Mohsen Rezaee, who directed the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina, and IRGC Brigadier General and former Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, who directed the 1983 Beirut Marine Corps barracks bombing. (RELATED: Republicans Blast Biden Administration For ‘Giving Away The Store’ To Iran In Sanctions Negotiations)

Noronha also named former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as likely to lose sanctioned status. Zarif repeatedly met with John Kerry several times during the Trump administration, and reportedly received information about Israeli bombing operations in Syria from the former secretary of state.

Congressional options for preventing the Biden administration from removing the sanctions are limited. Lawmakers could pass a motion of disapproval that would snap the sanctions back into place and block a nuclear agreement, but that would likely be passed only after the Iranian government accesses sanctioned assets. In addition, Democrats control both chambers of Congress and are unlikely to pass such a motion.

One hundred fifty House Democrats signed a letter supporting President Joe Biden’s intent to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in December 2020.