President Barack Obama is now saying sanctions on Iran could be lifted just after a deal concludes this summer on its nuclear capability, depending on whether they could be quickly reimposed if Tehran violates the agreement.
"Our main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn't abide by its agreement that we don't have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions," Obama said during a Friday news conference, reports The Wall Street Journal.
"It will require some creative negotiations ... I'm confident it will be successful."
His words were a change from other administration statements that the United States would prefer that the sanctions are removed as Iran meets requirements outlined in the pact, and a White House official later clarified that Obama "will not accept a deal without phased sanctions" relief.
But still, the solutions could include lifting sanctions more quickly while releasing Iranian oil revenues, totaling billions of dollars, that have remained frozen.
Between $100 billion and $140 billion of Iran's oil revenue is frozen in offshore accounts through the sanctions, the Obama administration estimates, and Tehran is expected to get the money in phases as they complete requirements of the final deal, which has a deadline of June 30.
Iran has been pushing hard to have the sanctions removed. On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said his country is ready to resume
nuclear enrichment "without any limitations" unless sanctions are totally and immediately removed at the end of negotiations.
"We can have the path of confrontation or we can have the path of cooperation, [but] we cannot have a little bit of each," he told TV channel Euronews in Lisbon.
Also last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
said that Tehran will not accept a comprehensive nuclear deal unless all sanctions imposed on his country are lifted, state television reported.
"If there is no end to sanctions, there will not be an agreement," Rouhani said in a televised speech in the northern Iranian city of Rasht. "The end of these negotiations and a signed deal must include a declaration of cancelling the oppressive sanctions on the great nation of Iran."
The sanctions, though, were what got Iran to the table, Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who co-sponsored the current bipartisan sanctions legislation four years ago, said in Saturday's GOP address.
"They were so effective that they dropped the value of Iran’s currency by three-fourths," said Kirk. "This was probably the entire reason why the Iranians even showed up at the negotiations."
Obama said during the press conference, held after his meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, that the timing of sanctions relief are less important than making sure ability to re-enact the measures work quickly.
The deal's opponents on Capitol Hill are concerned that Obama's White House will concede too much to the Iranian demands.
"Throughout the negotiations, we’ve lost ground, and Iran in every step of this negotiation has gained ground," House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said Friday. "The idea that they will have snap backs…is not a credible argument."
The United States' Middle Eastern allies, especially Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates are also concerned that if sanctions are lifted and the oil money is unfrozen, Iran will use the funds to make its influence in the region even stronger.
Saudi Arabia says Iran is funding the Shiite insurgents
who took over Yemen's capital in recent weeks, as well as providing arms and training.
Further, Iran supports the Assad regime in Syria, Shiite militias fighting in Iran, and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.
"The Iranians, last time I checked, did not have a border with Yemen," said Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, last week. "There is no reason for Iran to be involved. There is no reason for Iran to be supporting one faction against the other."
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