October 20, 2022 | Flash Brief

U.S. Offer of Sanctions Relief Remains Active Despite Iran Protests

October 20, 2022 | Flash Brief

U.S. Offer of Sanctions Relief Remains Active Despite Iran Protests

Latest Developments

Human rights groups report that the Islamic Republic of Iran has killed at least 233 Iranians, including at least 32 minors, while detaining thousands more during mass protests over the past five weeks. Though the State Department said last week that nuclear talks with Iran are “not our focus right now,” the Biden administration has yet to withdraw offers of sanctions relief already made to the regime in Tehran — leaving the door open for lifting sanctions on entities and sectors of Iran’s economy that finance the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has played a role in suppressing protests.

Expert Analysis

“It’s one thing to pose for pictures with Iranian dissidents in Washington. It’s another thing to send a clear message throughout Iran that U.S. sanctions relief for the Islamic Republic is off the table, full stop. Nothing could be more demoralizing to the Iranians putting their lives on the line than hearing that the United States is keeping the door open to pumping cash into the regime they are protesting.” – Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Biden Offer to Lift Sanctions Still on the Table

In 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department revealed that entities connected to the Basij militia, a branch of the IRGC that has played a role in suppressing protests, were “deeply entrenched in major Iranian industries, such as automotive, mines and metals, tractor manufacturing, and banking.” Yet the Biden administration has already offered to rescind executive orders and lift sanctions on all of those sectors on day one of a phased nuclear deal.

Additionally, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) continues to finance the ministries and agencies — including the IRGC — currently involved in the crackdown on the Iranian people, making it a potential target for a human rights sanctions designation. Yet the administration has offered to lift sanctions on the CBI as part of a revived nuclear agreement.

Support for Protesters Requires Ending Nuclear Talks, Enforcing Sanctions

Even as it assesses that prospects for a renewed nuclear deal are low, the Biden administration continues to insist that the “door for diplomacy will always remain open,” as White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre put it on Monday. But so long as Washington keeps the nuclear deal on the table, Tehran will feel emboldened to continue its repression, confident that international pressure will ultimately fade. As such, nuclear talks exacerbate the human rights abuses that the Iranian people are currently protesting.

Related Analysis

How Biden Can Stand With the Iranian People,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu and Saeed Ghasseminejad

Iran Deal May Provide Billions in IRGC-Connected Sanctions Relief Prior To Congressional Review,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Human Rights Iran Sanctions Sanctions and Illicit Finance