Former US state official claims sanctions were not intended to harm Iranian citizens, despite reports proving otherwise.
The United States’ former Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin said he was in fact not in favour of the restoration of the Iran nuclear deal, as world powers scramble to resurrect the historic accord.
Speaking to Doha News on Tuesday in an exclusive interview at the sidelines of this year’s Qatar Economic Forum, Mnuchin said: “President Trump campaigned on terminating the nuclear deal. He was in favour of negotiating a new deal, an expanded deal.”
Voicing Donald Trump’s concerns on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Mnuchin said the former US president thought the deal was not strong and long enough as, he deemed, it did not cover regional sticking points such as ballistic missiles.
“Our administration was committed to making sure that Iran never has nuclear weapons and that’s something I continue to think is very, very important. So, I am in favour of negotiations and a political solution,” the former diplomat said.
While referring to the impact of Washington’s crushing sanctions on Iran, which have largely affected various sectors, including Iran’s healthcare, Mnuchin said: “Well, the intent was never to hurt the Iranian citizens. I think the idea was to get them back to the negotiating table.”
“There’s no reason that Iran needs nuclear weapons, there’s no reason that Iran needs to export terrorist activities. And for the Iranian people, their country is very rich in resources and they should have the benefit of a very, very vibrant economy,” former US Secretary of Treasury told Doha News.
Iran’s Ambassador to Qatar Hamid Reza Dehghani told Doha News in May the sanctions have impacted the country’s ability to acquire medicine especially during the Covid-19 global health crisis.
“There are people impacted and children with [cancer] that needed some medicine. Since we were unable to send the money and pay for the medicine, many people died for this reason,” said Dehghani.
This is despite “exemptions” in the rigid measures for imports of humanitarian goods, Reuters reported. The Iranian envoy told Doha News that the sanctions “will remain on the US’ dark record and its leadership.”
The Iran nuclear deal
Washington unilaterally abandoned the JCPOA in May 2018 under the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran. In turn, the US reimposed sanctions on Iran.
Indirect talks between Iran and the United States initially began in April 2021 in Vienna with the participation of the p4+1, namely the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia plus Germany.
Progress was evident during the first round, as Tehran and Washington both agreed to form two working groups.
One such group was dedicated to the lifting of crippling US sanctions on the Islamic Republic, while the other focused on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. The talks later stalled, with even more sanctions imposed on the already-affected country.
Tehran also enriched its uranium production at 60% as a response to a series of attacks on its nuclear sites, including its Natanz facility. Iran pointed the blame at Israel, citing the Zionist regime’s objection to the revival of the nuclear deal.
Israel’s claims over Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon have long been used as means to justify its hostility towards the country, as well as its persistence of its occupation of Palestine.
Tel Aviv itself is in possession of nuclear weapons though it is not a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – the centrepiece of global efforts to inhibit the spread of the world’s deadliest weapon.
Tehran says enrichment is to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals for use in the country’s medicinal sector, slamming alleged arguments of its development of a nuclear weapon.
“The head of the Islamic revolution, Imam Khomeini, had released a global fatwa [ruling] that obtaining a nuclear weapon, not just using it, but also obtaining it is haram [prohibited],” Iran’s Envoy to Qatar told Doha News last month.
Qatar’s mediating role in nuclear talks
In late May, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said attaining common ground with regards to the nuclear deal between Iran as well as relevant world powers will aid in boosting stability in the Gulf region and help oil markets.
The top minister expressed his country’s hope that the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s visit to Tehran in early May as well as his Europe tour will help place the nuclear deal “back on track,” Al Jazeera said at the time.
“I know that Qatar has been an important player in helping to negotiate behind the scenes, but I am not in favour of going back into the existing deal. There needs to be a better deal,” Steven Mnuchin told Doha News on Tuesday.
Analysts say Doha’s role in the bridging together of parties involved in the deal could prove to be fruitful.
“Qatar is being seen by both sides as a useful and trusted intermediary, through whom some options might be explored that either side is unwilling to be seen to offer directly,” Dr Gerd Nonneman, professor of International Relations and Gulf Studies at Georgetown University Qatar told Doha News in late May.