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US moves to tighten Iran sanctions, warns UAE banks not to do business with Tehran

Planned enforcement comes as talks aimed at a return to nuclear deal stall; Biden administration may also send delegations to other countries with same warning

A general view of the Marina district towers is seen from the observation deck of 'The View at The Palm Jumeirah' in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on April 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
A general view of the Marina district towers is seen from the observation deck of 'The View at The Palm Jumeirah' in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on April 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

With little progress in the talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the Biden administration is moving to tighten sanctions enforcement on Iran, the US State Department said Thursday.

A senior US delegation is expected to travel to the United Arab Emirates next week to issue a warning to banks that conduct business with Tehran and are not complying with sanctions, the Reuters news agency reported.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the delegation will also meet with petrochemical companies and other private firms conducting billions of dollars worth of business with Tehran.

The delegation is set to include the head of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Andrea Gacki.

The US could send delegations to several other countries as well to tighten the economic pressure on Iran if no progress is made in talks, according to the WSJ.

A State Department spokesperson told Reuters that the US has proof of noncompliance by various bodies, and there could be sanctions or penalties.

There was no immediate comment from the UAE on the matter.

The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Iran nuclear talks, is pictured in Vienna, on November 29, 2021. (Vladimir Simicek/AFP)

Talks in Vienna on Thursday ended an hour after resuming following a few days’ pause, with tensions high after Tehran made demands last week that European countries strongly criticized.

Russia’s representative, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted that despite the meeting being short, it was “constructive.”

“The participants observed a number of important commonalities in there positions, including with regard to the need to finalize the #ViennaTalks on restoration of #JCPOA successfully and swiftly,” Ulyanov said.

The meeting of all the deal’s remaining signatories — Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — was chaired by European Union diplomat Enrique Mora.

The United States has participated indirectly in the ongoing talks because it withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump. US President Joe Biden has signaled that he wants to rejoin the deal.

Last week’s talks were the first in over five months, a gap caused by a new hard-line government assuming power in Tehran. European diplomats last week urged Tehran to come back with “realistic proposals” after the Iranian delegation made numerous demands that other parties to the accord deemed unacceptable.

The flag of Iran waves in front of the the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in Vienna, AustriaI, May 24, 2021 (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, FILE)

The accord sealed in Vienna in 2015, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was meant to rein in Iran’s nuclear program in return for loosened economic sanctions.

Following the US decision to withdraw and reimpose sanctions against Iran, Tehran has ramped up its nuclear program again by enriching uranium beyond the thresholds allowed in the agreement. Iran has also restricted monitors from the UN atomic watchdog from accessing its nuclear facilities, raising concerns about what the country is doing out of view.

Meanwhile, Israeli and American military leaders are set to discuss possible military drills to practice destroying Iranian nuclear facilities in a potential worst-case scenario, a senior US official said.

Israel opposes a US return to the JCPOA and Defense Minister Benny Gantz set off Wednesday for Washington. Gantz said he will meet with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Ahead of takeoff for the US, Gantz said, “Iran is a threat to world peace and seeks to become an existential threat to Israel.”

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