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Blinken got it right on Iran this time

The US has finally recognised that Tehran’s malicious activities threaten regional peace

As a new round of round of the Vienna talks, aimed to revive the Iran unclear deal, President Joe Biden’s administration seems to have finally recognised the other side of the story — Tehran’s malicious activities that threaten regional peace.

The administration has been engaged in indirect talks with Iran in the Austrian capital. The talks, aimed for a mutual return to the 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which former President Donald Trump exited unilaterally in 2017.

The talks have not made any progress as Iran insists that all sanctions must be removed, including the sanctions imposed by Trump. On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken however made it clear that a great deal of those sanctions will remain in place even if his country rejoins the nuclear deal.

Iran's behaviour must change

“I would anticipate that, even in the event of a return to compliance with the JCPOA, hundreds of sanctions remain in place, including sanctions imposed by the Trump administration,” Blinken told a Senate hearing. “If they are not inconsistent with the JCPOA, they will remain unless and until Iran’s behaviour changes,” he noted.

What he meant by ‘behaviour’ refers to both; Iran’s nuclear activities over the past 4 years and its regional destabilising actions. Iran “needs to answer those questions. It needs to come clean about past activities,” Blinken said.

The other part the US has been wary of is Iran’s belligerent policies in the region, especially in Iraq and Yemen. Iran’s sponsored militias in Iraq have intensified their drone attacks on bases that house American and Iraqi forces.

In Yemen, the Iran-backed Al Houthi militia continues to attack Saudi territory with drones supplied by Tehran. And presumably under Iran’s instructions, the terrorist militias have so far managed to block all UN efforts to end the war in Yemen. They have also rejected Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative, supported by the international community.

Iran is clearly using its influence in Arab states, as well as its presence in Syria and Lebanon, as a bargaining chip in its talks with the US in Vienna. Thus, it is imperative that the US keeps those sanctions until Iran shows willingness to cease its malicious activities.

Blinken’s latest position is the right call. The use of proxy militias, supporting and arming extremist groups and the flagrant interference in internal affairs of its neighbours is a significant threat to the region and the world.