As the Biden administration is looking to resume a nuclear deal with Iran, its government on Saturday set out the first condition—unfreeze $10 billion of Tehran’s frozen funds.
The condition was issued indirectly via intermediaries at the United Nations, reports Reuters.
“The Americans tried to contact us through different channels (at the U.N. General Assembly) in New York, and I told the mediators if America’s intentions are serious then a serious indication was needed … by releasing at least $10 billion of blocked money,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on state television.
The Trump administration scrapped the 2015 nuclear agreement in 2018, saying it was not tough enough on Tehran and resumed sanctions on the country.
Iran had repeatedly violated the terms of the agreements, and the Trump administration was looking to form a new and more demanding nuclear deal.
Because of the Washington sanctions on Iran’s banking and energy sectors, the country has been unable to deposit tens of billions of dollars in international banks, primarily from oil and gas exports.
The heavy sanctions since 2018 had brought Iran to near bankruptcy after two years, according to data by the International Monetary Fund.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration argued that financial pressure would not suffice to force Iran back from its involvement in Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon or be more cooperative with the nuclear deal.
Under Biden, talks around the agreement had been carried out indirectly between the U.S. and Iran multiple times until it was suspended in June for the Iranian elections, according to Politico.
Amirabdollahian said Iran would return to the delayed nuclear talks in Vienna soon, but he did not say when, per Reuters.
Experts are warning that Iran has continued to expand its nuclear capabilities rapidly. They worried the country was getting closer to manufacturing enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb.
“Iran is certainly playing for time and will in the meantime continue to enhance its nuclear program to gain political leverage,” one senior diplomat told Politico on the condition of anonymity.
The diplomat also warned that Iran might venture for more ambitious demands from the U.S.
Picking up from the recent sequence of diplomatic quarrels, such as the chaotic Afghanistan pullout or a disagreement with France over a canceled submarine contract, they may consider the U.S. as “weak.”
“Iran most probably will only come back to the table in Vienna if the west makes a gesture of goodwill or provides certain concessions to Iran,” the diplomat said.