Pro-Israeli lobbying and advocacy groups are seeking answers from the Biden administration over why it removed two Iranian firms believed linked to Iran's ballistic missile program from the US sanctions blacklist earlier this month.
The US Treasury Department had quietly and without explanation dropped sanctions on Mammut Industrial Group, and its subsidiary Mammut Diesel Company. Both had been targeted by the prior Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign.
In September 2020 under the guidance of the Trump White House, the US Treasury had identified the Iranian companies as "key producers and suppliers of military-grade, dual-use goods for Iran’s missile programs," and further described as "Iran’s primary developer of liquid propelled missiles."
These and other companies have hired law firms in the US to fight to be removed from the blacklist, with the two in question being successful in this case.
At the time of the delisting over a week ago, reporters suggested it must be related to stalled nuclear deal negotiations in Vienna, which the US Treasury quickly denied, saying the delisting does "not reflect any change in U.S. government sanctions policy towards Iran. They have nothing to do with JCPOA negotiation efforts. The United States will continue to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities, including through implementation of our sanctions."
However, the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran days ago issued a statement expressing outrage, questioning the delisting under Biden and demanding an explanation:
"The delisting follows the July 2021 lifting of sanctions on three Iranians who were major shareholders and executives of the Mammut Industrial Group," United Against Nuclear Iran said in a statement.
"The Biden Administration has thus far not been forthcoming on the reasons behind the lifting of these sanctions, and it has not confirmed that the delisted individuals and entities have verifiably ceased their sanctionable behavior," the advocacy group said. "At the same time, the administration denied that its actions are indicative of a broader shift in Iran sanctions policy or are in any way linked to inducements to bring Tehran back to stalled nuclear negotiations."
Additionally the lobby group said that relaxing pressure on the Islamic Republic will only serve to "signal to the Iranian regime that it can extract concessions from the U.S. through its intransigence," it said.
The move further stirred outrage in Israeli media, even though the delisting wasn't widely reported in the US.
With the Vienna talks stalled, US officials are warning that they have other ways to rein in Iran's nuclear enrichment https://t.co/YzV9OpueRP— Al-Monitor (@AlMonitor) October 15, 2021
The Biden administration has lately warned that if the Vienna negotiations fail, the US is ready to join Israel in pursuing "other options" - which is being taken as a veiled threat of military action.