U.S. analysts praised President Obama’s proposal to free up some of Iran’s foreign financial assets in a swap for possible initial curbs on the nation’s disputed nuclear activities, though one expert questioned whether such an offer would be enough for Iranian negotiators seeking more enduring relief from economic penalties, the New York Times reported.
The new administration offer — reported on Wednesday and described on Thursday by a high-level administration insider to the Times — would gradually unfreeze Iranian money in international accounts as the Middle Eastern nation takes early steps to assure other countries that its atomic activities are not geared toward pursuit of a nuclear-bomb capability.
At a two-day meeting in Geneva this week, Iranian diplomats briefed the United States and five other countries on its proposal to adopt undisclosed nuclear restrictions in exchange for curbs on international sanctions. Possible specifics from the offer emerged in a Thursday al-Monitor report, which cites information from an unnamed Iranian insider.
Mark Dubowitz, an authority on punitive economic measures, warned that “if the administration takes out a brick from the sanctions regime,” it might not be possible “to put it back together.”
The reported proposal to unfreeze Iranian assets offers “a way to provide nonsanctions financial relief to give the administration flexibility during the negotiations,” said Dubowitz, who heads the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Former U.S. national security official Ray Takeyh, though, said “the Iranians are looking for fundamental sanctions relief.”
“I’m not sure whether they’d accept phased access to their own money,” said Takeyh, now a Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow.
The Iranian currency plan follows a prior offer to ease gold-trade sanctions if the Persian Gulf power shuttered its Qum facility, which houses weapon-usable uranium activities in an underground location sheltered from potential airstrikes. Tehran dismissed the gold-trade proposal earlier this year.
According to legislative insiders, a bill to further tighten Iran sanctions could reach the Senate floor shortly before a scheduled Nov. 7-8 follow-up meeting of Iranian diplomats and counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Representative Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday introduced separate legislation aimed at increasing pressure on Tehran.