US envoy insists pressure on Iran will persist under Biden

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Elliot Abrams, U.S. special representative for Iran, talks during an interview with The Associated Press at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. Abrams insisted Thursday a pressure campaign of sanctions targeting Iran would persist into the administration of Joe Biden, even as the incoming president has pledged to potentially return America to Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

ABU DHABI – The U.S. special representative for Iran insisted Thursday that a pressure campaign of sanctions targeting Iran would persist into the administration of Joe Biden, even as the president-elect has pledged to potentially return America to Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

Elliott Abrams, who also serves as the U.S. special representative to Venezuela, said sanctions targeting Iran for human rights violations, its ballistic missile program and its regional influence would go on. That, as well as continued scrutiny by United Nations inspectors and American partners in the Mideast, would maintain that pressure, he said.

Iran now has far more uranium than allowed under the deal since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018. The Mideast also has been roiled by tensions between Tehran and Washington, which pushed the two countries to the brink of war at the beginning of the year.

"Even if you went back to the (deal) and even if the Iranians were willing to return ... this newly enriched uranium, you would not have solved these really fundamental questions of whether Iran is going to be permitted to violate long-term commitments it has made to the world community,” Abrams told The Associated Press in an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Iran's politicians have increasingly discussed the possibility of the U.S. returning to the deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran's mission to the U.N., dismissed Abram's comments.

“The policy of maximum pressure and sanctions against Iran has failed,” Miryousefi told the AP. "The U.S. effort to abuse this corrupt policy is futile and will only lead to further isolation of the U.S. on the international stage.“

Abrams replaced Brian Hook as America's envoy on Iran, who announced he'd leave his post in August after serving as the face of Trump's maximum-pressure campaign. That effort has floundered internationally as the U.S. and its Gulf Arab allies failed to convince the U.N. to stop an arms embargo on Iran from expiring in October.