US President Joe Biden made repeated statements about Iran during his presidential election campaign. He also took new positions on the Iran case as one of the most important issues in US foreign policy.
In contrast to the attitude of former US President Donald Trump, he primarily consulted with US allies, particularly European countries, about Iran. Trump’s unilateral decision on Iran has been heavily criticized by US allies. The former president withdrew the country from the nuclear deal with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and key countries in 2015.
European countries understood the dangerous consequences of the abolition of the JCPOA, and the leaders of the E3 (France, Germany and Italy, a group made up of the three major founding members of the European Union) have been trying to protect the agreement since 2018.
In fact, Trump’s withdrawal allowed Iran to enrich uranium to 60% purity. Some observers believe that 90% purity is required to manufacture nuclear weapons, and the Iranian nuclear program is the furthest advanced to achieve nuclear weapon manufacturing capability.
Biden is against it or not?
The Biden administration was clearly a strong opponent of Trump’s exit from the JCPOA. However, its team of advisors believe the deal worked and its demolition was a disastrous decision by Trump. So Biden needs negotiations with Iran to stop Iran’s nuclear advances by reviving the deal that his government has made a centerpiece of his agenda.
On the other hand, the onerous sanctions have hampered the Iranian economy. Furthermore, the Iranian rial is now at its lowest level since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. So the country must lift the sanctions in order to restore its situation.
Still, negotiations between the US and Iran to rescue the nuclear deal began after Biden took office in January 2021, but the process stalled when Iran’s presidential election took place in June. Finally, after months, the diplomatic marathon between Iran and the world powers recently started in Vienna to save the JCPOA. However, the new Iranian delegation under the government of Ebrahim Raisi has put new proposals on the table that are incompatible with the 2015 pact and the six previous talks between Western countries with former Iranian negotiators under the government of former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was.
In addition, in contrast to the previous Iranian government, Raisi’s foreign policy advisers are in line with Tehran’s anti-American ideology, which was formed after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
British, German and French diplomats who took part in the Vienna talks expressed disappointment and concern after assessing Iran’s new proposals because Iran withdrew from almost all of the agreements in the previous rounds of negotiations. Iran also requested fundamental changes to the final text. Iran’s proposals reveal the grave gap between the two sides’ views. Some also argue that Iran is making the maximum demands in order to meet the minimum demands; At the same time, the country is dragging diplomatic achievements in talks to advance its nuclear program.
For example, Iran had demanded a guarantee from Biden that the next US administration would comply with the agreement, but American politicians have made it clear that the JCPOA is not a treaty ratified by the US Senate and that Biden cannot give such a guarantee. It seems that Iranian negotiators have now brought other demands to the table.
The Israel factor
Although there have been no positive signals after the recent talks, the two sides have no choice but to reach a diplomatic agreement, even an interim arrangement, as Israel would use failed talks as a pretext to carry out its threats and attack Iranian nuclear facilities .
Israel recently accelerated its plans to attack Iran and threatened covert attacks on the country. In an interview with the news website Walla, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, said preparations were being intensified for possible attacks on Iran. He added, however, that “a significant part of the defense budget increase as recently agreed” was designed to minimize the “Iranian presence in the Middle East”.
In particular, given its exit policy from the Middle East and the reduction of its armed forces in the region, the US government cannot consider another military crisis. On the contrary, if no agreement is reached, a military conflict could arise between the two sides. In this situation, the US, as a close ally of Israel, is pressured to intervene in the military conflict to help Israel. And that’s not a favorable situation for the Biden administration. Besides, the world will not be able to tolerate another major war.
After a defeat in Afghanistan criticized by both the left and the right in US politics, some analysts believe that the Biden administration needs a foreign policy achievement and in that regard a revival of the JCPOA could be achievable if both sides Show more flexibility in the Vienna talks. Restoring the accord could also ease tensions in the Middle East and prevent a major war.
Although Israel is not privy to the secret negotiations, its efforts to establish diplomatic contacts with the US and European countries were an influential factor in the conclusion of the talks. Additionally, Israel’s threats could have an impact on Iran to stop Tehran’s nuclear advances during the negotiations.
Nevertheless it will not be a smooth sailing. The strategy of maximum pressure left over from Trump’s policies did not fail the Iranian resistance. As a result, according to some reports, Biden has agreed to consider other options against Iran should diplomacy fail.
Recently, Iran has signaled its interest in compromising the monitoring of its nuclear program through negotiations and reports on new uranium enrichment efforts. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran had given the IAEA permission to replace the surveillance system at a nuclear site in the Iranian city of Karaj that was destroyed when the site was sabotaged in June this year. Iran’s new flexibility in granting access to its sites could be a positive signal for an agreement.
Iran has also repeatedly stated that the lifting of all nuclear and non-nuclear sanctions is required to comply with the JCPOA. It remains to be seen whether Washington is ready to lift some of the crippling sanctions against Iran in order to reach an agreement, or whether Biden will allow Tehran to enrich higher-grade uranium and increase the possibility of a military crisis. Only time can tell.