Biden’s path back to Iran nuclear deal won’t be easy or fast
America’s European allies have struggled to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive after President Donald Trump quit the accord more than two years ago. Joe Biden’s election victory won’t provide a quick resuscitation.
Biden said during the presidential campaign that Trump’s Iran policy weakened U.S. national security and left Tehran closer than ever to being able to build a nuclear bomb. He vowed to get on the phone with allies on “day one” to begin rebuilding strained ties and said he’d give Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy.”
But Iran’s mid-2021 presidential election, as well as likely continued Republican control of the U.S. Senate, will put the brakes on quick, substantive action, according to U.S. and Iranian diplomats and analysts.
“I am not optimistic at all that in the short term anything significant will happen between Iran and the Americans,” Saeed Laylaz, an economist and former adviser to ex-President Mohammad Khatami, said in an interview.
In addition, while presidents generally have some leeway on foreign policy, a Senate under Republican control would mean lawmakers would demand assurances on Biden’s Iran policy before they confirm his nominees, said Richard Goldberg,
a former National Security Council official under Trump.
“Any effort to rejoin the Iran deal and build on it will be intensely scrutinized in Congress and among domestic critics,” said Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund.
Biden could take some smaller moves that would reduce the pressure on Tehran without committing the U.S. to a full-fledged detente. He could, for instance, ease the transfer of humanitarian aid to Iran, especially as the coronavirus batters the country’s health care system, said Naysan Rafati, the International Crisis Group’s Iran analyst.
Elliott Abrams, the
State Department’s special representative for Iran and Venezuela, said in an interview on Thursday that the Trump administration will impose new sanctions on Iran but declined to specify which Iranian entities would be targeted or when penalties were likely.
“The Trump administration’s approach now is to add more and more threads to this spider web and hope the next guy has a hard time washing them away,” Rafati said. “There’s very little in here that’s totally irreversible. But these are harder to undo because you have to make the case that terrorism is no longer a concern.”