New Iran Nuclear Deal Negotiations are taking place in Vienna, Austria tomorrow. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Iran Nuclear Deal Negotiations
Laurence Norman and Michael R. Gordon, writing in The Wall Street Journal, report: “Negotiations to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will take place among all parties in Vienna [tomorrow]… the first serious effort to rescue the agreement since President Biden took office in January. For context, “the US exited the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018. President Biden has said he wants the US to return to the deal, which placed strict but temporary limits on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for suspending international sanctions on Tehran.” Here’s what both sides are saying about renewed negotiations:
On The Right
The right is urging Biden to take a strong stand against Iran and if he doesn’t they want Congress to keep his administration in check. They’re also advocating for Biden to build on the recent peace agreements signed between Arab countries and Israel while establishing a new Iran deal that has more teeth than its 2015 predecessor.
Richard Goldberg and Anthony Ruggiero outline the flaws of Obama’s Iran deal, officially called the JCPOA. In The Hill, they write that its core focus was on Iran’s commitment “to not develop nuclear weapons and [for] the IAEA [to] implement a system of safeguards that verify Iran is not using declared facilities to produce nuclear weapons.” However, recent revelations show “that Tehran has been cheating on the deal from day one,” and so “Biden must compel Iran to fully account for all undeclared nuclear activities before easing sanctions.” In summary, they state that “The JCPOA’s verification regime failed, much as it did in the early 2000s” and is “worsened by Iran’s refusal to allow inspections at military sites.” The duo warns that if Iran is given a free pass on its nuclear transgressions, North Korea might follow their lead and many of Iran’s Middle Eastern neighbors may pursue nuclear programs, initiating a new arms race.
The Heritage Foundation’s Nicole Robinson and Steven LaRussa note how “Iran wants sanctions lifted before coming to the negotiating table while the US demands that Iran return to compliance by halting uranium enrichment.” This makes the negotiations like a game of chicken — who is going to blink first? The pair of writers isn’t super confident in the Biden administration, which is why they say “Congress must use its constitutional authority to impose its own sanctions on Iran” if “Biden concedes to Iran’s demands and lifts sanctions.” Although a “bipartisan consensus” may be hard to reach Congress “has come together in the past to impose sanctions on adversarial countries. In 2011, Congress imposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports despite pushback from the Obama administration.” Ultimately, “Congressional sanctions would be a powerful signal to US partners such as Israel and Saudi Arabia that the US will not reward bad actors in the Middle East as it has in the past.”
Lastly — and notably — Jared Kushner strikes a more conciliatory tone in the Wall Street Journal, writing that Biden’s offer to rejoin JCPOA was “a smart diplomatic move.” In doing so, he believes the administration “called Iran’s bluff” and “revealed to the Europeans that the JCPOA is dead,” requiring an entirely new framework. Kushner states that while Iran is “feigning strength,” its economic situation is “dire,” and it cannot “sustain conflict or survive indefinitely under current sanctions.” He encourages Biden’s team to “insist that any deal include real nuclear inspections and an end to Iran’s funding of foreign militias.” To Kushner, this would act as an additional step towards peace following the Abraham Accords, which sparked renewed friendly relations between Israel and Arab nations. As he puts it, “The estrangement between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East over the past 70 years is not the norm.” Kushner ends by calling for “a new chapter of partnership, prosperity, and peace.”
Given recent events in the Middle East, as it relates to the Abraham Accords and the fragility of Iran’s economy, conservatives think the US has the upper hand in the upcoming negotiations. They think Biden should leverage this position of power to create an updated, more robust nuclear deal to keep both the United States and the Middle East safe.
On The Left
Left-leaning outlets and commentators are split. Some think the Biden administration isn’t seizing the moment as it relates to re-engaging with Iran. Others think the US has time and options in regards to handling what they view as a nefarious actor in the Middle East.
Ishaan Tharoor outlines a complicated diplomatic situation in The Washington Post. He warns that “time may be running out” for the Biden administration to achieve “a meaningful opening with Iran.” Biden’s “slow approach,” he continues, “has alarmed some advocates of rapprochement, who recognize the need to ‘go fast’ before conditions become even more unfavorable to diplomacy.” He believes progressives, in particular, are “growing impatient with Biden’s perceived dawdling on Iran and lament the administration’s decision to bomb Iranian proxies in Syria in response to alleged Iranian-linked attacks on US positions in Iraq.” Tharoor warns that the “current phase of escalation — including a surge in attacks from the Iranian-linked Houthis in Yemen — makes future talks all the more complicated.”
Ryan Costello, National Iranian American Council Policy Director, also warns Biden’s team against moving too slowly. In Newsweek, he asks the administration to take a lesson from LBJ, whose administration’s domestic policy agenda was bogged down by their escalation of the Vietnam War. Costello warns that “failing to seize the narrow opportunity available right now…will only heighten the risk that a spiraling conflict subsumes Biden’s presidency.” He believes that “another spark in Iraq…could start an escalation that would be difficult to reverse,” criticizing Biden’s team for allowing itself to be “fenced in by hawks in Congress who hope to impose political roadblocks.” With Iran’s economy “stabilizing,” Costello thinks the regime has “plenty of nuclear cards” to play. The reality, as he sees it, is that Biden may have to choose between a “shorter and weaker” deal or “a disastrous war that consumes Biden’s presidency.”
Former National Security Council advisor Meghan L. O’Sullivan sees things differently. In Bloomberg, she writes: “There’s No Hurry for Biden to Re-Enter the Iran Nuclear Deal.” At the end of the day, the only question that matters is how the US can “construct an Iran strategy that deters the worst elements of Iran’s behavior across the board — in the nuclear realm, in the region, and toward its own population.” A “quick return” to the Iran Nuclear deal may be “setting the bar too high” and not even the best option on the table. In fact, O’Sullivan believes “American interests would be well served by a multifaceted approach that includes some limited agreements with Iran (which may or may not involve the 2015 pact), aiding partners in Iran’s neighborhood to strengthen their civilian and military institutions and other measures that allow the US to manage the problem of Iran, not solve it.” Ultimately, she thinks the Biden administration’s hasty goal of getting “both sides back into compliance before it negotiates a ‘longer and stronger’ pact [is] misguided diplomacy.”
Some on the left want Biden to move quickly towards a more condensed deal in order to avoid escalating ongoing tensions with Iran. Others are advocating for a more comprehensive approach, even if it takes longer.
Flag This: Iran Nuclear Deal Negotiations
According to polling by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Toronto-based IranPoll, 51% of Iranians and 57% of Americans approve of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Among Americans, however, just 39% of Republicans support the agreement, as opposed to 74% of Democrats. Zooming out, it should also be noted that China is trying to slowly undermine the power of US financial sanctions around the world, especially as it relates to Iran. On Saturday, March 27, the two countries signed a 25-year cooperation agreement to strengthen their long-standing economic and political alliance. According to The Wall Street Journal, “In return for investments, China will receive steady supplies of Iranian oil.” The accord which entails, “the resumption of some oil trade, alongside a strengthened domestic industry, has spurred modest growth in Iran and bought Tehran some leverage in potential nuclear negotiations with the Biden administration.”
How should the Biden administration approach these new negotiations with Iran? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts