The real regional problem with the Iran deal

As U.S. President Joe Biden explores returning to the Iran nuclear deal, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—two of only three countries in the world that opposed the agreement—insist that they must be included in future negotiations over its fate. Their inclusion, representatives of the two countries argue, would rectify the agreement’s supposed flaw: its failure to rein in Tehran’s regional policies.

But in truth, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have less interest in strengthening the nuclear deal than in sustaining the enmity between the United States and Iran. When the original deal was negotiated in 2015, these states acted as spoilers, seeking not to defuse tensions but to perpetuate them, to the extent that doing so would ensure that the United States remained actively engaged in protecting their interests in the region. Biden needs to change the preferences of these states if he is to make them useful partners in negotiations with Iran.

Today, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel argue that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal should have encompassed regional concerns. But back when the deal was being negotiated, Saudi Arabia and the UAE insisted that U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration refrain from bringing regional conflicts into discussions with Iran in their absence. Israel, too, opposed expanding the negotiating agenda beyond the nuclear file for fear that doing so would lead Washington to compromise on the nuclear front in exchange for regional concessions. Now, these three opponents of the nuclear deal claim that the agreement’s main flaw is its exclusive nuclear focus.

Read the full article in Foreign Affairs.