Three months into his term, U.S. President Joe Biden’s promise to reenter the Iran nuclear deal remains unfulfilled. Since he’s concerned about Republican opposition in Congress, Biden hasn’t made a swift return to the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and has instead sought to assuage hawkish Republicans by squeezing Iran for future concessions before Washington reenters the agreement.
Yet Biden’s reasoning is flawed. It makes sense to neutralize GOP opposition to the nuclear deal, but that won’t be achieved by trying to out-hawk Republicans. There is a smarter way: Biden can boost the economies of red states and districts by using U.S. primary sanctions relief to elicit Iranian concessions.
Biden wants to reenter the JCPOA but worries the United States lacks the leverage to compel Iran to renegotiate key deadlines within the agreement, which puts Washington in a time crunch. Most critically, the JCPOA would require Biden to push Congress to lift key sanctions legislation on Iran in return for Tehran’s ratification of the Additional Protocol, an addendum that vastly expands the inspections regime of nuclear programs, in 2023. Biden’s team fears that such an endeavor will use tremendous political capital and make Democrats vulnerable in the 2024 presidential election.
Biden’s concern is legitimate. Pushing the deadline back a few years would not only reduce the domestic political risk associated with the deal, but it would also increase the likelihood of getting Congress’s approval. But the Biden administration has gone about this the wrong way. It calculated that Iran would only be amenable to such changes to the JCPOA if Washington recreated the perceived circumstances of 2013, when the nuclear negotiations began in earnest: In short, it’s looking to deal with a politically isolated Iran that’s unanimously blamed for nuclear impasse and kneecapped by crippling U.S. sanctions.
Read the full article in Foreign Policy.