Co-authored by Tyler Cullis
While the United States and Iran engage in shuttle diplomacy to resurrect the 2015 nuclear deal, a fight is brewing in Washington over re-litigating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the nuclear agreement between the United States, other major world powers, and Iran—and the Trump administration’s disavowal of that deal in favor of “maximum pressure.” Unless President Joe Biden takes the offensive in the fight, we’ll spoil our chances to restore the JCPOA and risk sidelining his ambitious domestic agenda.
Already, Senate Republicans are honing their lines of attack. In a letter timed to coincide with the launch of negotiations in Vienna, they argued that Trump’s sanctions on Iran have provided “an enormous amount of leverage over the Iranian regime . . . [that] should be used as a tool to address all aspects of Iran’s destabilizing behavior.” They warned the Biden administration “not [to] relinquish its leverage over the Iranian regime just to return to the JCPOA,” and they threatened to undo the nuclear deal once again if given the opportunity in the future.
This knives-out approach should be met in kind by the Biden administration. No effort should be spared pointing out that the net result of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the nuclear deal expanded the Iranian nuclear program; made Iranian proxies in the Middle East more aggressive; and ultimately led to an Iranian missile strike on U.S. military forces in Iraq.
Indeed, Biden’s team should first note that—if the Trump administration had accumulated so much “leverage” over Iran—then why did President Trump fail to cash in on this leverage? Far from eliciting new concessions from Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program or its support for international terrorism, President Trump could not even convince Iran to sit down at the negotiating table with him.
Read the full article in The National Interest.