16 Groups Warn Biden Against Repeating Trump’s Iran Deal Blunder


CONTACT: Jessica Rosenblum, Quincy Institute, 202.279.0005 or [email protected]

WASHINGTON – Sixteen of the organizations instrumental in building support for the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 have banded together again to send a letter warning President Biden that responsibility for what the President, himself, has referred to as Trump’s “self-inflicted disaster” in withdrawing the United States from the deal will be Biden’s to share, if the President does not urgently take critical steps to rejoin the JCPOA. 

“Failure to renew the JCPOA will force your administration to double down on Trump’s disastrous maximum pressure strategy. Just as this strategy was a self-inflicted wound under Trump, it will be so under your watch as well. Rather than moving closer to Iranian capitulation, Tehran will ratchet up its nuclear capabilities and we will inch closer to war with Iran,” reads the letter, which was sent to the White House today.


The letter comes as the nuclear deal verges on collapse, following Iran’s disabling of some surveillance cameras from its nuclear facilities in response to the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors resolution censuring Tehran. 

The letter focuses on the question of whether to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps from a list of non-state terrorist actors– reportedly among the last, if not the last, sticking point in the nuclear negotiations. 

Stipulating the inclusion of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list was one the cynical measures included by Trump to exact a political cost on future administrations seeking to return to the agreement. Substantively the measure is redundant given the IRGC is already heavily targeted under separate authorities, including terrorism sanctions. Numerous members of the Biden administration acknowledged as much at the time Trump withdrew from the deal. 

“This is why it is all the more perplexing that your administration has allowed this ‘political move’ to stand in the way of a strategically vital renewal of the JCPOA,” the signers write. “As you and your former colleagues in the Obama administration correctly made clear: Iran is a dangerous actor – but it will be all the more dangerous if it possesses nuclear weapons…Keeping [IRGC] on the FTO list only to forsake the only opportunity to peacefully prevent Iran from building doomsday weapons does not serve US national security interests.”

Signers of the letter committed to diplomatically preventing a nuclear-armed Iran include American Friends Service Committee, Americans for Peace Now, Common Defense, Council for a Livable World, Demand Progress, Foreign Policy for America, Indivisible, J Street, Just Foreign Policy, National Iranian American Council, Peace Action, Ploughshares Fund, Presbyterian Church Office of Public Witness, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Win Without War, and Women’s Action for New Directions. 

Statements from the signers follow:

Hadar Susskind, President, Americans for Peace Now

“APN is proud to support this important and timely letter. Diplomacy should always be our first recourse and we urge the Biden administration to do everything in its power to reverse the ‘maximum pressure’ policies of the Trump administration and to ensure that we do not lose the opportunity to secure an agreement.”

Naveed Shah, Political Director, Common Defense

“Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran was a dangerous political maneuver which again brought us  closer to open conflict. Re-entering the JCPOA is a critical step that the Biden administration can take now to make the world a safer place. The specter of nuclear winter hangs over us as nuclear-armed Russia is already waging war in Ukraine. Veterans like the members of Common Defense know all too well the costs of war which is why we implore all parties to engage in good faith diplomatic negotiations towards a peaceful resolution.”

Former Congressman John Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World

“With talks at an impasse, both Iran and the United States have returned to a familiar pattern of mutual escalation and we are nearing the top of the escalation ladder to war. The loss of transparency into Iran’s nuclear program will almost certainly fuel paranoia and speculation about Iran’s nuclear activities. However, this level of insight into Iran’s nuclear facilities was only made possible by the JCPOA and further proves the necessity of the deal and its invasive verification regime. The Biden administration must urgently take the necessary steps to reenter this critical deal.” 

Andrew Albertson, Executive Director, Foreign Policy for America

“Because of President Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw from an entirely successful nuclear deal, the Iranian regime is now perilously close to developing a nuclear weapon. That’s a scary thought. But I’m still hopeful President Biden can still solve this crisis through diplomacy.

American families have so much on their plates right now between inflation, COVID, and the crisis in Ukraine. If President Biden can negotiate permanent, internationally monitored limits on Iran’s nuclear program, he can stop this next crisis before it starts – and do it without sending American servicemembers to war. That would be quite an achievement.”

Dylan Williams, Senior Vice President for Policy and Strategy, J Street

“The administration faces a clear choice: restore the Iran deal by undoing Trump administration moves that were taken expressly to prevent a return to the agreement, or stay its predecessor’s course which has led to Iran being on the verge of nuclear breakout, missile attacks on US troops and a surge in other threats emanating from Iran. A supermajority of Jewish American voters and the consensus of the Israeli security establishment support restoration of the agreement over the escalating nuclear crisis and regional insecurity brought on by Trump’s disastrous approach.”

Jamal Abdi, President, National Iranian American Council 

“Nobody voted for Joe Biden to steward Donald Trump’s Middle East policy. Yet instead of fulfilling his promise to restore the Iran nuclear deal and making diplomacy rather than conflict the organizing principle of America’s Middle East policy, the President is reverting to his predecessor’s strategy of organizing the region around conflict with Iran. That means increased risk of the spread of nuclear weapons, more inhumane sanctions on ordinary Iranians while the U.S. turns a blind eye to human rights abuses by so-called friends, and a disastrous war if and when this approach reaches its logical conclusion.”

Emma Belcher, President, Ploughshares Fund

“The Iran nuclear deal is the only viable way to prevent the possibility of an Iranian nuclear bomb, and time to save the deal is running out. Without a deal, we could face further instability, greater human suffering, and another major war in the Middle East. President Biden needs to meet the moment by working with Iran to save the deal before it’s too late.”

Trita Parsi, Executive Vice President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

“President Biden is right in calling Trump’s maximum pressure strategy a massive failure. But if he chooses to continue it by not rejoining the JCPOA, its continued failure will be his – not Trump’s. It would indeed be ironic if the JCPOA survived four years of Trump, but not two years of Biden’s presidency. Biden has the ability and responsibility to rejoin the deal. He should exercise it before it is too late.”

Sam Ratner, Policy Director, Win Without War.

“Productive diplomacy has brought us to the cusp of a return to the Iran nuclear deal, but delays in closing the deal have brought us well past the point where maintaining the status quo in the US-Iran relationship is an option. We urge the White House to show the leadership necessary to revive the Iran deal, or it will have to accept the nuclear crisis, instability, and devastating humanitarian toll that will follow the deal’s failure.” 

Nancy Parrish, Executive Director, Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)

“The Trump administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ policies toward Iran destroyed the mammoth diplomatic efforts championed by the Obama administration, increasing tensions between our countries and setting back nuclear nonproliferation efforts everywhere. With Iran’s so-called “breakout” timeline now measured in days, this is a critical moment to double down on diplomacy. Allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good will put our world in grave danger, with yet another dangerous state in possession of the most deadly weapons on earth. President Biden, we implore you to double down on negotiations and bring the Iran deal to the finish line before it’s too late.”

Aura Kanegis, Policy Director, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

“Our every policy objective is harmed by further political brinksmanship with Iran; it is time to move away from policies based in fear of domestic political critique, and toward sensible diplomacy.  The hard work of engagement is the only path to lasting stability.”

Cavan Kharrazian, Foreign Policy Campaigner, Demand Progress
“Restoring the JCPOA is the surest way to avoid another disastrous war in the Middle East and to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It is up to Biden to finally put an end to Trump’s counterproductive and harmful “maximum pressure” campaign, but the window for action is closing fast. Biden must act decisively to save this deal and fulfill his promises.”