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Reviving Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran

Summary:
With Iran’s radical factions increasingly emboldened and a presidential election looming in June, the window of opportunity for supporters of the 2015 nuclear deal to revive the pact appears to be closing fast. US President Joe Biden’s measured approach offers the best hope of de-escalating current tensions. MADRID – Diplomacy has always been the only sensible way to address US-Iranian tensions. But when foreign policy rides on emotional currents and succumbs to gimmicky temptations, wise and subtle statecraft is relegated to the background. Build Back the State Getty/Bettman  Is Stagflation Coming? Z.

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With Iran’s radical factions increasingly emboldened and a presidential election looming in June, the window of opportunity for supporters of the 2015 nuclear deal to revive the pact appears to be closing fast. US President Joe Biden’s measured approach offers the best hope of de-escalating current tensions.

MADRID – Diplomacy has always been the only sensible way to address US-Iranian tensions. But when foreign policy rides on emotional currents and succumbs to gimmicky temptations, wise and subtle statecraft is relegated to the background.

This happened in the United States after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and it happened again during Donald Trump’s bombastic presidency. Perhaps the best example was Trump’s impetuous unilateral decision to withdraw the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

That agreement – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – came about after years of arduous negotiations, only for Trump to dismiss it in a huff as part of his arrogant and shortsighted “maximum pressure” strategy toward Iran. But with Joe Biden now president, talks that began this month in Vienna provide the main global powers with a diplomatic opportunity to salvage the pact.

We must hope that they succeed, because Trump’s “maximum pressure” proved to be a resounding failure. The Iranian regime began to violate certain provisions of the JCPOA about a year after the US withdrew from it in 2018. Since then, Iran has progressively increased the purity of its uranium enrichment, expanded its enriched-uranium stockpile 14-fold, and hindered international inspections of its nuclear facilities. US estimates of Iran’s nuclear breakout time recently fell from over a year to three or four months.

Trump’s ill-advised strategy not only increased the risks of nuclear proliferation, but also failed abysmally to curb Iran’s regional military activities. US-Iranian tensions have intensified in the Persian Gulf and particularly in Iraq, compounded by increasingly frequent (if barely seen) skirmishes between Iran and Israel.

Another cause for US concern is that the Iranian regime has mitigated its international isolation by strengthening its relationship with China – including through a recent

Javier Solana
President of @ESADEgeo - Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics. Distinguished Fellow at @BrookingsInst.

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