Negotiations with Iran Could Easily Lead to a Worse Deal Than Was Secured in 2015

April 8, 2021 | Noah Rothman
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This week, American and Iranian diplomats have stationed themselves in separate Viennese hotels, and European mediators have begun carrying messages between the two delegations—with the aim of finding a way to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Biden administration has promised that it will seek to secure an improved version of that deal, which Tehran violated and from which Washington then withdrew. But the White House has already stated its willingness to remove sanctions, and likely seeks to reach an agreement before the Islamic Republic’s elections in June. Noah Rothman comments:

The JCPOA was said in 2015 to have greatly empowered the reform wing of the Iranian theocracy, which [the current president Hassan] Rouhani helmed. But what did we witness in the immediate aftermath of the Iran deal’s implementation? Iran-sponsored sectarian attacks in Iraq; the material and political support for a genocidal regime in Syria; weapons funneled to Houthis in Yemen; political instability in Lebanon and Bahrain sponsored by Tehran; and a vicious crackdown on political demonstrators inside Iran. All of this occurred before Donald Trump effectively abrogated the JCPOA in May 2018, after which Iranian provocations only became more reckless and provocative.

The idea that a nuclear accord with the West empowers Iran’s moderates presumes the existence of Iranian moderates—a presupposition that has time and again proven flawed.

But that seems to be the belief to which the Biden administration and its negotiators adhere. If so, they could convince themselves that they’re better served chasing an accord, any accord, at the possible expense of its terms. And the results of such a flawed approach are predictable. For all their talk of a better deal, we will likely end up with something even worse.

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