Iran: Biden wants to join nuclear deal before any new negotiations

First a pure and simple return to Iran‘s nuclear deal, and then only hypothetical negotiations on the other threats posed by Tehran: Joe Biden seems to ignore calls to use Donald Trump’s โ€œmaximum pressureโ€ to pull immediate concessions from Iran.

During the presidential campaign on 3 November, the Democrat claimed that if the Iranian authorities returned to โ€œstrict adherenceโ€ to the limits imposed on their nuclear programme by the 2015 international text, the US would in turn return to the agreement as a โ€œstarting pointโ€ for โ€œfollow-upโ€ negotiations.

Elect president, he persists and signs. โ€œIt will be difficult, but yes,โ€ he told a New York Times editorialist who asked him if that was still his position.

โ€œThe best way to achieve stability in the regionโ€ is to deal with Tehran‘s โ€œnuclear programmeโ€, he said in this interview published Wednesday, warning against an atomic bomb race in the Middle East.

Donald Trump slammed the door in 2018 to the agreement between the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom with Iran to prevent him from equipping himself with nuclear weapons, judging him insufficient to stem the โ€œdestabilizingโ€ behaviour of the Islamic Republic.

In the wake, the Republican President restored and then toughened the US sanctions lifted in 2015, to the great displeasure of Washington’s European allies who are trying to save the deal. In response, Tehran began to free itself from certain restrictions on its nuclear activities.

Only after a return from Washington and Tehran to the studs of the agreement, โ€œin consultation with our allies and partners, we will engage in negotiations and follow-up agreements to tighten and extend the nuclear restrictions imposed on Iran and to address the Iranian missile programme,โ€ said Joe Biden. These new talks, with which the future president wishes to involve regional rivals from Iran such as Saudi Arabia, would also include Iranian activities in the Middle East.

Joe Biden‘s strategy therefore implies lifting Donald Trump’s drastic sanctions in exchange for a simple return to the 2015 text โ€” negotiated when he himself was vice president of Barack Obama.

The Trump administration, which promised to multiply sanctions to the end, has urged the next government to make โ€œgood useโ€ of its โ€œmaximum pressureโ€ campaign. And former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the future president would make a โ€œserious mistakeโ€ by โ€œrushing into the arms of the ayatollahsโ€.

New York Times editorialist Thomas Friedman, to whom Joe Biden confided, himself warned the elected president against the temptation of simply turning back into a changing Middle East. โ€œIsrael and the Arab allies in the Gulf will not want the United States to renounce its favourable balance of forcesโ€ only to halt Tehran‘s nuclear ambitions without using it โ€œto rip Iran the commitment to cease its exports of these missilesโ€ of precision, which pose a more imminent threat to them, he wrote last.

The assassination on 27 November near Tehran of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, attributed by Iran to the Hebrew state, reminded us that the path the Democrat wants to take is full of obstacles.

โ€œBiden must be careful not to dilapidate the favourable power relations created by the maximum pressure campaign,โ€ says Alex Vatanka, of the Middle East Institute in Washington.

According to him, however, โ€œno one in Iran thinks that Biden is a soft figureโ€: โ€œeveryone expects him to take maximum advantage of the situationโ€, at least to remove the nuclear threat he considers priority, he told AFP.

The 2015 agreement โ€œis injured, bruised, but it is still thereโ€, and reviving it โ€œdoes not mean sacrificing other subjects, it’s just a prioritization,โ€ says Naysan Rafati of the conflict prevention organization International Crisis Group. โ€œThe President-elect and his team seem to have come to the conclusion that strengthening the foundations of this agreement first is a better way to address other issues than putting everything on the table at the same time at the risk of solving nothing.โ€