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Iran nuclear program has been a key element of the United States’ Middle East policy. Being controversial for years, the Iran nuclear issue was resolved in July 2015 by inking a deal known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between P5+1 (U.S., UK, China, France, Russia + Germany) and Iran. The deal provided a plan where Iran had to reduce its nuclear program in exchange for relief in sanctions from the U.S., UN, and European Union. After a year of IAEA’s evaluation, it was confirmed Iran met the commitments she made in the deal. However, the Trump administration, being quite close to Israel, wanted to renegotiate the deal in the first place and then unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in May 2018 by calling it too lenient on Iran.
A debate is going on across the circles working on the Middle East what could be the future of the Iran nuclear deal under Joe Biden’s administration. During his election campaign, Biden pointed to the return to the Iran nuclear deal that spurred expectations to renew the U.S. diplomatic approach to the Middle East. Biden considers the agreement an appropriate step that would limit Iran to a point where it would take Tehran one year to make a nuclear weapon. Besides, the IAEA inspectors were constantly visiting the nuclear sites in Iran and were satisfied with Tehran’s compliance. In absence of any agreement, Iran was able to make a nuclear weapon in three months. However, despite the U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the agreement, Iran was fully committed to the agreement for a year but in response to the sanctions, it again started uranium enrichment in June 2019.
Although Biden’s new administration which is going to take charge on the 20th of January is not fully convinced to get back to the deal. Nonetheless, there is a serious consideration for the Iran nuclear issue. Biden told the New York Times, “the best way to achieve getting some stability in the region,” is our priority to deal with Iran. In one of his articles last September, Biden wrote, “make an unshakeable commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Biden’s nominee for national security advisor, Jack Sullivan, “We are in a dangerous situation since the United States left [the JCPOA], Iran has moved closer to a nuclear weapon,” told the Wall Street Journal. Biden further told, “in consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program.”
Experts believe there are greater chances of renegotiations of the deal under Biden yet the Iranian foreign minister Jawad Zarif in his tweets on December 21, 2020, made it clear, “JCPOA timetable is inseparable from the accord. Renegotiations are out of the question.” Zarif stressed the effective JCPOA compliance by all the parties. He further added, “Iran will rapidly reverse remedial measures in response to U.S. unlawful withdrawal — and blatant E3 breaches — when US/E3 perform their duties and the Iranian people MUST feel the effects of sanctions lifting.” Iran is viewing the Biden administration as a blessing where there are possibilities for the JCPOA to bring it back to the track of compliance. Furthermore, the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani by throwing his weight behind the JCPOA told last month: the next president who will be elected this June may not be so open to cutting a deal. Thus, Iran is Pushing the president-elect Biden to resume the JCPOA. Besides, Iran put pressure on the IAEA and other powers on December 31st last year that it will enrich uranium to 20% purity where it was before the Iran nuclear deal.
If Biden takes any step towards the recommencement of the JCPOA, he will face opposition from within the country and from the Western and Middle Eastern allies — especially from Britain and Israel. Republicans in Congress will strongly oppose reentering the Iran nuclear deal. Republicans believe it will give Iran funds to further its ballistic missile program along with its nuclear activity in the long run. However, it can better be assessed by the U.S. intelligence apparatus whether the deal can be a threat in the long run or not. Moreover, Israel is the strong opposition to Biden in the Middle East if he resumes the nuclear deal with Iran. In last November, “Iran’s decision to continue violating its commitments, to raise the enrichment level and advance the industrial ability to enrich uranium underground, cannot be explained in any way except as the continued realization of its intention to develop a military nuclear program. Israel will not allow Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told the reporters. Thus, this is a question for Biden’s administration how he deals Israel opposition vis-à-vis the issue.
Any appropriate reopening of the JCPOA in a balanced way acceptable to Iran as well as the U.S.’ Western allies will be appositive development not only for Iran but for the region too that would potentially stop any further escalation in the Middle East between the U.S. and Iran. On the other hand, in a time of COVID, the Iranian people will get some relief due to lifting sanctions, in a case of positive development. 

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