Despite the tensions between the US and Iran and last week’s assassination of an Iranian scientist, Joe Biden said he plans to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Biden made the comments in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that was published on Wednesday. Friedman asked Biden if he stood by the views of an op-ed he penned in September, where the former vice president said he would work with Iran to return to the JCPOA. “It’s going to be hard, but yeah,” Biden answered.
The former vice president said he favors an immediate return to the JCPOA and then a follow-on deal that addresses Iran’s ballistic missiles program. Biden hopes the second deal could involve Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He said, “the best way to achieve getting some stability in the region” is to deal “with the nuclear program.”
There are a lot of forces at work to scuttle Biden’s efforts to return to the JCPOA. Even leading Democrats in Congress have said he should pursue a tougher deal. But Iran’s leadership has made it clear they are not negotiating with the US until they receive sanctions relief.
Both Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have recently said that Iran can immediately come into compliance with the JCPOA if the US lifts sanctions.
Israel is working hard to kill the JCPOA, and reports say President Trump has left Iran policy in the hands of his most hawkish advisors for the final days of his administration.
Last week, President Trump’s point man for Iran, Elliot Abrams, said the US will sanction Iran every week “until the end” of the administration. Abrams said it would be “foolish” for Biden to lift the sanctions.