With the incoming Biden administration expected to return to diplomacy with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, Israel and some Gulf states are hoping to be involved in future US-Iran negotiations.
Joe Biden has said he plans to return to the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, and work on follow-on negotiations that address other issues after the fact. Iran is willing to return to compliance with the JCPOA in exchange for sanctions relief. But Iranian officials have made it clear they have no interest in negotiating any additional deals until the JCPOA is revived.
Israel and Gulf states like the UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia oppose the JCPOA and believe the US should seek a stricter deal. Since Bahrain and the UAE recently signed normalization agreements with Israel, they could have more sway in Washington.
According to Politico, ambassadors from Bahrain, the UAE, and Israel held an off the record meeting with the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC on Monday to discuss the JCPOA. Politico interviewed ambassadors from the three countries who expressed their desire to be involved in negotiations and their opposition to the JCPOA.
One argument from Iran hawks is that Biden should not give up leverage over Iran by lifting sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. “If you go back to JCPOA 1.0 in hopes that you will negotiate and get 2.0 it’s never going to happen. You’re giving up all your leverage,” Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said.
Arguing that his country should be involved in negotiations, Bahraini Ambassador Abdulla al-Khalifa said: “It is important for us to be a part of the conversation, because it is us who have a front row seat to any development, and it is us who will have to endure all the consequences.”
Earlier this month, in an interview with The New York Times, Biden said a second deal with Iran could involve regional countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But the second deal would only be possible after the US lifts sanctions and returns to the JCPOA. For their part, Iran is open to negotiating with its neighbors but does not want the US to be involved.
“Iran has also always publicly said that we are ready to negotiate regional issues, but only with neighbors and countries in the region,” Alireza Miryousefi, the head of Iran’s mission to the UN, told Politico. “Iran does not believe that there is any need for foreign powers‘ presence at that dialogue, foreign powers who are literally thousands of miles away from the region.”