• January 31, 2023

Biden’s Art of the Iran Concession

President Biden’s closer relationship with allies and partners could give him an advantage over Donald Trump in foreign affairs. But his Iran strategy will test whether appeasing friends produces better results than being strong alone.

Mr Trump angered Iran and America’s European allies by abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal and launching a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign. Mr Biden said Washington would return to the agreement and lift sanctions if Tehran returned to compliance, while the Islamic Republic called for the opposite. Somebody has to blink.

The White House hasn’t entirely given in, but this week hasn’t been encouraging. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said the US was determined to revive the nuclear deal after meeting its French, German and British counterparts. The US later accepted a European offer to mediate with the Iranians who have not yet responded.

Tehran revolved around Barack Obama’s negotiators, many of whom have returned to the Biden administration. So it would not be surprising if Iran agrees to the talks now. Some informal negotiations are inevitable, but this has been an especially bad week for the US to take the plunge.

After missiles hit a US base in Iraq this week, killing a contractor and injuring nine others, including a US service member, the State Department vowed the US would “hold those responsible to account”. An Iran-backed militia with Tehran’s implicit or explicit consent is almost certainly to blame. However, the US has responded with a major concession to Iran’s sanctions, which will help empower such groups. Tehran will reasonably believe that Mr Biden is so eager to talk that he will ignore attacks on Americans.

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Jack

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