The Path to a New Iran Deal
The Path to a New Iran Deal
Op-Ed / Middle East & North Africa 1 minutes

The Path to a New Iran Deal

A Regional Agreement Could Succeed Where Washington Failed

It has been exactly five years since former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and more than two years since current U.S. President Joe Biden launched his drive to restore it. But despite high hopes, Biden has been unable to resurrect the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the JCPOA. In part, this is the administration’s failure; in early negotiations, Biden was hesitant to push Congress to back a controversial foreign policy initiative when he needed its support for his domestic agenda. The failure is also a consequence of Iranian obstinacy. As talks dragged on, Tehran threw up roadblocks and made multiple demands—including a guarantee that the next U.S. administration will not again withdraw from the deal—that Washington simply could not meet. As a result, there has been virtually no progress in negotiations since September 2022. The two sides are far from an agreement.

Yet Tehran’s nuclear program is now more advanced than it has ever been. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has enriched uranium to 84 percent—just one percentage point short of weapons-grade purity—and has amassed enough enriched fissile material for several bombs. According to Pentagon officials, the country could produce an operational nuclear weapon within a few months. As a result, thanks to Trump’s strategic blunder, Iran is a de facto nuclear state: one screwdriver and one political decision away from weaponizing its nuclear capabilities.  

Even if the negotiations resume, it is unlikely that the JCPOA can be saved. Iran’s program is too advanced to be contained by that deal, and the political climate in the West is not conducive to meaningful negotiations. The widespread, antigovernment social protests in Iran and Tehran’s brutal response have killed any appetite in Washington and European capitals for lifting sanctions on Iran—a necessary part of a deal. Iran’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been similarly repugnant to Western public opinion. And even if Washington were willing to hold its nose and lift many sanctions to restore the JCPOA, it is not clear that Iran’s hard-line leaders are actually interested in finalizing a deal with an administration that could be out of office in less than two years.

The full article can be read on the Foreign Affairs' website.


Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
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Vali Nasr
Professor of Middle East Studies and International Affairs, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

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