Here’s what you need to know

  • Biden has made the 2015 Iran nuclear accord a top goal of his foreign policy. 
  • Trump pulled out from the deal May 2018, pushing tensions towards Iran to historical heights. 
  • The deal is currently being renegotiated.
  • Visit for more stories.

President Joe Biden has made it a top foreign policy priority to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.

The deal was not easy to revive and negotiations to restore it are still in limbo. The election of a hardline president,Ebrahim Raisi, The use of Iranian-made dronesRussia in the war in Ukraine and the brutal crackdown by the Iranian government on protests in recent times have not helped matters.

Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy to Iran, stated that the US government was open to diplomacy, but indicated that Tehran’s sale to Russia of drones and approach to protests was throwing a wrench into the process.

Malley stated, “We are not focusing our time on the deal now.” told Foreign PolicyThis month. “Our focus is on Iran and Iran’s support of Putin’s war against Ukraine.”

Biden declared in July that the US would use force against Iran. “last resort”To stop it from developing a nuclear weapons.

Foreign Policy was told by Malley that diplomacy is the preferred way for the administration to stop Iran from reaching this point. However, he stressed that there are other avenues. He stated that this includes a “military alternative”, but said that they aren’t there and that they remain hopeful about finding other ways.

In the meantime, Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, also appeared in December. saidTehran’s recent actions including “viciously crackingdown on peaceful protesters at home” as well as the “arming, training Russian forces using drones” have only affirmed the administration’s belief that Iran should “never be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapon.” 

The Iran deal was one the crowning diplomatic achievements of former President Barack Obama’s term. While restoring it would have been a major foreign policy accomplishment for Biden, it has continued being a divisive issue at Washington since its implementation in 2015. 

Trump controversially withdrew USA from the landmark pact, May 2018.

The Trump administration tried unsuccessfully to get Iran to agree to a more restrictive version of the deal, including harsh economic sanctions, as part of a campaign of maximum pressure. Trump’s approach to this issue increased tensions between Washington & Tehran to historic levels, and raised concerns of a new Middle East conflict. 

The unilateral decision by Trump to withdraw the US in May 2018 from the JCPOA was immediately condemned by US allies. They have been scrambling to find a diplomatic solution since then. 

Before Trump pulled out, Iran’s time to develop a nuclear weapon was roughly a year.It’s now closer to “just few weeks”, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. saidIn December, early. 

Trump’s critics claim that Trump’s decision to end the pact was unnecessarily. sparked a global crisis and increased the prospect of warIran is moving closer to developing a nuclear weapon. 

Trump has often called the deal “terrible,” and while there are many supporters of the pact he is not alone in his view.

Here’s a quick overview of the historic pact, and the debate surrounding it. 

The Iran deal, explained

iran deal

John Kerry, former US Secretary of State, is pictured left, with Mohammad Javad Zarif (Iran Foreign Minister) in 2016.

Frank Franklin II/AP

In July 2015, Iran and six countries reached a historic agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal. 

The six major powers involved in these negotiations with Iran were known as the P5+1, which stands for the United Nations security council’s five permanent members (the US, France, the UK, China, and Russia) and Germany.  

After two years of intensive discussions, the deal was reached. It aimed to limit Iran’s ability develop nuclear weapons in return for lifting economic sanctions on Tehran. 

As part of the deal, Iran agreed to reduce its number of centrifuges — tube-shaped machines that help enrich uranium — by two-thirds. Iran also agreed to reduce its stockpiles of enriched uranium to 98% and limit uranium enrichment at 3.67%.

Iran agreed to limit its enriched uranium supply to meet its energy needs. It would not be able to develop a nuclear bomb. 

Iran also agreed to allow inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its nuclear facilities. The IAEA repeatedly found Iran in compliance with the terms prior to Trump’s withdrawal decision and for a long duration after. 

In January 2016, Iran was declared by the IAEA to be living up to its end. all nuclear-related international sanctions against Iran were lifted.

The controversy surrounding Iran’s deal explained

Both Iran and the USA have been enemies for decades. They share a complicated history that includes a CIA orchestrated coup in the 1950s, a pro American puppet ruler who was overthrown in 1979 by the Islamic revolution and the infamous hostage crisis at Tehran’s US embassy.

The constant threats by Iranian leaders against Israel, America’s top ally in Middle East, as well as the chants “death America!” in Iranian streets, have not helped matters. 

This is why there is a lot of distrust in the US for Iran (and vice versa). Washington has always feared what might happen to Iran if it developed a nuclear weapon. The Obama administration made significant progress in this area by the 2010s. This is why they attempted to negotiate the nuclear deal. It was widely hailed as a landmark diplomatic achievement when the 2015 pact was finalized. 

However, many Washington leaders, primarily conservatives, still feel that the Iran nuclear agreement didn’t go far enough in limiting Iran’s ability to create nuclear weapons. 

This is because the Iran deal includes sunset clauses, or portions of the agreement that will eventually expire. The deal stipulates that the restrictions on Iran’s use of centrifuges will be lifted after 10 years (2025), and that the restrictions on uranium enrichment will disappear five years later (2030). Some feared that Iran could quickly develop a nuclear weapon if these restrictions were lifted. 

“It is obvious to me that we can’t prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon under the decaying and rotten structure the current agreement.” Trump saidMay 2018. “The Iran deal has a fundamental flaw. We don’t know what will happen if nothing is done.”

Trump, along with others, claimed that the deal didn’t do enough for Iran to change its regional behavior or its missile programs. 

Washington was also under pressure from Israel, America’s top ally in this region, to not engage with Iran.

Saudi Arabia, a US security partner, views Iran as a danger and has also criticised the deal. The Saudis have urged the US not to. consult the Gulf statesIn any attempt to revive the accord. 

Fears of war with the USA in 2020 led Iran to abandon the nuclear agreement.

Soleimani stock photo 1800px Tehran after assassination Qassem

After Qassem Soleimani’s assassination, an Iranian holds a photo of Qassem Soleimani.


Trump ordered a drone strike against Iran in January 2020, killing Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general. Tehran then abandoned the JCPOA completely.

November 2020: The UN’s nuclear watchdog reported that Iran’s stockpiles were more than 12 times greater than the JCPOA limit. 

Iran remained compliant with the deal for almost a year following Trump’s controversial announcement. In the summer 2019, however, the Iranian government began to withdraw from JCPOA. 

Wendy Sherman, who was the Obama administration’s lead negotiator in the JCPOA, has been nominated to serve as the deputy to Secretary Antony Blinken. In September 2019, Insider learned that Iran’s violations to the pact had been of concern to Biden. “serious concern.”

Sherman said, “It’s worrying because it’s moving apart from a framework that ensured Iran wouldn’t get a nuclear weapon.” “Iran isn’t just being empowered, but is being left with the option to take actions that are not being resisted.” We are in a very, extremely difficult place.”

As part of an effort to increase pressure on European leaders fighting to save the deal, Iran has gradually taken more steps in violation of the pact and has enriched uranium to 60% — not far off from weapons-grade levels (90%). 

However, the Biden administration continues to open the door for a diplomatic solution to save 2015 deal.

Blinken said in December that the administration believes diplomacy remains the best way to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. “But should Iran reject this path, its leaders should not make any mistake that all options exist to ensure that Iran doesn’t obtain a nuclear weapon,” Blinken said.

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