The Biden administration’s effort to reenter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is languishing, and there is an increasing likelihood that the nuclear deal won’t be salvaged:
Hopes for a quick re-entry to the accord that Donald Trump abandoned have dimmed after six rounds of negotiations in Vienna, with little sign of when a seventh might start.
If that happens, it will not only be a major, avoidable foreign policy failure for Biden, but it will also reward Iran hawks for their years of sabotage. A collapse of the JCPOA would be a significant setback for the cause of nonproliferation, and it would send a message that the U.S. is incapable of making and honoring agreements even when they are extremely favorable to our side. It hasn’t happened yet, and administration officials may manage to stave off a complete collapse before the end of the summer, but it is worth considering how things reached this sorry state. It is not entirely the Biden administration’s fault, but they do bear a large part of the blame for letting things get to this point.
The administration’s main mistakes have been wasting too much time up front, refusing to offer any sanctions relief, and publicly entertaining the so-called “longer and stronger” follow-on agreement that no one truly thinks is possible. The Israeli government threw a wrench in the works with its campaign of assassination and sabotage, which then prompted the Iranian reaction that opponents of the deal have sought to use to discredit the agreement. Iran’s move to end implementation of the Additional Protocol clearly hasn’t helped matters, and that is a consequence of the Israeli attacks. Iranian demands for a “guarantee” that the US won’t betray them again are impossible to meet (any such guarantee would be meaningless and non-binding in any case), since we all know that the next administration could easily throw the agreement in the trash again.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.