Few days after US President-elect Joe Biden announced the first group of his nominees for key cabinet posts, including the State Department, Iran, reeling under three years of choking sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump, expressed its hope that the new administration rejoins the 2015 nuclear deal.
On Wednesday, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said it would be easy to solve his country’s problems with the US if Biden fulfils his election campaign promise to rejoin the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), singed under former President Barack Obama.
President Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from that pact in May 2018 and launched a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran with sanctions that plunged its economy into a deep recession. Trump, as well as many of America’s allies in the region, objected to the fact that the deal doesn’t address Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its destabilising regional actions including its support, financing and arming proxy militias.
To ensure that these issues are discussed and agreed on in the right context, the upcoming administration must also ensure one more critical aspect — Gulf states must be at the table when negotiations begin with Iran
Return to the deal is expected to be on Biden’s foreign policy top priority list. However, he said he would re-enter the deal once Iran returns to compliance and use it as the basis on which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting deal with Iran. His nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken went further. He previously indicated that the US should not return to the deal unless it ensured two more things in addition to the restriction on Iran’s enrichment efforts — restrictions on its missile programme and an end to its aggressive policies that threaten regional allies.
GCC point of view
This is a good indication. But to ensure that these issues are discussed and agreed on in the right context, the upcoming administration must also ensure one more critical aspect — Gulf states must be at the table when negotiations begin with Iran.
One of the major flaws of the deal signed by Obama is that it didn’t take into account the point of view of one of the key stakeholders — the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. The Obama deal, which was negotiated secretly, shrugged off the concerns of Iran’s neighbours who have been bearing the brunt of Tehran’s subverting actions for the past four decades.
President Trump understood that. He realised the flaws of that agreement. Now, President-elect Biden has an opportunity to rectify those mistakes. The European Union too, although sticking to the deal even after the US exited it two years ago, has repeatedly voiced concerns about Iran’s regional policies.
A good deal should address all aspects of the Iranian threat to the world peace and regional security. To ensure that, Gulf states must be part of it this time.