President Biden, who has made no secret of his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, continues to send Tehran the wrong message.
“We’re prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear program,” he told the Munich Security Conference on Friday, echoing the new line that his administration announced the previous day.
This new phase of the Biden strategy should have surprised no one, but it sheds light on the administration’s misguided approach to the Islamic Republic.
Biden and his team have long said that their intent is to return the U.S. to the 2015 agreement, which doesn’t address Iran’s missile program and support for regional proxies, so that it may negotiate a follow-on accord on those issues. But, these officials say, before the U.S. lifts the requisite sanctions to make this return, Iran must first return to compliance with the deal and stop enriching uranium beyond what it permits.
During a call on Thursday afternoon, senior administration officials told reporters for the first time that the U.S. would accept EU offers to moderate discussions between the JCPOA parties, including Iran. That announcement followed two noteworthy measures taken by the U.S. at the U.N. earlier that day: The administration reversed the Trump administration’s position that the U.N. ought to enforce “snapback” sanctions against Iran, and it stopped enforcing stringent travel measures on Iranian diplomats that had been in place, bringing them in line with the restrictions on other countries, such as Russia and China.
In spite of these conciliatory moves, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Friday afternoon that the U.S. will not be lifting sanctions before its talks with Iran.
The Iranians believe otherwise, or at least they hope to push the administration into relenting, freeing up the regional proxies that languished under the Trump administration’s maximum-pressure campaign.