Biden Faces a Minefield in New Diplomacy with Iran
By Robin Wright
Joe Biden knows Iran better than any American President since its 1979 revolution. He has personally dealt with its top officials—a few of them for decades. “When I was Iran’s representative to the U.N., I had several meetings with Biden,” the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, acknowledged after the U.S. election, in an interview with Entekhab, a Tehran publication. The two aren’t exactly friends. Their meetings “can be described as professional relations based on mutual respect,” Zarif said. But Biden does have the Iranian’s personal e-mail address, as well as his cell-phone number.
As one of his first acts on foreign policy, Biden wants to renew diplomacy with the Islamic Republic—and reёnter the nuclear accord that President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations,” Biden wrote, in an essay for CNN, in September. Yet the President-elect already faces a minefield over basic issues—such as, what exactly is “compliance”? Who moves first? And how? And what about all those other flash points not in the 2015 accord—Iran’s growing array of missiles, its proxy militias and political meddling, which have extended Tehran’s influence across the Middle East, and the regime’s flagrant human-rights abuses?
After Biden is inaugurated, he will have only a sliver of time—six to eight weeks—to jump-start the process before the political calendar in Iran threatens to derail potential diplomacy over the nuclear deal, Read on....