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U.S. returns to Iran nuclear deal: Slowly simmering crisis, drawn out talks, according to Virginia Tech expert

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The Biden administration, inheriting a polarized country and a pandemic, does not want to have the added burden of dealing with a nuclear crisis in its very first year as well.

Yet, an urgent return to the Iran nuclear deal most likely involves a “who goes first” approach, according to Virginia Tech international affairs expert Mehrzad Boroujerdi.

“While the Biden administration expects Iran to make the first move, the Iranians counter that since it was the U.S. that left the deal, it is they who should take the first step and return to it without any preconditions,” said Boroujerdi, director of the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech.

“As such, I think we will be looking at a slowly simmering nuclear crisis this year and drawn-out negotiations that will involve Iran’s next president,” Boroujerdi said.

President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, in 2018.

“I don’t believe President Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran worked considering the goal was to force Iran to agree to harsher terms and more extended deadlines on its nuclear program,” said Boroujerdi. “The Iranian ‘public position’ is that they will welcome U.S. returning to the agreement but that they are in no mood to renegotiate what they agreed to in 2015 since it means they have to give away more of the store. Furthermore, they maintain that Iran should not agree to discuss non-nuclear issues such as ballistic missiles or its regional activities in the Middle East.”

Still, Iran stands to gain much needed relief from a plethora of sanctions that have decimated its economy.

“Iran wants quick and unconditional lifting of all or most sanctions so that it can sell its oil, have access to its frozen assets throughout the world, and buy much needed supplies and equipment. That, however, is going to be difficult considering the legal and political complexities of lifting sanctions including secondary sanctions that prevent non-American firms from investing in Iran.”

The U.S very likely returns to a negotiating table with experience on its side.  Most of those who dealt with Iran in 2015 during the Obama administration (Wendy Sherman, Jake Sullivan, Robert Malley, Brett McGurk and Antony Blinken) are now high-level members of the Biden team.

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