President-elect Joe Biden told French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday that he would like to see the United States work with its European ally again on Iranian nuclear policy. Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has apparently expressed a conditional willingness to resume dialogue with the US under a new government.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran were high for decades, but briefly began to warm up after President Barack Obama’s administration, under which Biden served as vice president, signed the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan 2015 (JCPOA) – commonly referred to as the Iranian Nuclear Agreement. Under the international agreement, which was also signed by France, Britain, Germany, the European Union, Russia and China, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for sanction relief and international investment.
Although the United Nations observers concluded through consistent reporting that Iran was abiding by the treaty, President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in May 2018. The president, who had long criticized the agreement, again introduced strict sanctions against Iran. But instead of successfully preventing Iran from working toward a nuclear weapon, the Persian Gulf nation is now much closer to a weapon than when Trump took office, analysts have found.
Biden “expressed his willingness to cooperate on global challenges, including security and development in Africa, the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program,” the president-elect’s transition team said in a press release e-mailed to Washington on Newsday. France, along with the other signatories of the agreement, continued to support the JCPOA, despite Trump’s withdrawal and pressure for sanctions. European allies have repeatedly criticized the Trump government’s policy toward Iran.
While Iran has claimed that it distrusts the United States and has no plans to change its behavior without a new government making meaningful policy changes, Rouhani has suggested that a reordering of relations is possible.
“The new US administration should reconsider its inhumane behavior towards other countries in order to repair the country’s tarnished image in the international community,” the Iranian leader said on Tuesday, the Tehran Times reported.
“Now an opportunity has opened up for the next US administration to make up for the mistakes of the past and return to respecting international obligations by respecting international rules,” Rouhani said according to the Iranian English-language newspaper am Sonntag.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted on Sunday that “the world is watching the new Biden government”. Zarif suggested that the new government should “abandon the disastrous lawless bullying” of the Trump administration and “accept multilateralism, cooperation and respect for the law.
Washington Newsday turned to Biden’s transition team for further comments, but they did not respond in time for publication.
In mid-September, Biden wrote an opinion piece for CNN in which he criticized Trump’s policy towards Iran.
“I have no illusions about the challenges the regime in Iran poses to America’s security interests, to our friends and partners, and to our own people. But there is a smart way to be tough on Iran, and there is Trump’s way. He ignored our closest allies and walked away – alone, without a plan – from an agreement that focused the world’s eyes and ears on Iran’s nuclear program and demonstrably blocked Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon,” Biden wrote.
Biden added that he would “offer Tehran a credible way back to diplomacy”. He stated that his government was ready to “rejoin” the JCPOA “if Iran returns to strict adherence to the nuclear deal”.