A few months ago, things still looked good for supporters of the deal. “When Biden won the election, everyone was in awe of the Iranian record,” said nuclear weapons expert Sico van der Meer of the Clingendael Institute. After all, Biden had said during his campaign that he would revive the deal with Iran. “But then he became president and he didn’t. He says now: we want to go back, but then Iran has to respect the agreements.”
Iran, for its part, believes that the United States, which caused the stalemate in 2018, is the first to move and must lift economic sanctions. In addition, the country wants guarantees that if the Irideal is set up again, the United States will not come out. “The United States had a special position in the 2015 agreement. Washington was constantly allowed to choose whether or not to extend the agreement. I imagine Iran is now saying: we don’t want this anymore.”
The United States had previously offered to lift the sanctions step by step, but Iran does not want to. “It’s about who blinks first,” says Van der Meer. “It’s also a question of honor. But ultimately Iran will have to compromise to get rid of the sanctions. Iran is a small player, the United States a superpower.”
One option to save the deal could be the “synchronized approach”, in which America will lift a small part of the sanctions, while Iran will begin a further reduction in its nuclear program at the same time. Whether this is achievable for both parties remains to be seen, Mohr says.
In any case, there is a lot of pressure on the negotiations, because there are presidential elections in Iran in June. The current moderate president Rouhani is no longer eligible, so there will be a new president anyway. Van der Meer: “There is a chance that the extremists will win this time around, and they are less eager to make a deal with the US, so he’s in a hurry. If there is no deal before the elections, it may be too late. “