It’s Time to Return to the Negotiating Table: Re-entering the JCPOA
In 2015, President Barack Obama sat down at the negotiating table to craft the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and other world leaders. In 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement, replacing it with a regime of maximum pressure sanctions against Iran. Now, in 2021, President Joe Biden has the opportunity to return to the table and revive this agreement. And he should.
Iran has significantly escalated its nuclear program since the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. It is now much closer to the development of nuclear weapons. Right now, because of a turnover in both American and Iranian administrations, there is a brief window of opportunity to curb this development and repair damaged relations. A U.S. return to the JCPOA is necessary to protect vital American national security interests.
The Trump administration’s policy harmed U.S. security. It only served to cause extreme economic stress within Iranian society and strengthen the position of regime hard-liners who were opposed to negotiations with the U.S. If the U.S. hopes to develop a relationship with Iran and pursue common interests and solutions, then there needs to be an urgent change in direction. The U.S. needs to engage with Iran and negotiate in good faith. The U.S. needs to return to the JCPOA.
The most important strategic benefit of returning to JCPOA will be the reinstated limitations on Iran’s nuclear program. As of right now, there are no restrictions on the mass deployment of advanced centrifuges, uranium enrichment purity levels and stockpiling plutonium reprocessing, or heavy-water production. Iran inches closer and closer to the development of a nuclear weapon every day. The United States must address this today or we will face a very different global security dynamic tomorrow.
A return to the JCPOA will signal to the world that the United States understands the gravity of its commitments and that it remains dedicated to the pursuit of international cooperation. It will restore America’s position as a reliable negotiating partner and its role as a regional leader. How the U.S. acts now will be especially important when approaching future nuclear talks with Pyongyang and Beijing.
This agreement will have positive effects on economies all over the world. The re-entry into the JCPOA will remove nuclear-related secondary sanctions as well as those levied on Iranian oil and financial systems, allowing the Iranian economy as well as others around the globe to rebuild and stabilize. It will also secure the reliable flow of Iranian oil to the world market. This is a global priority.
Many may question Iran’s willingness to return to the JCPOA. Will Iran accept previous levels of partial sanctions relief? Particularly after a period of unregulated nuclear development and the acquisition of great technical knowledge and experience? Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, has signaled his desire to return to the negotiations. The country is facing severe conditions related to the pandemic, water shortages, and inflation. The regime recognizes that lifting American sanctions on the Iranian economy would help to address these issues. Iran faithfully implemented the previous agreement. Given its current situation, the regime will view it in its interest to do so again.
A return to the JCPOA is in the vital interests of the United States. We must restrain Iran’s escalating nuclear development. We must strengthen American reliability as a negotiating partner and leader. And we must safeguard our economy and access to oil. We are at a crucial moment in history. We are at a moment which will determine the world that our children will inherit. We must seize the moment – and return to the negotiating table.