Biden and the Iran nuclear deal: what to expect from the negotiations
As Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, speculation was rife that one of the first things his administration would do would be to seek re-entry to the Iran nuclear deal that had been quit by his predecessor in the White House.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany, and the European Union in 2015, known as “the Iran nuclear deal”, was considered a stunning diplomatic achievement. Iran agreed to limit or eliminate its enriched uranium sources in return for receiving financial and economic relief from the UN sanctions.
But in 2018, in a snub to the joint diplomatic venture, the then US president, Donald Trump, tweeted his country’s withdrawal, stating that: “I think it was one of the most incompetently drawn deals I’ve ever seen…we got nothing.” He claimed that Iran had been using the financial relief, including the oil export money, to support terrorist organisations in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia was a cornerstone of Trump’s Middle East policy as the geopolitical counterweight against Iran. The country was instrumental in the negotiations of the Middle East Peace Plan, brokered by Jared Kushner. A US$110 billion (£78.3 billion) defence deal with the Saudis was signed by Trump in his first official visit to Riyadh in May 2017.
During the same visit, the Saudis successfully convened several Muslim state representatives for a speech by Trump that declared Iran as the main threat in the region. The killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani by the USA in January 2020 took the main enemy of Saudi Arabia’s ruling crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), off the Middle East chessboard.
Trump’s reluctance to take retaliatory steps following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul demonstrated his unswerving support to the crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom. Trump showed the same reluctance regarding Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemeni civil war – another move by MBS, launched in March 2015, to rival the Iranian presence in Syria.
One of Biden’s first messages to Saudi Arabia has been that it should no longer rely on the USA’s unconditional support. White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s announcement of “recalibrating” USA-Saudi relations between counterpart-to-counterpart on 16 February is a signal to the crown prince that his unrestrained behaviours will not be tolerated by the Biden administration...
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Notes for editors
Press release reference number: 21/28
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