October 01, 2020

On Iran, the Next Administration Must Break With the Past

By Elisa Catalano Ewers, Ilan Goldenberg and Kaleigh Thomas

Only nine months ago, the United States and Iran nearly went to war. Even with simultaneous public health and economic crises dominating today’s agenda, that sobering fact should make Iran an early priority for a new U.S. administration in 2021.

In order to relieve tensions, the next U.S. administration will need to engage Iran in renewed diplomacy. But successful diplomacy with Iran will not come easily. The United States will have to navigate its own and Iranian domestic politics. Israel and some of the Gulf states will greet such engagement with anxiety or outright opposition. Moreover, a legacy of deep distrust divides Washington and Tehran. Nonetheless, the U.S. political transition could present an opportunity, as Iran may either test the possibilities with a President Joe Biden or relent and negotiate with a reelected President Donald Trump rather than face four more years of harsh sanctions.

The United States can address its discord with Iran and calibrate a smart and clear-eyed policy for the Middle East.

The United States should start by negotiating a de-escalatory agreement that contains Iran’s nuclear program and lowers regional tensions. But it should then work both to negotiate a follow-on to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and to tackle more fundamental regional disagreements. By putting diplomacy in the lead, the United States can address its discord with Iran and calibrate a smart and clear-eyed policy for the Middle East.

Read the full article in Foreign Affairs.

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