Biden Administration Should Rejoin JCPOA to Promote Regional Security: SIPRI Analyst

Biden Administration Should Rejoin JCPOA to Promote Regional Security: SIPRI Analyst

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A researcher in Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said the first step for the new US administration should be to rejoin the JCPOA and work on a fundamental change from the traditional US policy of isolating Iran.

In an interview with Tasnim, Tytti Erästö commented on the prospect of the US policies under Joe Biden’s administration.

She is a senior researcher in the SIPRI Nuclear Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Program, focusing on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation issues.

Her recent and current research focuses on the Iran nuclear deal, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, US/NATO-Russia dispute over missile defense, international efforts at establishing a WMD free zone in the Middle East, as well as other issues related to nuclear arms control.

Previously she has worked at the Ploughshares Fund in Washington, DC, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, and the Tampere Peace Research Institute in Finland.

What follows in the text of the interview:

Tasnim: Iran's Parliament has set a deadline of February 21 for Biden to fully lift US sanctions as part of a move back into the 2015 nuclear agreement. Iranian officials have said time and again that only if the US decides to go back to its international commitments under the JCPOA and lift all sanctions against Iran, will Tehran go back to the full implementation of the multilateral accord. However, the White House is signaling its own urgency with US officials saying that the United States will rejoin the accord only after Iran comes back into compliance. What are your thoughts on this given the fact that it was the US under Trump which abandoned the deal in 2018?

Erästö: I think any demands for the other side to go first are counterproductive, and they unnecessarily complicate the urgent task of restoring the JCPOA. The best thing would be for both sides to agree on a simultaneous return to compliance, without politicizing the sequencing issue. I think such comments from the USA can be understood in term of domestic politics --such as the difficulty of justifying sanctions-lifting in the current context where Iran is for example enriching up to 20 percent.

Tasnim: Why do you think Washington is not willing to rejoin the same terms it once left? Do you think the US would finally return to the nuclear deal as it existed under Barack Obama's administration to avoid the deadline?

Erästö: Some in the USA now argue that sanctions should be used as leverage to address the perceived shortcomings in the JCPOA--such as its so-called ‘sunset’ provisions. Those arguments overestimate US leverage and underestimate the damage that overreliance on coercion has already done to diplomacy with Iran. I hope that the Biden administration sees this and does not try to overplay its hand at this critical point in time.

Tasnim: There are reports that Joe Biden, in order to be able to negotiate a follow-on agreement, has plans to manufacture more leverage against Tehran than Trump did with his failed “maximum pressure” campaign via containing Iran’s influence across the region. What is your take on this? Do you believe that we will see a surge in the number of American troops in the region under Biden?

Erästö: The first step for the Biden administration to promote regional security should be to rejoin the JCPOA, as the US-Iranian tensions and the potential further escalation of the nuclear issue continue to be major risk factors to the entire region.

The next step should be dialogue on regional security--not between Iran and the P5+1, but involving other Middle Eastern countries, who are also part of regional conflict dynamics and militarization. Of course, this would require a fundamental change from the traditional US approach, which has been based on seeking to isolate Iran. However, the alternative -trying to push for some one-sided concessions without addressing the broader regional context- will probably not succeed.

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