Can Biden cool tensions with Iran? | The Stream

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Published on 23 Feb 2021, 20:06
US President Joe Biden says his administration is ready to return to an international nuclear accord with Iran that his predecessor Donald Trump abandoned. But sticking points about the conditions under which the US comes back to the deal hamper an already precarious relationship between Washington and Tehran.

Biden promised in November that, if elected, he would order the US to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a 2015 agreement with major world powers and the European Union which offered Iran sanctions relief in return for restrictions on its nuclear programmes. In 2018 Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal in favour of a policy of ‘maximum pressure’.

But while the Biden administration has withdrawn Trump’s restoration of UN ‘snapback’ sanctions against Iran, he has so far refused to relax US-authored sanctions until Iran rolls back nuclear activity that it has accelerated in recent months. That has irritated leaders in Tehran who want the US to stop sanctions that have badly hit its economy and its people before Iran comes back into compliance with the nuclear pact.

Other issues are clouding the perennially fraught relationship between Washington and Tehran. The US assassination of top military commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020 sparked anger across Iran, with Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei continuing to vow revenge.

Will Biden make a clean break with the Trump era when it comes to Iran – and what lies ahead for the Washington-Tehran relationship?

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