The Rome MED This Week newsletter provides experts’ analyses and informed comments on the most significant issues and trends in the MENA region. Today, we turn the spotlight on the future of the JCPOA, after the Biden administration confirmed its availability to restart nuclear talks with Iran and the IAEA reached a compromise with Tehran to extend limited monitoring activities for up to three months.
A new window for diplomacy seems to be opening between the United States and Iran. Washington has announced its availability to join a meeting of the P5+1, when and if the EU decides to convene one. The decision represents a clear departure from the previous U.S. administration’s confrontational approach towards Tehran and marks the first tangible step taken by President Joe Biden to deliver on his promise to rejoin the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), after Donald Trump withdrew in 2018. To mitigate tensions with Tehran and remove obstacles to multilateral diplomacy, US authorities are also easing the travel restrictions enforced by the Trump administration upon Iranian diplomats at the United Nations. Parallel talks over American prisoners in Iran have also commenced with Swiss mediation, suggesting a broader diplomatic engagement. However, while opening to possible negotiations with Washington, the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has stressed that Iran is willing to reverse its breaches of the deal and review its nuclear program only when U.S. sanctions will be lifted. Tehran is also trying to pressure the U.S. by restricting the access to IAEA inspectors, although the Agency and the Iranian authorities have recently agreed to uphold the necessary monitoring activities for the next three months. Against this backdrop, the Biden administration is facing internal criticism and opposition, including from members of its own party fearing that such diplomatic openingsmight further strengthen Tehran’s role in the region.
Experts from the ISPI MED network react to the new challenges emerging in the US-Iran relationship.