Progressives press Biden to rejoin Iran nuclear deal

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Progressive organizations are pressing the Biden administration to swiftly rejoin the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, warning that coming back into the pact will be more difficult as time goes on. 

In a letter to the White House on Wednesday, the 32 progressive groups lambasted the Trump administration, which pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in favor of “maximum pressure” strategy that imposed harsh sanctions on Iran. The groups said that approach must be quickly reversed to come to a new arrangement with Iran.

“The longer the elements of ‘maximum pressure’ remain in effect, the more it will continue to embolden hardliners and make U.S.-Iran diplomacy more difficult. The recent escalation in military activity between the United States and reported Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq only shows how urgently needed a new course of action is,” they wrote, referencing recent U.S. strikes on an Iran-backed militia in Syria that had attacked U.S. troops. 

Biden campaigned on joining the nuclear deal, which was reached with Iran and several European allies. His administration recently said it was open to restarting discussions with European countries and Iran to begin the process of rejoining the agreement, though Iran recently rejected a preliminary offer to revive talks. 

The president has maintained that the U.S. will only return to the table if Iran first brings its nuclear enrichment levels back down to its pre-deal levels. However, the groups said that stance could hinder negotiations.

“We have been heartened by various developments over recent weeks, including the U.S. accepting an invitation from Europe to join talks on the future of the deal, the acknowledgement that Trump’s attempted snapback of UN Security Council Resolutions failed, and the lifting of travel restrictions on key Iranian officials,” they wrote.

“However, we are concerned about the time that is being taken in the lead-up to formal negotiations and by recent statements that could be construed to indicate that Iran must take the first steps to meet its JCPOA obligations before the United States takes its own steps,” they continued. “We support your policy of ‘compliance for compliance,’ but the fact of the matter is that the United States was the first to violate the deal. It is therefore reasonable to expect the United States to at the very least take concurrent steps with Iran to rejoin it.”

Biden is staring down a dwindling timeline to rejoin the deal amid an array of developments in Iran.

Tehran confirmed in January that it intends to enrich its uranium to up to 20 percent at its Fordow facility, a level that’s just a short step away from weapons-grade material. And June elections in Iran are rapidly approaching, possibly limiting politicians’ desire to negotiate out of fear of the appearance they’re kowtowing to America.

The letter from the progressive groups comes amid burgeoning frustration among liberals with Biden’s foreign policy. Democrats on Capitol Hill accused the president of ordering the strikes in Syria last month without proper congressional authorization, and lawmakers are stewing that no sanctions are being placed on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over his role in the assassination of Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi.

Tags Iran–United States relations Joe Biden Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Nuclear energy in Iran Nuclear program of Iran Sanctions against Iran United States withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

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