President Biden has notched a streak of political victories in recent weeks. Stronger-than-expected employment numbers, a drop in gasoline prices and the passage of his signature piece of legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act.
Restoring Obama’s nuclear deal — the JCPOA — that blocked Iran’s paths to obtaining nuclear weapons could be the next achievement to continue the White House’s momentum.
Last Monday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, submitted a “final text” to revive the Iran nuclear deal. The US and EU studied Iran’s response to that text, with the United States offering its own further response this week. Though gaps between the two sides remain, it appears the negotiations are inching closer and closer to an agreement — Iran seems to be “in the process of preparing Iranian public opinion for [a deal],” according to an Israeli official.
Restoring President Obama’s top foreign policy achievement, blocking Iran’s path to a bomb and reversing Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the deal is not just sound security policy — it’s also a political winner. Recent polling by Data For Progress shows a super majority of voters — 67% — support reviving the JCPOA, including 82% of Democrats, 65% of Independents and even 56% of Republicans.
Voters recognize that a diplomatic solution which blocks Iran’s paths to a bomb, while avoiding another catastrophic war of choice in the Middle East, is good for America and our allies. Reviving the deal would reinforce the role of diplomacy in American foreign policy and challenge the more recent hawkish militarism that has stoked global tensions and isolated the US on key international issues in the Trump years.
After the JCPOA was first signed in 2015, nearly all of Iran’s nuclear material was shipped out of the country, and its nuclear activities were subject to one of the strictest, most intrusive inspections regimes in history. The agreement not only rolled back Iran’s nuclear program in the near term, it put in place permanent, enhanced inspections to prevent the country from ever acquiring a bomb.
“Under the JCPOA, Iran operated a tightly constrained and carefully monitored nuclear program,” Rob Malley, US Special Envoy for Iran, testified earlier this year before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “[I]t would have taken Iran about a year to make enough fissile material for a single nuclear explosive device…which in turn would have given us and our allies time to take action should Iran have made that fateful decision.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency and even the US State Department continued to confirm that Iran was in full compliance with the agreement — that was until President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018.
The results have been deeply concerning. Iranian hardliners have been strengthened and able to present the West as an untrustworthy ally. Unburdened by restrictions, Iran has been able to increase uranium enrichment to unprecedented levels. With fewer limits and fewer inspections, Iran is now closer than ever to stockpiling the requisite nuclear material to build a bomb.
“Getting back into the Iran nuclear deal is the most important thing America can do to secure our interests in the Middle East,” tweeted Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). “Let’s get this done.”