Iran deal: Joe Biden's problem with Middle East allies - opinion

US relations with its regional allies have been deeply destabilized by the 2015 deal.

(photo credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS)
 The administration of new President Joe Biden has announced more precise criteria and conditions for a return of the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. In other words, an unconditional return is no longer an option. However, there remains one significant point regarding the position of US allies in the Middle East.
The new American Secretary of State Tony Blinken certainly spoke about the conditions and modalities of his country’s comeback to the nuclear agreement. He hinted, at the same time, that this return could be a long way off.
Moreover, these conditions, insofar as announced, do not meet the expectations of US allies. Israel, for example, believes that there can be no return to the nuclear agreement, firmly rejecting this idea.
The country has even revealed that it is looking into the possibility of a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if the US goes back to the nuclear deal, in a move whose warning message, I believe, is primarily aimed at dissuading the new US administration from taking this step, rather than being aimed at Iran’s mullahs. There are reasons galore.
The most important is that Israeli threats to strike Iran are not new. They are frequent and have been part of the discourse of psychological warfare between two camps for years.
Moreover, there is the position of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, which are convinced that the current nuclear agreement is flawed. Iranian mullahs are taking advantage of the political cover they need to carry out their regional expansion project, set in motion after the 2015 deal was struck, leading to sectarian expansion and Iranian hegemony over a large part of the Arab territory. Indeed, Iran has declared that it occupied four Arab capitals and is seeking to occupy a fifth.
Let’s agree, the problem is not the return of the US to the agreement. The mullahs want to reduce the conflict to this point. But the issue is much deeper than that.
It boils down to recognizing that the agreement as it stands has failed. It should be expanded to include Iran’s missile program and regional involvement. If not, a new, more comprehensive accord must be negotiated that guarantees regional and international security. The focus here is on Washington’s allies’ concerns about the Biden administration’s return to the nuclear deal.
A good start toward an understanding between the US and its allies on the deal may be a cautious assessment of the situation. It is more a matter of the interests of the US and its allies than of wanting to break with former president Donald Trump’s policies.
REMEMBER HERE that Biden’s team is pursuing the same vital goal that Trump wanted to achieve with respect to Iran. However, tactics differ. Also remember that when former president Barack Obama signed the badly-negotiated agreement in 2015, he was seeking to secure American strategic interests. Sadly, it turned out to be a mistake that harmed these same interests and the allies’.
In fact, the Biden administration now has genuine negotiating leverage, which must not be lost. This gain is the result of Trump’s strategy of maximum pressure on the mullahs’ regime, which, despite their denial, has been very effective. It must therefore be made profitable through a formula that balances its political exploitation on the one hand and Biden’s desire to save the agreement on the other.
The vision of the new US administration on the return to the nuclear agreement was revealed by Tony Blinken, who said that the mullahs must first return to the agreements set out in the accord and confirm their willingness to comply. He said that this return would be a first step in establishing a climate of trust with Washington’s allies and partners, leading to a more lasting and serious deal to address many other concerns with Iran. This process, according to Blinken, is nevertheless hard to expect.
This means that the new American team is aware of the obstacles that must be overcome in order to achieve its goal. It therefore wanted, from the outset, to avoid haste and lower expectations.
We know that Biden has been a staunch ally and defender of Israel throughout his political career, and has repeatedly reaffirmed his unwavering support for the country. In addition, the US has strategic partnerships with GCC countries that it would not want to undermine. This shows how challenging it is for America to strike a delicate balance between its allies and Iran’s mullahs.
What matters is, in spite of the obstacles that the mullahs may set in the way, to work with allies in the Middle East to ensure relations are sustainable. Joint action and the belief that Iran is not solely Israel’s or the Gulf’s problem is the one key to achieving lasting security in the region and the world.
In the end, US relations with its regional allies have been deeply destabilized by the 2015 deal. It seems clear that remedying this situation should be the main goal of any new US plan to engage in dialogue with the mullahs.
The writer is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.