A Different and Disastrous Approach to U.S.-Iran Relations

Q&A: A New Administration, a Different Approach to U.S.-Iran Relations

Withdrawing from the JCPOA and essentially breaking all diplomatic ties to Iran has been an overall disaster for all involved. With the United States unwilling to have a greater military role in the region, and Iran so emboldened, none of the U.S. goals were achieved—Iran is in a better position to develop nuclear weapons now than under the JCPOA, and it has only become more involved in regional conflicts. Just as importantly, when former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested that he would close the U.S. embassy in Iraq in response to Iranian activism in the country, it could hardly be seen as a greater success for Iran, which wants nothing more than the removal of U.S. troops from the region, but especially from Iraq. The pandemic has hit Iran very hard, but in combination with a new U.S. administration, it may just lead to an opportunity for such a negotiation. Removing sanctions and even providing medical aid may help bring Iran to the table. To be sure, no significant group in Iran is enthusiastic about potential U.S. aid, and distrust of the United States is indeed high, which means that the United States needs to be very clear about its priorities, and realistic about what it can achieve with Iran. A clear U.S. policy in the region—which has been lacking for decades—and a plan to pursue that policy are necessary steps that may help correct some of the mistakes of the past. Iran has elections in June 2021 and, depending how the situation with its domestic economy and pandemic response evolves in the next few months, it may also provide yet another opportunity for opening negotiations.

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