The 2015 Joint Cooperation Plan of Action (JCPOA), or more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, ended in 2018 when the Trump administration withdrew the United States from it. President Biden talked about rejoining the deal when he was running for president. However, there is an argument to be made that Biden should not do it.
The JCPOA was the brainchild of President Obama with a goal of opening relations with Iran while simultaneously stopping the country from pursuing the development of nuclear weapons for 10 to 15 years. Iran would have to abide by certain rules and, in return, the US would unfreeze up to $150 billion of Iranian assets and gradually lift previously imposed sanctions on Iran.
There are several things that hindered the JCPOA from being a good deal. First, the unfreezing of Iranian assets added to the pocket of an authoritarian government that was funding terrorism and causing instability in the Middle East. Second, the deal could not completely stop the development of nuclear weapons since most of the regulations were set to expire after a few years. Yet, the biggest problem is that Iran was breaking parts of the deal, according to the United Nations (UN). In 2018, Israel’s prime minister even accused Iran of lying and secretly continuing its nuclear weapons program.
Ever since the US withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, things have gotten worse. Iran hates the US sanctions because it damages its economy. Economic stability is what keeps the authoritarian government in power. If there is economic instability, Iran understands that there would be more protests in the country. Iran’s plan is to keep acting out and to have the European Union convince the US to lift sanctions. At the moment, Biden has said he will not lift sanctions unless Iran stops developing nuclear weapons. On the other hand, Iran claims it will continue to act out until the US lifts sanctions. The result is a deadlock and a sign that diplomacy is not always an effective approach to a problem.
Iran wants to get back in the deal because it desperately wants to get rid of the US sanctions. As of now, Iran has even blocked UN officials from inspecting its nuclear programs and rejected direct diplomatic talks with the US. So, should the US rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal? The answer is “no.” At the moment, rejoining the JCPOA will not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and will keep the authoritarian regime in power for a longer period of time.