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April 2021: JCPOA talks continue as the U.S. and Iran weigh return to nuclear deal

The Brief

April 13, 2021

Indirect discussions between the U.S., Iran, and the remaining signatories of the JCPOA are underway in Vienna and the school's experts are examining recent U.S.-Iran tensions and issues that may complicate the two countries returning to the Iran nuclear deal.
 
Randa Slim, Foreign Policy Institute Fellow, discussed the Biden administration’s February airstrikes on the Syrian-Iraqi border that targeted an Iranian-backed militia, which had allegedly struck U.S. assets in Erbil, on Voice of America’s Encounter, explaining on the program “these actions were all part of the pre-negotiation phase taking place between Iran and the U.S. over the nuclear deal.” 
 
Hal Brands, Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, wrote in Bloomberg Opinion that President Joe Biden’s airstrikes on the Syrian bases of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias demonstrates he is “willing to hit back against Tehran even as he negotiates with it.” 

Albert Wolf, Bologna Institute for Policy Research Associate Fellow, noted on Al Jazeera that “both Iran and the United States have fairly pernicious domestic political constraints to deal with,” since political factions in the U.S. disagree on sanctions relief and hawkish elements within Iran favor the country maintaining its uranium enrichment program. 
 
Vali Nasr, Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle East Studies and International Affairs, told CNN “the United States is facing a dilemma of how to lift sanctions on Iran and yet get Iran incentivized to negotiate to follow on deals or other issues that are of concern to the United States.” 
 
Hafed Al-Ghwell, Foreign Policy Institute Senior Fellow, cautioned in Arab News that “neither the U.S. nor Iran want to rush into a deal, but nor do they want the process to be slow, because a lack of pace endangers settled terms,” as the Iranian presidential election approaches in June 2021. 
 
Sanam Vakil, James Anderson Adjunct Professor of Middle East Studies, discussed how Iran returning to the JCPOA could affect domestic matters in the country with Al Arabiya News, telling the outlet that if Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s outgoing administration secures a quick return to the deal it will “build back lost economic and political confidence and perhaps also impact the election outcome.”  

The Brief highlights Johns Hopkins SAIS expertise on current events and is produced monthly by the Office of Marketing, Communications and Community Engagement.