Trump blew up the deal — why hasn’t Biden taken the opportunity to fix it?

by Bob Dreyfuss, Tom Dispatch

One, erratic and often unhinged, blew up the U.S.-Iran accord that was the landmark foreign policy achievement of President Obama’s second term. He then ordered the assassination of a top Iranian general visiting Iraq, dramatically raising tensions in the region. The other is a traditional advocate of American exceptionalism, a supporter of the U.S.-Iran agreement who promised to restore it upon taking office, only to ham-handedly bungle the job, while placating Israel.

In November, of course, American voters get to choose which of the two they’d trust with handling ongoing explosive tensions with Tehran across a Middle East now in crisis. The war in Gaza has already intensified the danger of an Iran-Israel conflict — with the recent devastating Israeli strike on an Iranian consulate in Syria and the Iranian response of drones and missiles dispatched against Israel only upping the odds. In addition, Iran’s “axis of resistance” — including Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, and militias in Iraq and Syria — has been challenging American hegemony throughout the Middle East, while drawing lethal U.S. counterstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Iran missiles

It was President Donald Trump, of course, who condemned the U.S.-Iran agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) while running in 2016. With his team of fervent anti-Iran hawks, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, he took a wrecking ball to relations with Iran. Six years ago, Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA and, in what he called a campaign of “maximum pressure,” reinstituted, then redoubled political and economic sanctions against Tehran. Characteristically, he maintained a consistently belligerent policy toward the Islamic Republic, threatening its very existence and warning that he could “obliterate” Iran.

Joe Biden had been a supporter of the accord, negotiated while he was Obama’s vice president. During his 2020 presidential campaign, he promised to rejoin it. In the end, though, he kept Trump’s onerous sanctions in place and months of negotiations went nowhere. While he put out feelers to Tehran, crises erupting in 2022 and 2023, including the invasion of Israel by Hamas, placed huge obstacles in the way of tangible progress toward rebooting the JCPOA.

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