Author Topic: Iran  (Read 393631 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1202 on: February 23, 2021, 05:04:11 AM »
I am a huge fan of George Friedman but this effort of his IMHO has some serious squishiness-- first and foremost its failure to mention that the Obama-Kerry-Biden deal would openly allow Iran to go nuclear after a certain number of years (12?).  It also fails to mention the $150B that the deal gave Iran up front.
=============================================

America’s Iran Strategy
By: George Friedman
President Barack Obama’s administration had a primary goal in the Middle East: It did not want Iran to become a nuclear power. It did not want Israel to be forced to launch a preemptive strike against a nuclear Iran, triggered by the public declaration of Iran’s intentions against Israel. American allies in the region – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among others – were frightened that a nuclear Iran might compel them into a subordinate position. And the Obama administration, dedicated to military disengagement from the region, was afraid that to calm regional fears, the U.S. would have to take military action against Iran’s emerging power, with dangerous consequences.

Obama’s administration engineered an agreement with Iran under which Iran would agree to stop its nuclear weapons program and permit international technical monitoring of the program. Implicit in the agreement was that if Iran complied with the terms of the deal, broader agreements would emerge, allowing Iran to normalize its relationship with the outside world and increase its economic well-being.

The agreement was criticized at the time for three reasons. First, Iran was capable of both permitting inspections and evading them, by shifting the location of the nuclear program. Iran has many caves and tunnels where nuclear activities could be concealed. Inspections are focused on known facilities because of the dearth of inspectors and the breadth of the country. In other words, inspections appear to be a reliable guarantee, but their reliability is inherently uncertain. Second, the agreement did not address Iran’s relations with other countries in the region, against which Iran has carried out covert and overt operations. So it did not do anything against Iran in Syria, Lebanon or Yemen, nor did it do anything about Iranian destabilization of and strikes against other countries, such as its attack on a Saudi refinery. Finally, it did not address Iran’s missile program, which seems to involve missiles of multiple ranges and payloads. If Iran were building a nuclear-capable medium-range missile, as some claimed, then there was a mystery. If Iran were abandoning its nuclear program, why spend scarce resources on these kinds of missiles?

The Obama administration’s position was that all of these were important issues but that reaching a long-term understanding with Iran required a step-by-step approach. If the U.S. sought everything at once, it would achieve nothing, and the goal was to use economic incentives to draw Iran forward. His critics said that the patient approach left the door open to dangerous offensive operations, and that, as protecting the agreement would inevitably become a political objective, Iranian actions that violated American interests but not the agreement would be overlooked with the hope of preserving the nuclear deal. There were arguments to be made on both sides, but the core issues were that the guarantees against a continued nuclear program were uncertain in their performance and that the agreement left Iran with significant nonnuclear opportunities.

An element of Donald Trump’s election campaign was his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. He unilaterally insisted that the agreement go beyond nuclear weapons to the missiles that delivered them. Rather than using an incentive of further economic relations, he imposed significant sanctions on Iran and made their removal the incentive. In other words, where Obama sought not to weaken Iran economically but to focus entirely on the issue at hand, Trump chose to weaken Iran economically in order to expand the goals of the agreement to cover missiles.

Trump also sought to decrease Iran’s foreign operations, or at least increase the cost, by supporting a system of relations, beginning with Israel and the United Arab Emirates and expanding to other countries, that was designed to both isolate Iran and limit its ability to play off one Arab country against another. By the end of the Trump administration, the map of the region had shifted, and with it Iran’s position. Its economy was in steep decline, the hostility of the Arab world was consolidated, and the assumption was that between coalitions and economic costs, the Iranian political and military operations in the Arab world would decline, something not yet clearly visible. But economic weakness and a degree of political unrest in Iran are obvious.

Joe Biden ran against Trump’s Iran policy, as Trump had run against Obama’s. All of this gave the shift a political dimension. Trump favored the actions he took, but he also welcomed them as an attack on Obama’s position. Similarly, while we don’t have a clear sense of Biden’s strategy on Iran, he has a political imperative to reject Trump’s policy.

The Middle East is at the moment a radically different place than it was at Obama’s or Trump’s point of decision. The coalition that was formed had the American imprimatur, even if the mechanics of the creation were primarily in the hands of local powers. But now Biden must consider not only the nuclear deal and Iran but also the effects on the way in which recognition of Israel formed a coalition that even countries that have not formally recognized Israel are part of. The foundation of this organization arises from hostility to Iran, and the fear that when it reemerges, its power will swamp the region. Israel fears Iran’s nuclear weapons, the Saudis fear Iranian drones and Iranian proxies in Yemen, and so on. On the whole, these countries welcomed Trump’s revision of Obama’s approach for the reasons given.

The inclination of Biden, given the American political process, is to reinstitute Obama's strategy and repudiate Trump’s. But the problem is that a return to Obama’s strategy, with the withdrawal of sanctions, would reasonably quickly revive the Iranian economy, strengthen the Iranian hardliners who refused to bend in the face of Trump’s policy and would then be vindicated, and create a massive crisis in the Middle East.

There are those who would argue that the Abraham Accords are a house of cards unable to hold together. That may be true. But it is there now, and it is there because of Iran. A shift in U.S. policy on sanctions will be read in this region as the U.S. moving to a pro-Iran position, a view that might not be true but will appear to be the case. Israel will see it as a mistake, and the UAE and the rest of the Sunni world will argue that whatever the subjective intent of the Biden administration, the objective fact is that its policy is strengthening Iran. And as a result, the anti-Iran construct that is seen as American in its root will in fact fragment. And in a fragmenting Middle East, war is a frequent accompaniment.

Biden obviously doesn’t want this, and his pledge to resurrect Obama’s nuclear deal will pass. Consider that if Israel draws the conclusion that the Abraham system is of no importance and allows it to fragment, Israel will conclude that the management of the Iranian threat is solely an Israeli problem, and Israel strategically cannot allow the threat to evolve. The Saudis, who are facing the Iranians in many ways and who are being investigated by the Biden administration for human rights violations, will have to pick a new direction. It is not in the American interest to have allies (however distasteful to the current ideology) start choosing new directions. At the moment the region is relatively peaceful. If Iran were let out of its box without major concessions and controls, the region would go back to looking how it normally looks. And given Biden’s opposition to “America First,” instability there will draw the U.S. in.

Like every American president, Biden has his campaign position and then his governing position, just as the campaign advisers who were awarded senior positions find themselves more liability than asset. In any case, if he moves ahead to serious talks with Iran, the rest of the Middle East will be extremely frightened. A U.S.-Iran entente – which is how it will be seen – is not compatible with a U.S.-Israel or U.S.-Arab alliance. Candidates may speak of things that become impossible in the light of victory. They get over it.

It may seem as if I am charting a history based on the whims of a president. But presidents are simply trapped by reality. Put another way, the U.S. sought to pacify the Middle East. One fear was Iranian nuclear weapons, and the first focus was on them. But the concern about Iran in the region went beyond nuclear weapons to other dimensions of Iranian power. The U.S. then generated a broader response, from sanctions to a regional coalition. But the coalition is fragile, and concerns about Iran’s nuclear program are still there. A return to the initial agreement is attractive, but since it will unleash other forces the U.S. doesn’t want to see, the problem becomes more complex.

The U.S. had to withdraw major military force from the region as the initial intervention failed to achieve its goals. (MARC:  Strongly disagree; the withdrawal by Obama-Biden threw away the stability that had been finally achieved and enabled ISIS, etc) But the U.S. can’t be indifferent to the region because it is a strategic part of Eurasia, and other great powers can take advantage of it. In the long run, it is easier to manipulate the region to American ends than to dislodge another major power, or face the emergence of a regional power destabilizing the region. And thus we see Israel and the Arab coalition. Speaking of presidents is a useful marker, but their policies are crafted by reality, not the other way around.


Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: What I learned in an Iranian Prison
« Reply #1204 on: February 25, 2021, 12:48:10 PM »
What I Learned in an Iranian Prison
U.S. foreign policy isn’t to blame for the mullahs’ deep-rooted hatred of America and Americans.
By Wang Xiyue
Updated Feb. 24, 2021 4:07 pm ET



Iran, Europe and many American progressives are pressuring the Biden administration to revive the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Official groupthink has coalesced around a singularly misguided belief: The U.S. has so badly mistreated Iran in the past that it must engage and appease the Islamic Republic now. I understand this view because I was once taught to believe it. This mindset is what convinced me in 2016 that I could safely do research for my dissertation in Iran. My optimism was misplaced. Not long after I arrived, I was imprisoned by Iran’s brutal regime and held hostage for more than three years.

When I went to Iran, I shared the prevailing academic view of the Middle East. I had absorbed the oft-repeated lesson that political Islam arose in response to Western colonialism and imperialism, and that the West—particularly America’s Middle East behavior—was chiefly responsible for the region’s chaos. My professors taught that the U.S. had treated Iran with a mixture of Orientalist condescension and imperialist aggression since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979. I believed America’s role in the 1953 coup that removed Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh explained everything that had gone wrong in Iran. Convinced that the mullahs’ hostility toward the U.S. was exaggerated, I often dismissed allegations of the regime’s malign behavior as American propaganda.


Since it was obvious that American foreign policy itself was the problem, and that the regime would happily normalize relations once the U.S. pivoted away from disrespect, I assumed I’d be left alone in Iran if I remained apolitical and focused on historical research. Imagine my shock when the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence arrested me on false espionage charges in August 2016, shortly after the implementation of the JCPOA—during what appeared to be a period of rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. I was thrown into solitary confinement, forced to confess things my interrogator knew I had not done, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

My interrogator made clear that my sole “crime” was being an American. He told me I was to be used as a pawn in exchange for U.S.-held Iranian prisoners and the release of frozen Iranian assets. (I was released in a 2019 prisoner swap.)


My terrible 40-month imprisonment was a period of intense re-education about the relationship between Iran and the U.S. The Islamic Republic is an ambitious power, but not a constructive one. It’s a spoiler, projecting influence by exporting revolution and terrorism via its proxies in the Middle East. Domestically, the mullahs have failed to deliver on their political and economic promises to the Iranian people, on whom they maintain their grip through oppression.


Nothing I’d learned during my years in the ivory towers of academia had prepared me for the reality I encountered in an Iranian prison. I learned what many Iranians already know: The regime’s hostility toward the U.S. isn’t reactive, but proactive, rooted in a fierce anti-Americanism enmeshed in its anti-imperialist ideology. As I witnessed firsthand, Tehran isn’t interested in normalizing relations with Washington. It survives and thrives on its self-perpetuated hostility against the West; a posture that has been integral to the regime’s identity.

The regime didn’t regard President Obama’s engagement as a goodwill gesture, but rather as an “iron fist under a velvet glove.” Iran’s revolutionary regime retains power through conspiracy and intrigue, and views everything through that lens. The notion that it will be difficult for the U.S. to regain Iran’s trust after quitting the JCPOA is incorrect. The Iranian regime has never trusted the U.S., and never will.

When I was being interrogated in Evin Prison in summer 2016, my interrogator boasted that he and his hard-line colleagues were eager to see Donald Trump elected, not because the regime viewed him as the type of pragmatic leader they could deal with, but because it would justify a more confrontational stance against the Great Satan.

The menace of the Islamic Republic can’t be appeased. It must be countered and restrained. Only the U.S. has the capacity to lead such an endeavor. For 42 years Iran has demonstrated that it changes its behavior only in response to strength in the form of American-led international pressure. If the Biden administration returns to the JCPOA without extracting concessions from Tehran beyond the nuclear threat, it will relinquish all U.S. leverage over the regime.

Diplomacy can’t succeed without leverage. Only by showing strength of will can President Biden hope for genuine progress in containing the Iranian threat to peace.

Mr. Wang is a doctoral candidate in history at Princeton and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Iran-- nukes can wait (?!?)
« Reply #1205 on: February 26, 2021, 04:39:50 AM »
I regard this piece as profoundly foolish and glib in its denial of Iran's nuclear ambitions and in its indifference to whether we keep Trump's economic pressure on Iran.  Once Iran gets its nukes, it will have an umbrella against retaliation for expansion of its misdeeds.
======================
February 26, 2021
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For Iran, Nuclear Weapons Can Wait
There’s a lot more to Iranian ambitions than nuclear weapons.
By: Hilal Khashan


The last two years have been the toughest for Iran since its 1979 revolution. Most Iranians have been negatively affected by Western sanctions as well as the ongoing pandemic. At least one-third of the population lives in abject poverty. Malnutrition is rampant, especially among children in rural areas. Meat is becoming increasingly scarce, and the price of food staples such as rice, grains and legumes is skyrocketing, with the consumer price index for food increasing by 67 percent in January compared to the previous year. More than 1.2 million Iranians lost their jobs because of COVID-19, divorce rates have risen by 7 percent and the number of people treated in rehabilitation centers has jumped to 663,000 from 417,000.

Because of Iran’s mounting economic and social problems, the mere prospect of reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), following U.S. President Joe Biden’s election last year, is a godsend for Iran. While the acquisition of nuclear weapons continues to be a strategic objective for Iran, the country is in no rush to achieve it, considering that doing so could jeopardize its ability to resuscitate its economy, consolidate its regional influence and build its conventional military might. In the immediate term, its main objectives are to salvage the regime, improve standards of living and relaunch the economy, while also maintaining and accelerating its regional gains. Nuclear weapons can wait.

What Iran Really Wants

Over the past six centuries, Iran has suffered military defeats, territorial losses, foreign power manipulation and, in the 20th century, occupation by British and Soviet troops. It also, however, has a long history of territorial expansion and imperial drive. The Sasanian Empire (224-226) seized the Caucasus, the entire coastline of the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and Asia Minor, and even reached India’s doorstep. In the 16th century, the Safavids built an empire that included the Caucasus, though they gradually lost territory to czarist Russia, and their Qajar successors lost what territory remained. The revolutionary clerics regretted dismantling Iran’s nuclear program and its formidable army and air force, which the shah had built with U.S. backing, arguing that Iraq would not have attacked Iran in 1980 had they remained intact.

Sasanian and Safavid Empires
(click to enlarge)

Iran now wants to become a regional hegemon once again. Its leaders see Iran as entitled to become the leader of the Middle East, or at least an equal of Israel, which is currently the region’s only real power. Its challenge, however, is that Israel is resistant to having any nation rise to its level, and so has actively pushed back against Iranian expansionism. But the Iranians are playing the long game and will bide their time. As the Israelis understand better than most, there’s a lot more to Iranian ambitions than nuclear weapons.

The Nuclear Issue in Perspective

Every U.S. administration since the Iranian Revolution has been keen on avoiding direct military confrontation with Iran. Like former President Donald Trump, Biden sees the divisive issues with Tehran – its nuclear and missile programs and burgeoning regional influence – as part of the same package. The only difference between the two presidents is that Biden is more flexible, believing that there’s no need to weaken an already emaciated Iran.

Biden is keen on resolving the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy and is focused on reaching a better deal than the JCPOA, which in reality would have only delayed Tehran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. The Biden administration knows that Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional policy are nonnegotiable, and believes Tehran’s regional meddling is beyond the scope of the nuclear talks, important as it may be for Middle East stability. Trump, on the other hand, chose to apply a maximum pressure campaign, hoping to force Iran to sign a new, more rigorous deal that would further slow Iran’s nuclear program while also downsizing its ballistic missile program and curtailing its regional adventurism.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also opposed to merely renegotiating the nuclear deal. But Israel’s threats of military action are more posturing than warning of imminent conflict. Realizing that Biden cannot ignore Israel’s concerns, Israel is trying to secure more concessions from Iran by voicing its opposition to nuclear talks. Iranian officials are also adept at the politics of brinkmanship. As expected, they reached a temporary, last-minute deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure Iran’s nuclear sites were still monitored even after it suspended compliance with the JCPOA’s voluntary protocol. Last December, Iran’s parliament approved a bill to stop cooperation with the agency and increase uranium enrichment to 20 percent. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the government respected the parliament’s decision but would continue cooperation with the atomic agency, adding that the parliament’s decision is reversible if the U.S. cooperates.

For Iran, acquiring nuclear weapons is not an immediate goal. The dispute over its nuclear program has been ongoing for more than 15 years, and it hasn’t manufactured a nuclear weapon yet. Indeed, lifting sanctions takes precedence over everything else – even acquiring nuclear arms – because the ruling mullahs want to modernize the economy and provide for the basic needs of Iran’s restive population.

There is a real concern, however, that lifting sanctions would enable Iran to consolidate its regional presence and further weaken embattled Saudi Arabia, which has been hit by several drone attacks from Iran-linked groups like the Houthis in Yemen. The Houthis are launching the final battle in Yemen’s oil-rich Marib province, the last remaining bastion of control for President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. If their offensive succeeds, Yemen as we know it would no longer exist. The United Arab Emirates already controls the south, the Houthis would tighten their grip on the north, and Saudi Arabia would emerge as the biggest loser.

Territorial Control in Yemen
(click to enlarge)

But Washington is gradually losing interest in Saudi Arabia as a country of vital national interest. Former President Barack Obama once called Saudi Arabia a free-rider, without directly naming it, and Trump, during his 2016 election campaign, said, “If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection, I don't think it would be around.” For his part, Biden said the U.S. would halt arms shipments to Saudi Arabia and terminate support for its war in Yemen. He also withdrew Trump’s letters to the U.N. that led to the reinstatement of Iran sanctions and expressed his willingness to work with the Europeans to reach a new nuclear deal. Biden’s Middle East policy seeks to reduce regional tensions, deal separately with various explosive issues and introduce an elaborate system of balances that does not exclude Iran. Regardless of who rules Iran, the country is essential to Washington’s balance of power policy.

Indeed, it’s too late to end Iran’s meddling in its neighbors’ affairs anyway. In Iraq, the government says that the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces report to the Ministry of Interior. They receive their budget from the central government in Baghdad – which amounted to $1.6 billion in 2020. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is part of the political system and runs Lebanon along with its Maronite Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement. In Yemen, the Houthis have been removed from the U.S. list of terrorist groups.

Iran's Sphere of Influence
(click to enlarge)

Iran will resist any attempt to cut it off from its regional proxies, without whose support it cannot realize its regional ambitions. Tehran’s Shiite Arab allies are more crucial than its nuclear program for expanding its sphere of influence. Iran is still militarily weak, and it needs allies who can fight on its behalf. The more Iran organizes military exercises and announces breakthrough defense innovations, the more it reveals its inability and unwillingness to get involved in a general war. As it has been doing since the revolution, it prefers to fight through proxies, be they in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria or Iraq.

Inevitable Domestic Change

Despite the facade of cohesion, state resolve and military preparedness, Iran is more vulnerable than ever. Endemic bureaucratic corruption, poor economic planning, austere sanctions and the pandemic have nearly crippled the country and exposed its weakness. Iran’s reformists accuse power-wielding conservatives of benefiting from the sanctions through their parallel economy, whose profits they claim run around $25 billion annually. Iran’s ruling conservatives probably face more problems at home than abroad, with many Iranians frustrated by the lack of action and preferring a secular and democratic political system to replace the Wilayat al-Faqih system. Some Iranian intellectuals, academics, political activists and former officials even expressed hope that Trump would win a second term to increase the pressure on the regime.

Over the past 50 years, Iranian society has changed markedly. Even though 90 percent of its population is Shiite, according to statistical yearbooks, only 32 percent describe themselves as Shiites. Most others profess no religious affiliation or see themselves as agnostic, atheist or Zoroastrian. The regime is not facing an existential threat, and it can rely on its extensive coercive powers to suppress protests. The dilemma of the ayatollah and the regime is that they are ruling a population that not only resents their religious ideology but is continuously drifting away from them.

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1208 on: March 01, 2021, 12:40:25 PM »
second post

Israeli officials say Iran was behind the mysterious blast.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Pointing fingers. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz blamed Iran for an explosion on an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman over the weekend. The ship is currently in the port of Dubai undergoing repairs. Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said the incident is a reminder that the threat posed by Iran is not just nuclear. Meanwhile, Israel carried out its own attacks over the weekend, targeting Iran-backed militias in southern Damascus, according to the Syrian military.

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George Friedman: Bargaining positions
« Reply #1209 on: March 02, 2021, 07:13:28 AM »
   
The US, Iran and Bargaining Positions
By: George Friedman
The Iranian government has announced that it will not attend the first round of negotiations over restoring the agreement that limited its ability to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says sanctions imposed by the administration of former President Donald Trump must first be removed for talks to begin.

Obviously, this is a tactic meant to improve its bargaining position with the United States. But that position must be credible, and read that way by both sides. Iran reads President Joe Biden to be particularly vulnerable on this issue. Biden has long maintained that abandoning the nuclear agreement was a mistake that he would correct at the first opportunity.

Biden therefore needs to resurrect the original agreement or replace it with something similar. Iran understands U.S. politics as well as anyone, and it has proved to be an excellent negotiator. If officials believe Biden must restore the agreement, they will make it as difficult as possible.

One of the best ways to negotiate is to appear irrational. Rational actors believe themselves to be reasonable and operate under the assumption that their counterparts believe them to be rational too. Negotiators might well be rational, but showing their cards in a reasonable way gives the counterpart a roadmap of how to calm the talks. Iran is a master at appearing suicidal, when, in fact, it is as scared of nuclear annihilation as any other country. Religious fanaticism about the annihilation of Israel, for example, doesn’t comport with reality. The Israelis have a substantial nuclear arsenal and years of experience gaming possible Iranian threats. Any planned Iranian attack would be detected early in the process, and Israel would strike preemptively. In other words, the worst place Iran could be is close to completing a nuclear weapon, and its leaders know it.

The value of a nuclear program, on the other hand, is substantial. It shows an attempt to possess a nuclear weapon without giving any indication of already having one. It is the program that is perfect for Iran. It frightens without forcing anyone to take risky actions. The tools for building a program are lying on the floor with apparently earnest efforts to put it together. Iran gets to negotiate concessions for not building a nuke, even without itself being directly threatened by nuclear annihilation.

Meanwhile, it also tries to assert its power in a more effective way – by providing support, for example, for the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces in Syria, and by becoming deeply involved in Iraq. Iran’s most effective foreign policy tactic in the region is delivering covert support to non-Iranian forces that can bring pressure on Sunni Arab states, Israel and U.S. forces still deployed in the region. Nuclear weapons are a notional concept designed to magnify Iranian power. Their real power rests on their ability to destabilize certain countries. This strategy carries with it only minimal risk compared to building a nuclear weapon and the missiles to deliver it. Iran wants the ability to go nuclear without going nuclear while engaging Israel, the Arabs and the Americans with covert operations that are difficult to counter.

Refusing to discuss the old nuclear treaty serves two purposes. It tests the new American president to see how badly he needs this agreement, and it allows the Iranians to escalate their actual priorities by using the American desire for a resurrected agreement. There’s no real downside for Iran. What Tehran needs more than anything is the lifting of sanctions. The sanctions imposed on Iran after Trump abrogated the nuclear agreement are wrecking its economy and, in turn, generating political opposition to the architects of the first agreement. (This was compounded by the budding coalition between Sunni Arab states and Israel, a nominally defensive alignment that could, as Iran well knows, turn offensive quickly.)

Politically, if Biden wants to make good on his promises, he needs to resurrect some version of the old treaty. The Iranians read this need as an opportunity to extract concessions, particularly removing sanctions but also, in the long run, minimizing the threat from the forces across the Persian Gulf. These are critical to Iran.

Biden’s problem is that he has not yet begun to govern. The first few months of any new administration is an extension of the campaign. Thus, Biden ordered an airstrike against Iran-backed militias in Syria to demonstrate that he is willing to strike at their prized covert operations. The Iranians are watching carefully to see if the left-wing of the party governs or if the center governs. Similarly, following his campaign commitment to human rights, Biden went after Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman – who, according to U.S. intelligence, authorized the murder of Jamal Khashoggi – before trying to heal whatever breach in relations it might have caused.

The United States needs the Israel-Arab coalition to block Iranian covert ambitions, so it needs Saudi Arabia to be part of it. All presidents must figure out how to square the circle of what they promised to do and what they must do. And in this sense, Biden has a problem: He is pledged to resurrect an agreement that did not really address the problem of Iran, and he must do it to show the Europeans that he is not Trump while making clear to the Iranians that he is not giving away Trump’s strategy without making a fundamental change in America’s Iranian policy. And Iran will make this as hard as possible for him.