In his first year, President Joe Biden did not have a great record on Middle Eastern affairs. Things in that policy realm have just worsened as the U.S. team trying to negotiate with Iran is falling apart.
The Biden administration catastrophically failed in Afghanistan. After that disaster, the administration appeared not to pay attention to the region.
“The Biden administration’s approach to the Middle East in its first year was focused mostly on limiting the amount of time and attention the region took up on its broader agenda,” Brian Katulis of the Middle East Institute wrote on Monday.
But now, Iran is at the negotiating table with the U.S. over nuclear issues.
The Biden administration wants to restore the 2015 nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump scrapped. But there has been disagreement among Biden’s negotiators about how to handle Tehran, according to The Wall Street Journal.
This has resulted in three members of the team walking away.
One State Department official said that those who left the team did not depart for “anything other than normal personnel reasons,” the Journal reported.
But they did all believe the Biden administration should take a firmer stance against Iran.
Richard Nephew, deputy special envoy for Iran, was among those who left the team. Nephew crafted previous economic sanctions imposed on Iran. The two others who left are unknown, but they also wanted to take a tough line in negotiations.
The Journal reported that there has been disagreement on the team over how firmly the existing sanctions should be enforced and whether negotiations should be dragged out. The longer negotiations last, the more time Iran has to keep advancing its nuclear program.
There has been plenty of disagreement generally over the possibility of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Many Republicans have been particularly unhappy with the proposal.
Republican Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida praised those who left Biden’s negotiating team, the Daily Mail reported.
“It’s good to see some officials recognize when diplomacy gets too desperate and begins to really put American national security at risk,” Waltz said.
“The Biden administration should revert back to a policy of maximum pressure that focused on holding the Iran regime accountable for their nuclear capabilities, missile development and regional terrorism and build on Abraham Accords to counter Iran’s aggression.”
Trump’s stance towards Iran was tough. He pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal because he saw it as insufficient.
“The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime can still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time. The deal’s sunset provisions are totally unacceptable,” Trump said in 2018, according to The New York Times.
The fact that Biden’s advisers are now disagreeing about how to deal with Iran is not a promising sign.
British diplomats, such as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, have already predicted a stalemate, according to the Mail.
“This negotiation is urgent and progress has not been fast enough. We continue to work in close partnership with our allies but the negotiations are reaching a dangerous impasse,” Truss told the British Parliament.
This apparent division among the Americans shows the weakness of the Biden administration and a president who can’t even bring his own diplomats together.
Iran will either find a way to exploit that weakness or just walk away from negotiations. And the Biden administration will look bullied.
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