The Biden administration is conducting a renewed push to negotiate with Iran on key issues that have poisoned relations between the two nations for decades.
Using Omani officials as a go-between, the U.S. has made indirect contact with Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Initial feelers between the two nation’s diplomats began last December in New York. Since then, administration officials have made at least three trips to Oman for more indirect talks facilitated by the Arab nation, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The overtures have other objectives, according to the WSJ, including winning the release of Americans held by the Iranian regime.
Meanwhile, 2.5 billion euros (approximately $2.7 billion) of sanctioned funds have been released with the permission of the U.S. State Department, enabling the Iraqi government to pay Iran for electricity and gas imports. U.S. officials deny a connection between the payment and the current bid to restart diplomatic contact, according to the WSJ.
The news of the administration’s renewed turn to diplomacy comes as the U.S. faces challenges in isolating Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. Iran is believed to be supporting Russia by providing drones that are being used in the conflict.
Although President Biden took office on a foreign policy plan to restart the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) intended to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, his administration has been careful to tamp down optimism that a revival of the pact or a substitute is imminent, according to Axios.
The JCPOA was signed in 2015 by Iran and a group of countries, including the permanent members of the UN Security Council. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in 2018, calling it a failure, effectively ending the agreement.
“Rumors about a nuclear deal – interim or otherwise – are false and misleading,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson told Axios.
The administration has to strike a delicate balance in dealing with Iran, as reported by the WSJ. Although Biden would like to show some progress when it comes to prisoner release as well as the nuclear deal, he must contend with strong bipartisan headwinds in the U.S. Senate, where the JCPOA and efforts to revive it are not popular, as reported by multiple outlets, including Politico.
“Joe Biden’s billions to Iran is nothing short of abject appeasement,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) tweeted Thursday.
The move has also been unpopular with Iranian opposition leaders.
“If the West hadn’t pursued appeasement Iran’s regime wouldn’t have adopted hostage-taking as policy. The mullahs’ nuclear program would’ve been dismantled earlier & the Iranian people & resistance could have paved the way for the regime’s overthrow,” Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi tweeted on Tuesday.