What would the US do with Iran, come January 2021? It depends on who’s in the White House


One of the more interesting questions thrown up by Round two of the Democratic presidential debates is what the US would do with Iran.

That’s if, for argument’s sake, President Trump lost his re-election bid and a Democrat won the White House. And that’s if the Trump administration hadn’t already engaged in a military operation against Iran just in time to drive a patriotic voter surge to the polls in November 2020.

If both of the above come true, what would the US do with Iran in January 2021?

For starters, let’s consider a new poll by the Centre for American Progress. Most Americans want a reduction in tensions with Iran. They also want the US to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement from which President Trump unilaterally withdrew. That’s pretty much the stance of many of the leading Democrats competing to be the party’s 2020 presidential nominee: Former vice president Joe Biden; senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; mayor Pete Buttigieg and former House member Beto O’Rourke.

Carol Giacomo, a member of The New York Times’ editorial board, testifies to that because she emailed the candidates to ask. In a recent piece, she recounted what they said. Most of the Democrats would rejoin the deal provided that Iran resumed full compliance, she wrote. All of them “said that by breaking the deal Mr Trump had damaged American interests and credibility, and had given Iran, which had been in full compliance, reason to inch back into nuclear activities the deal had prohibited.”

Ms Giacomo quoted Mayor Pete: “Whatever its imperfections, this was perhaps as close to a true ‘art of the deal’ as it gets. [It] helped constrain the military threat that Iran poses to Israel and Europe without leading us down the path to another Middle Eastern war.”

And she noted that Mr Booker was the only one to acknowledge the deal would have to be updated now that Mr Trump had shredded it. “We cannot turn back the clock and pretend the damage that President Trump has caused over the last three years hasn’t happened,” Mr Booker said. “The 2015 deal was premised on continued negotiations with the Iranians so that we could work toward a longer-term solution. We will have had four years wasted under Trump.”

As Mayor Pete said: “We didn’t develop the deal as a favor to Iran. We did it because it was in our national security interest.”