Wrote the Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House
Chatham House argues that stability in the Middle East requires more than an agreement with Iran.
Sanam Vakil mentioned in her article in Foreign Affairs that the administration of US President Joe Biden inherits a set of issues related to Iran, on top of which is its nuclear program, which is the first of these concerns and the most urgent for the new administration to address.
She referred to what Biden made clear about the possibility of his country returning to the nuclear agreement and compliance with its terms, as long as Iran does the same thing, and Tehran announced that it is ready to return to its obligations under the program in the event the United States lifted the sanctions.
Vakil believes that the matter will not be so simple, and that for the nuclear agreement to be sustainable, it must be isolated from future political setbacks. Ensuring this continuity requires the signatories to address weaknesses in the agreement, which include the length of timelines and conditions for the return of sanctions, as well as problems outside the current scope. Of the agreement, such as Iran’s missile program and destabilizing regional activities.
The author added that without a regional plan, Biden’s agenda regarding Iran and the Middle East would remain vulnerable to opposition from party opponents in Washington and US partners in the region.
How could the United States best address regional tensions over Iran?
She stated that the answer to this question required the Chatham House team to conduct interviews with 210 decision-makers and past and current experts in 15 countries, including the countries that are parties to the Iran nuclear deal, as well as countries involved in active crises in the Middle East.
The institute concluded that the aforementioned did not reach how to comprehensively address regional issues in one direct dialogue with Iran, and most of them did not expect Tehran to give up its support for its regional proxies or limit its ballistic missile program.
The Biden administration has an opportunity to turn the page on Trump’s four years on Middle East issues, and the Biden era could be an era of multilateral engagement.
Most of them believed that isolating Iran would be counter-productive, compared to the regionalization of solutions to common problems. To address the regional behavior of Tehran, they recommended that each regional conflict be addressed separately, and through multilateral discussions between the relevant actors.
When asked about the first step that could help stabilize the region, 46% of experts preferred Washington’s return to the 2015 nuclear deal, and they argued that returning to it would help restore the foundations of cooperation, halt Iran’s nuclear program, and build confidence between Tehran and Washington. Reviving the agreement would also reduce tensions in countries such as Iraq that have fallen between maximum pressure from Washington and Tehran’s maximum resistance.
However, as the author says, most experts stressed that the United States should enter the agreement again, armed with a clear plan of action to address its shortcomings. They stressed the need for a blueprint for resolving regional disputes afterwards.
By keeping this process going as much as possible, the administration can calm the concerns of opponents in Congress as well as regional opponents, as long as the Biden administration consults and coordinates with regional partners on its plans.
More than 50% of the experts recommended that the parallel track be the path that unites all parties involved in the war in Yemen, including Iran. Another track should support a dialogue between the Gulf states to enhance confidence and cooperation, and to install conflict resolution mechanisms.
It is especially important to curb Iranian influence to have a path to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a track that addresses the conflict in Syria.
The author concluded her article by saying that the findings of “Chatham House” indicate that the Biden administration has an opportunity to turn the page on the four years of former President Donald Trump regarding Middle East issues, adding that the Biden era can represent an era of multilateral participation, and such a process can To ultimately lay the foundation for détente and broader regional dialogue.