Special Envoy to Iran before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Jonathan Rosen, Impact Investing Intern, American University

On May 25th, Special Envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the state of a potential re-entry into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. He discussed negotiations taking place between the United States, our allies, and Iran. The talks center around re-entering the deal that former President Trump withdrew from in 2018. While Malley stated that specific details of these negotiations could only be discussed in a classified setting, he reiterated that the Biden administration's willingness to use any diplomatic method to ensure that the government of Iran, which is recognized as the largest example of state sponsored terrorism in the world, would never obtain a nuclear weapon. Malley expressed that while it was the preference of the administration to find a way to re-enter the JPCOA, these talks were “tenuous” at best. He laid the blame for the stalemate on unreasonable demands made by the Iranian government in negotiations and on their refusal to engage in good faith. 

While there was bipartisan agreement on the threat that the Iranian Government poses to the United States and their allies in the Middle East and Europe, there was significant disagreement on the correct course of action. Many Democratic members, such as Senators Cardin, Murphy, Kaine, Markey, and Schatz agreed with the stance of the Biden administration that a re-entry into the JCPOA would be the right move if the United States were able to reach a deal that the Biden administration, as well as the Senate deemed adequate. Republican members, such as Senators Johnson, Young, Barrasso, and Ranking Member Risch, argued that any deal with the Iranian government would only benefit Iran economically, and that a continuation of the Trump Administration “Maximum Pressure Campaign,” which included heavy sanctions, was the path the United States should pursue. However, not every member of each party shared these positions. Democratic Chairman Robert Menendez, who opposed the original entry into the JCPOA in 2015, expressed doubt on the potential success of re-entry, while Republican Senator Rand Paul voiced his concerns about the lack of effectiveness of sanctions on Iran. 

While there is a strong desire throughout the world to ensure that the government of Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons, the role the United States will play in achieving that goal is uncertain. As of now, the Biden administration maintains the position that a diplomatic deal with Iran and United States allies is possible, despite the doubt that has been expressed by many throughout the political spectrum. However, what we do know, is that whichever decision the United States decides to take in regard to this issue will have tremendous ramifications throughout the world. 

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