A Joe Biden presidency in the US presents a unique opportunity to salvage the Iran nuclear deal while re-establishing dialogue between Tehran and Washington, an expert on US-Iran relations told Anadolu Agency.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Trita Parsi — the co-founder of the National Iranian American Council based in Washington, D.C. and executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft — said Biden “needs to go further than just undoing the damage” that outgoing President Donald Trump has caused in order for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to survive.

“Biden has a unique opportunity to salvage the JCPOA and bring Iran and the US back on talking terms. It won’t be easy, but Biden seems determined to undo the damage Trump has caused,” Parsi said.

He further noted that “for the JCPOA to survive, there needs to be a broader movement of US-Iran relations in a positive direction. If the two countries remain at each other’s throats, then there is little hope that the JCPOA can endure, regardless of Biden or Iran’s intentions.”

While Trump’s policies have caused major economic and social problems in Iran, the assassination at the beginning of this year of top Iranian military commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Trump’s orders brought the two countries to the brink of war.

With Iranian President Hassan Rouhani previously noting that his country has never experienced a “more rough time” than during the Trump era, the country has tried to resist the pressure since 2018, hoping that Trump would lose in the Nov. 3 presidential election. For that reason, despite comments by Iranian officials that the US election was not important to them, it was followed with greater interest than ever before by both the Iranian public and government.

Iran is one of the countries most pleased with Biden’s victory, hoping that the incoming president will return to the nuclear deal that Trump pulled his country out of and will get rid of the crushing economic sanctions in effect for the last three years.

If President-elect Biden returns to the nuclear deal, the sanctions would also have to be lifted. In such a case, it is anticipated that the dialogue channel established by former President Barack Obama between Tehran and Washington could reopen.

Harsh language

While Trump provided immense support to Persian Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Parsi said Biden has very negative views about the Saudi administration and that such an approach would reflect on the US policy in the Middle East.

“Biden has used very harsh language regarding Saudi Arabia, pointing out that the Saudi kingdom is a pariah state and that he will make clear to the world the nature of the Saudi government,” he said.

“He has said less about the UAE, and Abu Dhabi’s image in Washington is not as tainted as that of Riyadh, even though it too has been a destabilizing force in the Middle East. I think the team around Biden recognizes the need for a major overhaul of US foreign policy in the Persian Gulf, though they may not yet have fully determined how far they are willing to go.”

Parsi further recalled Trump’s policy of reducing the US military presence in the Middle East, noting the biggest withdrawal of the Trump administration in the region “has not been military, but rather diplomatic.”

“If the Biden administration decides to fully reengage diplomatically, combined with a significantly lessened military footprint, the stabilizing impact on the region can be considerable, granted that regional powers are willing to accept greater responsibility for regional security,” he added.

* Writing by Merve Aydogan

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