It doesn’t matter who wins in November, Iran will not renegotiate the JCPOA

August 12, 2020

Atlantic Council

The upcoming US presidential elections in November will likely determine whether the Iran nuclear deal survives. If Donald Trump wins re-election, Iran is likely to quit the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and alter its nuclear doctrine to give it more leverage in any future negotiations. If Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is elected, both Iran and the United States could move towards reviving the JCPOA, but Iran will remain reluctant to expand its terms.

An immediate threat to the JCPOA lies in the issue of whether or not to extend a conventional arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October under UN Security Council Resolution 2231. It is very likely that Iran will react severely should the US succeed in extending the embargo through a new resolution or through a controversial “snapback” of previous UN sanctions. Tehran has threatened to pull out of the nuclear agreement and even the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if the arms embargo is extended.

Whatever the outcome of the US presidential elections, there is broad consensus within the Iranian government that Tehran will not renegotiate the terms of the JCPOA because it believes that the nuclear program file was closed after it signed the agreement and that including other aspects, such as the country’s ballistic missile program and regional influence, should not be added. Reopening the subject now would be seen as a sign of Iranian weakness.

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