Despite all his disorganization in other political areas, Donald Trump had a fairly clear vision for Middle East policy: the United States would become closer to its allies and more hostile to its longtime adversary, Iran.
The Trump administration has embraced Israel and Saudi Arabia, almost avoiding criticism of their governments. This part of that strategy seemed to work. The new diplomatic proximity has contributed to Abraham’s agreements, in which the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain became the first Arab governments in a quarter of a century to recognize Israel.
Trump’s ambitions with Iran were also great. He discarded Barack Obama’s nuclear deal, saying it was too weak and wouldn’t stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In his place, Trump imposed severe penalties, predicting that they would weaken the Iranian leadership, strengthen their internal opposition and eventually lead Iran to demand a new (harsher) deal.
Virtually none of this happened.
“Iran never came to ask for an agreement. They never even came to talk to the United States, ”as David Sanger of The Times, which has been covering Iranian politics since the 1990s, told me. Instead, Iran stepped up its nuclear program during the presidency. of Trump, potentially bringing him closer to a weapon.
The failure of Trump’s strategy helps explain why Iran has made so much headlines this week. On Sunday, an explosion – apparently caused by an Israeli attack – damaged Iran’s main nuclear enrichment site in the town of Natanz. Today, negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, involving several countries, are scheduled to restart in Vienna.
The key question for the Biden administration is whether it can put together a nuclear deal – and, if it can’t, how it will try to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, with the ability to threaten Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US
‘A really difficult calculation’
To help you understand Iran’s history, we’ve put together a quick guide:
Why can’t President Biden just join the deal? On the one hand, Iran is holding a presidential election this year, and making concessions to the United States is not exactly a popular position. Many Iranians astonish reasonably whether the next Republican president will withdraw from any new agreement. Other participants in the discussions, such as the European Union, have similar concerns. “Who wants to make a deal with us now when Trump has shown how the next president can just pull the plug?” Michael Crowley, who covers the State Department, asks.
Trump has also taken steps that make a new deal tricky. He imposed new sanctions who cite factors other than Iran’s nuclear program, such as its support for terrorism. As part of any deal, Iranian leaders want the United States to lift these additional sanctions. But, as David Sanger points out, “it would be politically very difficult for Biden to say that we are now going to lift these sanctions because we have determined that Iran no longer supports terrorism – of course it does.”
So, is there any chance for a new deal? Yes, because each participant in the discussions has something to gain.
The United States, Europe and China would all want to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, and a deal would require Iran to submit to international inspections. Iran, for its part, wants sanctions – which restrict its ability to sell oil, among others – to be lifted. (The economic toll of Iranian women has been particularly severe, Azadeh Moaveni and Sussan Tahmasebi wrote in The Times.)
“It’s a really difficult calculation for the Iranians,” says David. “If they don’t make a deal, they don’t get their oil revenues and they desperately want their oil revenues.” The recent surge in oil prices, which more than 50 percent since last fall, strengthens Biden’s hand.
How close is Iran to having a nuclear bomb? Probably not close, David says – months, even years. It saves Biden time.
Iran appears to be make progress towards the enrichment of uranium to a level required by a weapon. After that, the program will have to build a weapon, which would likely take months, although North Korea may end up helping and reducing the time needed.
With Trump’s policy failing, what are opponents of the Obama deal promoting? Some Republicans and Israeli officials say Trump’s approach will work if given more time: Ultimately, they say, Iran will be weak enough to submit to nuclear restrictions so strict that the world can trust them. But this view seems to be based more on hope than evidence.
The most likely scenario, in the absence of a new deal, is that Iran will continue to build its nuclear program – and that Israel and the United States will use a combination of sabotage and military attacks to weaken the nation. program.
In Israel, David notes, this approach is known as “to mow the lawn”: Iran’s program grows, Israel cuts it and the cycle repeats.
THE LAST NEWS
Celebrity Support: Shilling stars were once accused of “selling”. No more.
Lives lived: John Naisbitt’s ability to see a connection between the 1960s counterculture and the Reagan era in Washington made it a favorite bedside reading for yuppies in the 1980s. He died at 92.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The push to update technological terminology
Programmers often use computer engineering terms such as “master” and “slave” in code. Some members of the tech community are clamoring for this language, as well as other offensive terms, to update.
Last year, members of an industrial group offered the same to the group: “Primary”, for example, could replace “master”. Responses from inside the group have been mixed and it has yet to issue terminology guidelines. While it can’t force giants like Amazon or Apple to follow its standards, tech companies often do.
However, some companies have acted on their own: Twitter replaced several terms after an engineer argued for changes. Microsoft-owned GitHub now uses “primary” instead of “master”. Some programmers see the changes as vital, Elizabeth Landau written in wireframe. Others see it as “empty symbolism” that does not correct the problems of the tech industry. diversity issues.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook