Washington and Tehran: Why try again?

Mashari Althaydi

Published: Updated:

Yesterday, a long-awaited round of negotiations began in Vienna between the Iranian regime and the Biden administration after much back-and-forth and many hesitant moves. The endeavors to revive the so-called nuclear deal shifted into full gear again after former US President Donald Trump threw it out the window, demanding a better deal than the defective one his predecessor reached with the Iranians.

Today, the US administration seems cautious and austere while the Iranian regime seems strong and patronizing. However, neither of these apparent realities is in fact true.

The Vienna talks held yesterday come in the wake of a videoconference meeting held between the two parties last Friday, which both countries welcomed. The US president said he wished to return to negotiations, but both Tehran and Washington believe the other should take the first step and recommit to the deal.

Despite Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s call on the EU in early February to coordinate a return to the nuclear deal, Tehran refused to sit down with the US last month for talks called by the EU.

The new “trick” in America’s political playbook this time is the slogan “commitment in return for commitment.” Does that mean Washington will commit once Tehran does or vice versa? Who should commit first and to what? Is there a deadline? Is there an alternative route to take if no commitments are made?

As the old saying goes, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is unclear if the main goal is just starting negotiations and talks with the Iran while putting everything else on the backburner; or if the ultimate purpose is weakening the Iranian regime, or perhaps the US seeks to deter and prevent Iran’s nuclear program and hostile missile capacities and put an end to its insidious policies in the Middle East.

Well, wasn’t Trump taking this path? What changed?

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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