Intel: Biden adviser downplays role of upcoming Iran elections in fate of nuclear deal

al-monitor Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks about the nuclear deal in Tehran, Iran, May 8, 2018. Photo by IRINN/Reuters TV via REUTERS.
Bryant Harris

Bryant Harris


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Jun 22, 2020

A foreign policy adviser to former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden downplayed the role that Iran’s presidential elections next year will have on Tehran’s potential willingness to revive the flailing nuclear deal.

“The election of [President Hassan Rouhani] was not irrelevant toward the outcome of nuclear diplomacy, but it’s also not dispositive,” Jake Sullivan, an informal adviser to the Biden campaign, said in a virtual Center for Strategic and International Studies interview today. “At the end of the day, the Iranian calculus is going to be driven more out of a combination of where the Supreme Leader and the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the Supreme Council on National Security are than where the president’s office is,” he added.

Sullivan acknowledged that a conservative hard-liner replacing Rouhani would “have an impact, but I don’t think it’s going to be the key,” noting that there’s “a diversity of opinion within the Iranian leadership.”

Why it matters: Biden has vowed to re-renter the nuclear deal and lift Washington’s crippling sanctions on Iran if he wins the US elections in November and if Tehran returns to compliance with the accord.

“The key question for Iran is whether if offered basically a choice between continuing substantial economic pressure and some mode of agreement with other actors in the region, whether they find a way to get to the table,” said Sullivan, adding, “My view is that the United States should be putting a lot more chips down at the table to sort of generate the start of that kind of conversation than has happened under the Trump administration over the last three years.”

What’s next: Rouhani will not be eligible to run for re-election next year after having served two terms. This opens the field for a variety of conservatives, moderates and Reformists to articulate their competing visions for the future of Iranian foreign policy.

Know more: Congressional Correspondent Bryant Harris details the views of Sullivan and Biden’s other foreign policy advisers.

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