The U.S. could also formalise Trump’s statement that he seeks policy change, not regime change. There is a good chance the European participants in the original negotiations – Britain, France, Germany and the European Union – would sign on to such an approach. Submitting a revised accord to the U.S. Congress for its formal approval would signal that the U.S. would not walk away a second time.
Some sanctions would and should stay in place, however, given Iranian activities in the region. In principle, one could imagine a negotiation that would offer to remove all sanctions in exchange for a cessation of Iran’s efforts in Syria and Yemen, an end to its support of terrorism, and the introduction of liberal political reforms at home.
But this would have no chance of succeeding. All or nothing diplomacy will produce nothing. As was the case with arms control between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, it is sometimes sufficiently ambitious to seek to limit competition, rather than eliminate it.
This is not to suggest Iran would enjoy a free hand in the region. Israel will presumably continue to pursue targeted military action to ensure that Iran cannot establish a military presence and infrastructure in Syria near Israel’s border, as it has done in Lebanon. And the U.S. should maintain an augmented military presence in or near the Persian Gulf, keep troops in Syria, and maintain a meaningful diplomatic and military presence in Iraq.
Promoting JCPOA 2.0 would not lead to normalisation of diplomatic ties with Iran, but it would dramatically reduce the chance of war or Iran’s emergence as a nuclear-armed power, a development that would likely prompt Saudi Arabia and several other countries to follow suit. The Middle East is dangerous enough already without adding yet another, far deadlier dimension to the mix.
Richard N. Haass
Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003) and was President George W. Bush's special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan.