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Joe Biden has begun his presidency with great success. He has moved to address the central issue facing the country — the pandemic — and proposed big, bold policies to help the country recover. He seems to have learned a key lesson from the Obama years: that Democrats do well when they act with imagination and courage, rather than waiting around and watering down proposals in the vain hope of Republican support. But while the Biden administration has adopted a confident, assertive stance on domestic policy, on foreign policy it has taken a strikingly different approach — hesitant, diffident and fixated on preemptively mollifying its Republican critics.
Ever since then-President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, Biden and his top advisers have made clear that the withdrawal was a serious mistake, one that dramatically undermined the United States’ credibility with the world and created a more dangerous Middle East. The deal had placed Iran in a box, imposing strict limits on its nuclear program. Without them, Tehran was moving ever closer to nuclear weapons.
You would assume that, once in office, the Biden administration would be searching for a quick way to return to the deal. No, it turns out. Both the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence say that rejoining the deal is “a long ways” away. They insist that Iran first come back into compliance, but that’s largely a tactic to avoid confronting the issue. Diplomats could find a method for the two countries to rejoin simultaneously. Many of Biden’s officials helped negotiate the Iran accord and argued strenuously that it was the best deal that the United States could get. Have they changed their minds?