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Report: Biden trying to set up direct talks with Iran

Joe Biden. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
January 26, 2021

Just days after taking office, President Joe Biden is already seeking a direct dialogue with Iran, according to a U.S. official who spoke with Sky News Arabia, the Arabic language outlet for the UK-based Sky News.

According to the translated report by Sky News Arabia, the Washington official said the Biden administration will work through European intermediaries to establish a direct communication channel with the Iranian government in Tehran.

The official said the Biden administration intends to emphasize a strategy of deterring conflict with Iran while working to ease tensions with the country, which escalated under President Donald Trump, especially after Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the U.S. entered into under President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Biden.

The official also said the Biden administration’s strategy will also entail outreach to U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, of changes to U.S. policies towards Iran.

The Times of Israel reported the Biden administration had already begun talks with Iran and had informed Israel of the conversations.

Israel’s opposition to a return to the Iran nuclear deal could impact the Biden administration’s negotiations. Israeli officials have already warned against the U.S. easing Trump-era sanctions against Iran and returning to the Iran nuclear deal. Two weeks ago, Tzachi Hanegbi, a cabinet member and top advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel would take action to prevent the advancement of Iran’s nuclear program while alluding to a 1981 Israeli strike against Iraq’s nuclear program and a 2007 strike against Syria’s nuclear program.

Biden has repeatedly indicated he would bring the U.S. back into the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump withdrew from in 2018. Biden’s campaign website said he “would re-enter the agreement, using hard-nosed diplomacy and support from our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.”

Separately, Biden’s newly appointed Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that a return to the Iran deal is still a “long way” off. Blinken said, “We would have to see, once the president is in office, what steps Iran actually takes” and evaluate whether “they’re coming back into compliance with their obligations” under the deal. Blinken also said the Biden administration would use the 2015 deal as a platform for a future stronger agreement to address Iran’s missile program and its sponsorship of terrorism and other malign activities.

Previewing his expectations for the Biden administration in December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani predicted Biden would return to the Iran deal and the U.S. sanctions “will be broken.”