News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Iran Experts on Restoring Iran Nuclear Agreement

Following the recent Biden administration announcement that the U.S. would join European nations in seeking to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, we asked several of our Iran experts for their thoughts on the next steps:

What should the U.S. goal be for a renewed Iran deal and what suggestions do you have for getting there?

MATTHEW BUNN, James R. Schlesinger Professor of the Practice of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy

“The U.S. goal should remain to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons while avoiding another war in the Middle East.  For now, that means working out a step-by-step return to compliance with the nuclear deal by both Iran and the United States.  Building from that foundation, relevant parties need to find ways to further reduce the danger that Iran will pursue nuclear weapons, strengthen regional security, reduce terrorism in the region, and address other issues of mutual concern.  Fundamentally, U.S. and Iranian national interests would both be better served if they could find their way to a relationship less riven by conflict.”


SAHAR NOWROUZZADEH, Associate, Project on Managing the Atom

“The goal should be to verifiably prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. To put the United States in a strong negotiating position, not just at this critical juncture but also going forward, we must rebuild unity and work with our P5+1/EU partners and directly engage Iran to develop a plan whereby the United States and Iran each returns to compliance. “Compliance for compliance” and reinstatement of the “world’s most robust verification regime,” provides key time and space to shape the negotiating environment following significant diplomatic setbacks in recent years. It also increases the prospects of potentially influencing Iran’s decision-making calculus in a manner more favorable to U.S. interests as we pursue additional nuclear and non-nuclear objectives in the coming years.” 

MAHSA ROUHI, Associate, The Project on Managing the Atom 

“The United States should swiftly attempt a clean return to the deal with a compliance-for-compliance approach because it can stop Iran’s quickly-growing nuclear program in its tracks. This move would not undermine U.S. leverage but rather enhance it. It would allow the United States to stop the ticking clock on Iran’s nuclear advancements, mitigate the possibility of a military confrontation between Iran and Israel or the United States, and restore multilateral diplomatic efforts. More importantly, returning to the deal would allow more time for follow-on agreements on regional issues and other areas of contention. These issues are critical to the security interests of the United States and its regional partners, and Tehran is unlikely to engage in any talks on these issues unless the JCPOA is restored.” (Foreign Policy)

WILLIAM TOBEY, Faculty Affiliate, Project on Managing the Atom

“Both sides should return to the status quo as of 1/20/17 within 60 days.  Persistent flaws in the deal pose a greater challenge, including Iran‘s refusal to provide a complete and correct IAEA declaration. Iran likely retains the illicit weapons designs, materials, and uranium milling equipment amassed under Project AMAD, violating both the JCOPOA and IAEA Safeguards. The JCPOA failed to reach a “meeting of the minds” on key issues, e.g. IAEA access rights, limits on Iran’s missiles, and the procurement channel monitoring imports. These issues have nothing to do with the Trump Administration’s ham-fisted approach and demand resolution—using the deal’s compliance mechanisms—for the JCPOA to succeed.”

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Bunn, Matthew, Mahsa Rouhi, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh and William H. Tobey. “Iran Experts on Restoring Iran Nuclear Agreement.” News, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, February 25, 2021.

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