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Elections provide U.S. and Iran a brief window to lower tensions - think tank

August 4, 2020 - 16:15

A new report from a Washington think tank has said that the United States and Iran will have a brief window between their upcoming presidential elections in which to ease dangerous tensions, Reuters reported on Monday.

The bipartisan Center for a New American Security report, co-authored by an informal adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, proposes a phased approach to easing tensions that could be adopted by Republican President Donald Trump in a second term or Biden, if he wins the Nov. 3 election.

Tensions spiked after Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by world powers during the Obama administration when Biden was vice president.

“In a phased de-escalation proposed by the report, the next U.S. president would offer to re-enter the nuclear deal – an idea Biden has embraced if Iran returned to compliance.” The U.S. presidential election opens a window for easing the crisis before Iran holds a vote sometime next year expected to result in a hard-liner succeeding President Hassan Rouhani, under whom the nuclear deal was reached, according to the report seen by Reuters.

“You are looking at a situation where you might lose ... the opportunity for U.S.-Iranian engagement, and it could be years away after that,” said report co-author Ilan Goldenberg, who served at the State Department and Pentagon during the Obama administration. “The risk of conflict actually exists.”

The historic enemies came close to war after the United States killed a top Iranian general in early 2020 and Iran retaliated with a missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq.

The prospects for new talks appear bleak. The Trump administration is threatening to trigger a reimposition of international sanctions on Tehran ended by the nuclear deal unless the UN Security Council extends an arms embargo on Iran slated to lapse in October.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week ruled out any negotiations on Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

In a phased de-escalation proposed by the report, the next U.S. president would offer to re-enter the nuclear deal – an idea Biden has embraced if Iran returned to compliance - or the sides adopt other measures that halt or roll back Tehran’s breaches.

They also would commit to a regional “calm for calm” and Washington would grant Tehran limited sanctions relief, the report says.

That relief would involve “modest, unilateral confidence-building measures” including ending Trump’s ban on travel from Iran and steps to ensure U.S. sanctions do not impede Tehran’s ability to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

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