Trump’s Shadow Looms Over Fading Iran Nuclear Talks


WASHINGTON — Many factors are to blame for the dying prospects of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. But perhaps nothing has hobbled the Biden administration’s efforts more than the legacy of President Donald J. Trump.

It was Mr. Trump, of course, who withdrew in 2018 from the nuclear pact brokered with Iran by the Obama administration, calling it “the worst deal ever.”

But Mr. Trump did more than pull the plug. U.S. officials and analysts say his actions vastly complicated America’s ability to negotiate with Tehran, which has made demands outside the nuclear deal that President Biden has refused to meet without receiving concessions.

The original pact limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions that have crushed the country’s economy. After Mr. Trump quit the deal and reimposed sanctions, Iran also began violating its terms.

With no compromise on a new agreement in sight and Iran making steady progress toward nuclear capability, the Biden administration could soon be forced to decide between accepting that Iran has the capacity to make a bomb or taking military action to prevent it from doing so. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, like producing medical isotopes to diagnose and treat disease.

Mr. Trump handed Mr. Biden a needless nuclear crisis, Robert Malley, the State Department’s chief negotiator, told senators at a hearing late last month, adding that the chances of salvaging the deal had become “tenuous.”

Negotiations in Vienna to restore the deal have been on hold since mid-March. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Iranian leaders “have to decide, and decide very quickly, if they wish to proceed with what has been negotiated and which could be completed quickly if Iran chose to do so.”

This month, after the United States and European allies criticized Iran for failing to cooperate with international inspectors, officials in Tehran doubled down by deactivating and removing some surveillance cameras in its nuclear facilities.

Mr. Blinken said Iran’s move was “not encouraging.”

On Tuesday, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said Iran had proposed a new plan to the United States, but he did not provide any details.

“Iran has never run away from the negotiating table and believes negotiations and diplomacy is the best path to reaching a good and lasting deal,” he said in Tehran.

A senior administration official in Washington who is close to the negotiations said he was unaware of any new proposal from Tehran but “of course we remain open” to ideas that might lead to an agreement.

Mr. Trump’s legacy haunts the talks in at least three notable ways, according to several people familiar with the negotiating process, which Mr. Biden began early last year.

First, there was what the Iranians call an enormous breach of trust: Mr. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal, despite Iran’s adherence to its terms, confirmed Tehran’s fears about how quickly the United States can change tack after an election.

At the negotiating table in Vienna, the Iranians have demanded assurances that any successor to Mr….



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