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Karen E. Young

Why 2021 Would Be Inauspicious For a New Iran Deal

The ill omens include economically weakened Gulf Arab states and an anti-Saudi Congress.

Don’t rush back.

Don’t rush back.

Photographer: Marcelo del Pozo/Bloomberg

In late January next year, the U.S. will have either an embattled Trump administration in its second iteration, or a Biden administration eager to take the reins and reorient foreign policy. Both men are keen to reach an accommodation with Tehran quickly. Trump has boasted he could negotiate a deal in four weeks; Biden will want to show progress on his foreign-policy goals within his first 100 days in office.

The president and his challenger have both committed to prioritize U.S. dealings with the Islamic Republic. Biden is interested in a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, with some caveats. Trump wants a tougher new deal that covers issues like Iran’s regional intervention and missile programs. In both scenarios, the first likely incentive to Iran will be a relaxation of U.S. sanctions on its oil exports.