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Will Iran’s Election Interference Complicate Biden’s Nuclear Deal Calculations?

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Some experts believe that the U.S. intelligence report which determined that Iran had tried to interfere in the 2020 presidential election between President Joe Biden and ex-President Donald Trump will further complicate Biden’s nuclear deal calculations, while others say the intelligence findings are inconsequential to his peace efforts.

The intelligence community determined that both Russia and Iran engaged in operations in attempts to interfere in the November U.S. presidential election, according to a declassified report released Tuesday. There’s no indication that foreign countries tried to manipulate U.S. ballots of vote tabulation, the assessment said.

Experts are at odds as to whether the report will further complicate Biden’s peace efforts, but most say that it probably won’t impact his intention to revive the nuclear deal. Trump abandoned the JCPOA in 2018, under which Iran agreed to reduce its nuclear program in exchange for U.S. lifting sanctions.

Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Director of School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, told The Liberty Buzz that “this revelation of course adds another layer of complexity to Biden Administration efforts to reach a deal with Iran.”

President Joe Biden stops briefly to talk to the press as he walks toward Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on March 16, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“However, I doubt he will abandon the effort to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons on account of this influence peddling attempt. Biden can more prudently return the favor in three months as Iran held its presidential elections,” he added.

According to the intelligence report, Iran “carried out a multi-pronged covert influence campaign intended to undercut former President Trump’s reelection prospects—though without directly promoting his rivals—undermine public confidence in the electoral process and US institutions, and sow division and exacerbate societal tensions in the US.”

Since Washington unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal under Trump, Iran has been incrementally violating the restrictions in an effort to pressure other nations in the JCPOA to help offset the imposed sanctions. Biden has promised to quickly move to rejoin the nuclear deal if Iran returns to compliance, but returning to the agreement has been complicated by both U.S. and Iranian politics.

Dr. Pouya Alimagham, a historian of the modern Middle East at MIT, said that the intelligence report “doesn’t change the calculus” for Biden.

“It’s very inconsequential because Iranians are not skilled at [election interference],” he told The Liberty Buzz. “If the whole point is to de-escalate and find a path where these two countries are not at loggerheads with each other, then we have to find what we both agree on. Both the Biden administration and Iran believe that the JCPOA was an important thing and it was working and they both have said they want to return to it.”

Richard Hanania, president of the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology and research fellow at Defense Priorities, also believes that the intelligence report will have an inconsequential impact on Biden’s intention to return to the JCPOA.

“I don’t think anyone’s realistically going to think that Iran was the defining factor in the American election,” he told The Liberty Buzz. “There’s not much evidence that Iran has a very sophisticated operation, there’s no evidence that Iran is good at inflicting American public opinion, if they were, we would have a different foreign policy over the last several decades.”

The Liberty Buzz reached out to the State Department for comment.

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