July 25, 2021

Biden’s airstrikes send a clear message amid Iran’s deal negotiations

The U.S. airstrikes on Iraq and parts of Syria overnight were in response to Biden’s claims that drone strikes were targeting pro-Iranian militants in Iraq.

The strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one in Iraq, although it was not immediately clear if anyone was killed or injured. The strikes are the second round ordered by President Joe Biden since taking office against Iranian-backed militants.

The strikes come in the wake of ongoing talks in Vienna, Austria between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, to renew the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The Obama administration-era agreement, also known as the Comprehensive Comprehensive Action Plan, lifted sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

Returning to the JCPOA, which the Trump administration abandoned in 2018, is a key foreign policy priority for the Biden White House. Can new strikes halt negotiations, or send a message that good faith efforts for diplomacy will not deter military action?

Iran has no ‘carte blanch’

According to Sanam Vakil, an Iranian expert and vice-president of the Middle East North Africa project at Saddam House, this is the latter.

“The strikes send a clear message that regional issues with Iran will not be ignored at the expense of the Vienna JCPOA talks,” the prosecutor told CNBC on Monday. “This is a reassurance to US regional allies that a US re-entry into the agreement will not cause a carte blanche for Iran.”

Presidential candidate Ibrahim Raisi gestures after voting during the presidential election on June 18, 2021, at a polling station in Tehran, Iran.

Majid Askaripur | WANA News Agency | Reuters

However, the current negotiations – not between the US and Iran directly, but through intermediaries – are expected to escape recent military attacks. Cited by Anise Tabrizi, Senior Research Fellow, Royal United Services Institute, London Biden orders airstrikes on Iranian-backed militant targets in Syria in February The talks still took place.

But Iran elected its new president, Ibrahim Raisi, earlier this month, a hardliner with an anti-Western stance. Outgoing President Hassan Rouhani has expressed support for the West and has spoken by phone with former President Barack Obama – the first such contact between the leaders of the two countries in more than three decades – rejecting any opportunity to meet with Raisen Biden.

In light of this, Tabrizi has not seen any attacks by Iranian-backed militants in the region.

“In fact, they have a chance to intensify,” he said.

‘Only bomb-making nations’

Despite Rice’s record as a hardcore player, he has expressed support for rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal. Analysts say a re-entry into the deal and the lifting of stalemate Trump-era sanctions are needed to prevent Iran’s catastrophic economy from spinning further.

“I doubt the strikes will have any impact on the JCPOA talks,” Ali Wes, the project director of the Crisis Group, told CNBC on Monday. “Both sides were able to differentiate between what could be resolved diplomatically and what could be a military solution.”

“Both Iran and the United States have proven to be able to walk and chew at the same time.”