After a campaign in which he promised to repair relations with allies and put diplomacy first, President Biden joined his first international summit on Friday: A virtual Group of Seven meeting in the lengthening shadow of escalating tensions with Iran. After weeks of telephone calls with heads of state, the G7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States — was Biden’s first proper gathering with world leaders, even if the pandemic kept them from meeting in person.

We’re prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5 plus one on Iran’s nuclear program,” the president said, referring to the framework that led to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. “We must also address Iran’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East. And we’re going to work in close cooperation with our European and other partners as we proceed.”

Biden also underlined “democratic progress is under assault” around the world and singled out Moscow and Beijing as policy challenges that must be met with a united front.
“We must prepare together for long-term strategic competition with China,” he said.

“How the United States, Europe, and Asia work together to secure the peace and defend our shared values and advance our prosperity across the pacific will be among the most consequential efforts we undertake.”

Tehran has been testing the new administration on a range of fronts.

After Biden revoked former president Donald Trump’s designation of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as terrorists, the group stepped up its military campaign, drawing a verbal U.S. rebuke but little else. Iraqi militias thought to be loyal to Tehran claimed responsibility for a Monday night rocket barrage near a U.S. military base that killed at least one non-American contractor and wounded five American contractors. (Iran has denied involvement).

Biden had already taken some steps to reverse Trump’s approach to world affairs — announcing America’s return to the Paris climate agreement, for instance. But Iran is an altogether more immediate crisis, likely to test Biden’s commitments to rally allies and manage relations with China and Russia — promises at the center of his 2020 campaign’s foreign policy message.

One major test will come next week, Iran’s self-imposed deadline for ending short-notice inspections of its activities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. (Expect a diplomatic flurry over the weekend to keep that from happening).

Against that backdrop, the United States took steps last night to fulfill Biden’s campaign promise to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated by President Barack Obama, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal. The president and his team have repeatedly said that Iran must return to compliance with the accord before Washington does. Iran has refused to do so until the United States lifts sanctions that have crippled its economy.