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.”
“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).
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).