Iran has made equally clear it shares the goal of going back to the terms of the original agreement, before President Donald Trump pulled out of it. Trump reinstituted the sanctions and added what Biden officials estimate were at least 1,500 new ones. In response, Iran reactivated key elements of the program the United States and others say could produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such ambition. But nearly two months into Biden’s presidency, with Iran’s own contentious presidential election approaching in June, the two sides have been unable even to talk to each other about what both say they want.
There was a near miss more than three weeks ago, when the administration said it would attend a meeting called by the European Union with Iran and the other original signatories still party to the agreement — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Iran said no, indicating it wanted to know more about what was on the table.
Since then, the United States and Iran have issued sometimes contradictory, often intransigent statements that reflect mutual suspicion and agendas that are far broader than the simple reactivation of an agreement that many opponents of their efforts say was flawed to begin with.