Under the Biden Administration: Will U.S.-Iran Relations Improve?


Heather Williams, Senior International/Defense Policy Researcher

The current landscape for improving U.S.-Iran relations is not good. On the one hand, the Biden administration will likely bring back some of the individuals involved in the initial nuclear deal who were able to build some personal rapport with their Iranian counterparts. But Iran has its own presidential elections scheduled for this summer, and President Rouhani is not eligible for reelection. So those figures will not be in office in Iran for very long.

Supreme Leader Khamenei is the ultimate decisionmaker in Iran. He has always believed that the U.S. is dishonest and cannot be trusted. The fact that the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA when Iran was still in full compliance with the nuclear deal's provisions has further reinforced that belief about how the U.S. wishes Iran ill and Iran cannot trust us. So the prospects for diplomacy are dim. One potential opportunity is to try to aid Iran with its COVID-19 outbreak by ensuring that sanctions do not impede with medical and humanitarian efforts.