As Iran moves to gradually withdraw from the JCPOA’s limits, it is creating leverage for itself while keeping the window for negotiations open if the administration shows serious interest. While the risk of war is real as long vehement anti-Iran hawks like John Bolton are in the White House, Trump himself has seemingly shifted his approach on Iran—and Iran may be sending its own signals. In Japan recently, when Trump proclaimed that the United States is “not looking for regime change, we're looking for no nuclear weapons,” Ayatollah Khamenei forcefully declared for the first time in years that Iran is “not after nuclear weapons.”
To strike a new deal, President Trump must be willing to trade relief from U.S. pressure in exchange for realistic concessions from Iran. With Iran expanding its nuclear bargaining chip, a new agreement that brings back restraints on its nuclear activities seems most likely in the short term. President Trump could boost his reelection chances and save the Iranian people a lot of misery if he pursued such diplomacy grounded in the lessons of the past—rather than aimlessly sticking to “maximum pressure.”
Sina Toossi is a Research Associate for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). He Tweets @SinaToossi.