What Did Joe Biden Do in the White House?

As the US-Saudi oil spat intensifies, what are Biden’s options? Plus, the Iran nuclear deal: Not dead, but fading.

What did Joe Biden do in the White House? The list of things he did is lengthy, but his presidency was defined by a single defining act – the Iran deal. The deal was negotiated by his boss, Barack Obama, and signed by Donald Trump. The deal was supposed to cut Iran’s nuclear programme and prevent the country from producing a nuclear weapon. Instead, it has created a political disaster and created economic uncertainty. A short time later, the US president pulled out of it.

But what does the deal actually do? And has Biden been able to do enough?

“It’s a bad deal, it’s a disaster – we’ve known that for many, many years,” said Gary Solis, an analyst at New York-based Institute for Nonproliferation Studies and a former member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “When the president signed the agreement with the Iranians, he said he signed with the deal, not against it. At the end of the day, the Iranians were taking advantage of a weak president, an empty senate and a hostile media.”

When Trump pulled out of the deal, he effectively said he’d only do so if he had to. His decision was to make Iran less likely to build a nuclear weapon. Since that decision, Trump has doubled down on “the deal”, announcing in January that the US was going to withdraw from it anyway if Iran violated the terms.

“If in fact the Iranians go so far that they’re in violation, they are not going to want this deal back,” Trump said.

But if the president’s decision to withdraw from the deal was in response to the terms of the agreement, the withdrawal was also a calculated risk. It showed how Iran might retaliate against him – a threat that could also prompt more Iran sanctions.

“The president is making a calculated risk that the US could suffer very serious, very severe economic consequences if there’s a military escalation with Iran, or even if there’s a diplomatic escalation,” says Solis.

A new reality?

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