The United States unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, declaring the accord’s provisions inadequate and Iran in violation. The administration of former President Donald Trump began reinforcing sanctions, much to the chagrin of the accord’s other signatories; but Iran did not annul it. Rather, Tehran steadily increased pressure, directly on Washington and indirectly through other signatory nations, to restore the deal.
Why does Iran’s government still require a nuclear deal? Because in the long term, Tehran stands to gain much economically and geopolitically while giving up little tactically.
Iran has vocally insisted that “the nuclear deal it made” in 2015 be restored and “implemented word by word.” But in practice, the Islamic Republic has actually shown considerable flexibility. A senior member of Iran’s parliament, taking his cue from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has suggested that negotiations in Vienna will result in “a new and binding agreement.” The diplomatic door is open for the United States and Iran to reach a more robust deal that will weather transitions of administrations in both countries.