Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.


Vice President Mike Pence visits Rock Springs Church to campaign for GOP Senate candidates on January 4, 2021 in Milner, Georgia. (Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Mike Pence Says GOP Will Rip Up Any Nuclear Deal With Iran

Why could Tehran want to sign anything now? To have a likely '24 presidential candidate say this now is a deal killer.

Trita Parsi

 by Responsible Statecraft

Former Vice President Mike Pence told an Israeli newspaper on Tuesday that a future Republican administration will tear up any new nuclear deal made with Iran today. Beyond all of the political bloviation, it is important to understand how Pence's statement undermines the U.S. bargaining position right now in Vienna.

One can't ask for more when one simultaneously admits that no American promise can be kept longer than four years.

'"If the JCPOA finds a way to be resurrected, we will be a part and a voice of a chorus of Americans with that new administration coming into office to end the JCPOA just as quickly as we ended it under the Trump-Pence administration,'" he charged in Israel Hayom.

Not only would Republicans withdraw from any new agreement they would bring back President Trump's (fundamentally counterproductive) aggressive posture against Tehran, he boasted:​​

'"During our administration, it wasn't just that we got out of the JCPOA, it was that we isolated Iran like never before, we challenged their malign activities. We not only took down ISIS [the Islamic State] and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but it was our administration that took down Qassem Soleimani.'" He then added, '"We made it clear to Iran and all of their affiliate organizations and terrorist groups across the region that the day of them sowing violence across the wider Arab world was over.'"

One of the biggest sticking points on behalf of the Iranian negotiators has been the inability to ensure that any future White House won't waltz in and rip up the renewed agreement. So far they haven't been able to get that kind of assurance, even from the Democrats who are supposedly behind getting a deal out the door. Now the GOP in the form of Mike Pence, one of the most high-profile likely candidates for president in 2024, is openly saying it will kill it. 

So what does this do?

It means that any carrots the U.S. puts forward in the talks are devalued precisely because we are explicit about their lack of durability. Therefore, Washington has to offer more to achieve the same because of this open lack of trustworthiness.

As I have written elsewhere, this has been a major challenge throughout these nuclear talks. Being unreliable does not put you in a good position to ask for a '"longer and stronger'" deal.

At the same time, Pence is not lying. If the GOP wins in 2024, I see only two scenarios: either Washington walks out of the deal a la Trump, or it adopts an ambiguous position in which it doesn't commit to staying and flirts with leaving. 

In the latter case, the United States injects so much uncertainty into the situation that international businesses will begin exiting the Iranian market, whether or not any sanctions are lifted from a renewed deal.  As such, uncertainty is a de facto sanction.

Not getting what it has been promised, Tehran will likely quit the deal or it will reduce its obligations, as it did from 2019 and onward. But this time around, the JCPOA would likely not be able to take that pressure without collapsing. The nuclear deal dies and with it any hope for achieving any peaceful resolution with Iran.

Naively, many in D.C. are still thinking of how to '"strengthen'" the deal once it is revived. But I fear that very few have internalized how weak the Western bargaining position is: One can't ask for more when one simultaneously admits that no American promise can be kept longer than four years.

© 2021 Responsible Statecraft
Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi is Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute and an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. He is author of "Losing an Enemy - Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy"; "A Single Roll of the Dice - Obama's Diplomacy with Iran"; and "Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States."

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Donald Trump Has Finally Run Out of Places to Hide' as House Dems Get Tax Returns

"It's no longer a question of if he's hiding something big," one watchdog group asserted, "it's a question of what he's hiding."

Brett Wilkins ·

Democrats, Progressive Groups Push DOJ to Publish Database of 'Corporate Lawbreaking'

"The Corporate Crime Database Act will bring transparency to the corporate crime crisis so that the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies can better reckon with this greed-driven menace," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·

As Corporations Enjoy Record-High Profits, Experts Urge Congress to 'Rein Them In'

"Today's record corporate profits mirror what we have been hearing on earnings call after earnings call: Corporations are gleefully reporting that their strategy to burden families with unnecessary price hikes is working."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Egregious': PFAS Firefighting Foam Spills at Notorious Red Hill Naval Facility in Hawaii

While officials said there is no evidence that drinking water was contaminated, the incident generated further local frustration with the closing fuel storage complex.

Jessica Corbett ·

House Passes Paid Sick Leave for Railway Workers Despite Opposition of 207 Republicans

"Now let's get it through the Senate," said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who led the fight to add seven days of paid sick leave to a White House-brokered contract that failed to provide any to railroad workers.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo