“President Biden will encourage face-to-face talks with Iran over its nuclear program as a step toward rebuilding the international agreement that former president Donald Trump renounced, and will reassure allies Friday that the United States will stick to its commitments going forward.
The Biden administration opened the door to talks Thursday, saying it would accept an invitation to join the other members of the 2015 agreement for talks about how both the United States and Iran could return to its fold.
Biden’s public embrace of that idea Friday does not commit the United States to a timeline for returning to the agreement, which Iran began violating after the U.S. withdrawal, but it lends heft to an effort with European allies to draw Iran to the table. It is also meant to help persuade Iran not to make matters worse by expelling international inspectors next week.
After focusing chiefly on domestic priorities in his first month in office, including the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. economic woes, Biden is delivering his most extensive remarks on foreign policy to date with a pair of addresses that an aide said will make the case that democracies are best equipped to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.
In a virtual meeting with leaders of the Group of Seven economic club and in an address to the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Biden will recommit to tenets of international diplomacy that Trump had abandoned, a senior administration official said Thursday.
“The president is eager to reinforce his commitment to returning the United States to multilateral engagement and in particular to engaging with the major democracies and market economies of the world on a common agenda,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview Biden’s remarks.
At the closed-door G-7 session, Biden will focus on the immediate crises of the pandemic, its global economic impact and on climate change, the official said. Friday marks the official U.S. return to the Paris climate accord after Trump’s withdrawal.
Biden will be bullish about global investment to confront and recover from the pandemic, the official said.
“He will communicate to the leaders the same thing he has communicated to the Congress and to the American people — that the fear is not that we do too much; it’s that we do too little,” the official said.
A joint statement from the G-7 leaders is expected to reinforce a collective commitment to that approach, the official said.
“This is an era for action and investment, not for austerity.”
The White House announced Thursday that it will commit $2 billion for the global vaccine initiative known as Covax at the G-7 meeting, and will pledge another $2 billion over the next two years.
Trump refused to sign a joint statement after a tense G-7 meeting in Canada in 2018; the group papered over differences with a short statement at the meeting the following year, in France. The 2020 in-person gathering was canceled because of the pandemic. Trump had at one time planned to hold it at one of his Florida golf resorts.
Biden has not yet dismantled tariffs and other trade barriers with China and Europe that Trump had imposed over objections from G-7 members.
Biden also is addressing the Munich Security Conference, an annual event that draws leaders and policymakers. That speech will be broader and aimed partly at assuring allies that “America is back and the transatlantic alliance is back” under his presidency, the official said.
“He will look forward to driving home the core proposition that the transatlantic alliance is a cornerstone for American engagement in the world for the 21st century just as it was in the 20th,” the official said.
“He will make a strong and confident case that democracy is the model that can best meet the challenges of our time as long as we make the investment in our sources of strength and renew those sources of strength for the future,” the official said.
Those pillars include investment at home, rebuilding alliances, reasserting U.S. participation in international organizations and a modernized military, the official said.
European and Asian allies have welcomed Biden’s pledge to cooperate after Trump’s go-it-alone approach and occasional outright hostility to traditional allies. But, especially in Europe, leaders also have sought ways to rely less on the United States. Those leaders eye a potential return to isolationism under the next president, and were horrified by the ease with which Trump summoned a mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol in his name.
“The president will indicate his very strong view that the United States has a deep set of enduring strengths that transcend what we have seen over the past four years,” the official said.
“He actually believes very deeply that it is never a good bet to bet against the United States and that many of the things we saw over the last four years do not reflect what this country is all about, and that with the right set of investments and the right spirit of leadership we can set the United States on a sustainable path,” the official said.
Biden also will lay out complaints about Russian and Chinese behavior, the official said.
Iran’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons is among the most closely watched issues facing Biden as he undoes Trump policies and installs his own. As a candidate, he pledged a conditional return to the 2015 international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear activities but did not say how he would do that.
As president, Biden has said that Iran must make the first move by ending its uranium enrichment activities that violate the agreement. Iran has said it is up to Washington to make the first move by dropping sanctions that Trump had reimposed.
It is not clear whether Iran wants to renew talks.
A proposed meeting of the signatories would be a first step toward compliance by both nations but would not necessarily resolve the question of whether Iran must act first.
The meeting, proposed by the European Union, also would include Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain and would amount to a repudiation of the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate the Islamic republic.
“He will not get into specifics,” the senior administration official said.
“We look forward to engaging in diplomacy. We are keen to sit down and hear what the Iranians have to say. We want to come up with a solution to the Iranian nuclear program and let’s get to work,” the official said. “With the EU invitation today, I think we have a path forward to return to nuclear diplomacy.”
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.“