foreign policy

Would you reenter the Iran nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration?

Yes, re-join the existing agreement

Yes, re-join the existing agreement

Many of these candidates want to reenter the deal and then negotiate to strengthen it.

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet “would intend to rejoin the existing agreement if all parties are in compliance. [He] has always had concerns about what the shape of Iran’s nuclear program could look like in 10 or 15 years, and he has long said that the United States must think about a post-JCPOA world,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. Bennet “disagreed with President Trump’s decision to abandon the deal on Iran’s nuclear program, which has made it harder to build agreement on enduring restrictions on Iran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon. [Bennet] believes Iran is a destabilizing force in the region. From Yemen to Syria to Lebanon, Iran foments terrorism and sows violence — activities that Republicans and Democrats agree would be all the more dangerous if backed by a nuclear weapon.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Michael Bennet
Bennet

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“Iran is a destabilizing actor in the Middle East; it must never be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon,” Biden told The Post. “What Iran is doing is dangerous, but still reversible. If Iran moves back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, I would reenter the JCPOA as a starting point to work alongside our allies in Europe and other world powers to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints. Doing so would provide a critical down payment to reestablish U.S. credibility, signaling to the world that America’s word and international commitments once again mean something. I would also leverage renewed international consensus around America’s Iran polic — and a redoubled commitment to diplomacy — to more effectively push back against Tehran’s other malign behavior in the region.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Biden
Biden

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor, South Bend, Ind.

“If Iran resumes its commitments, then I would work with our allies and JCPOA partners to expedite rejoining the deal. But I would take the agreement as a floor, not a ceiling. Follow-on agreements should extend the timeframe of certain nuclear restrictions, cover Iran’s missile program and address its role in regional conflicts. Discussion of timing of phased-in sanctions relief in return should of course be part of these negotiations,” Buttigieg told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Julian Castro

Former mayor, San Antonio

“The United States should work with our allies to deescalate tensions with Iran, and hold them accountable — as we did with the Iran nuclear deal. War with Iran is not in our nation’s interest, and the Trump administration should recognize that immediately,” Castro said on Facebook in June.

Mar. 20: “The Iran Nuclear Agreement was a landmark achievement that prevented a nuclear-armed Iran for more than 3 years. If Iran continues to comply with the terms of the agreement as determined by the intelligence community, I will re-enter the U.S. into the #JCPOA as President.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Julian Castro
Castro

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

“As president, [Delaney] would rejoin the JCPOA, but insist on a longer duration to ensure long-term compliance,” his campaign website said. “The JCPOA was the best arrangement that six of the leading nations in the world, plus the European Union, could reach to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”

Candidate positions highlighted
John Delaney
Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

“I would reenter the Iran nuclear agreement to ensure Iran does not develop or acquire nuclear weapons, while also working to resolve concerns with Iran’s behavior. I would not support reparations for Iran,” Gabbard told The Post. She told PBS NewsHour, “I think Trump needs to recognize that his strategy thus far has been counterproductive and has been a failure. As president, I would reenter the Iran nuclear deal, negotiate with Iran separately on the other issues that we have, and find a diplomatic way to deescalate these tensions that we have.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Kamala D. Harris

U.S. senator, California

“Based on where things stand now, I would plan to rejoin the JCPOA so long as Iran also returned to verifiable compliance,” Harris told the Council on Foreign Relations. “At the same time, I would seek negotiations with Iran to extend and supplement some of the nuclear deal’s existing provisions, and work with our partners to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region, including with regard to its ballistic missile program.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Kamala Harris
Harris

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar supports rejoining the existing Iran nuclear agreement, her campaign told The Post. “For so long, one of our major focuses of U.S. foreign policy was to make sure that Iran didn't get a nuclear weapon. That's why we reached that agreement. It may not have been perfect, but it was something that needed to be done to make sure that we achieve that goal and kept people safe,” Klobuchar said at an event held by The Post. “So what would I do? I would work to renegotiate ourselves back into that agreement.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Beto O'Rourke

Former U.S. representative, Texas

“Prior to President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General [Joseph F.] Dunford said the agreement was ‘the most durable means of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.’ [O'Rourke] agrees,” a campaign spokesperson said. “While the deal was not perfect, as president, he would seek to rejoin it and would work with our allies to strengthen it. President Trump’s reckless strategy toward Iran — exemplified by his ill-advised withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and recent military belligerence — has weakened our position and diminished our credibility as a good-faith negotiating partner.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“The agreement achieved by the U.S., Europe, Russia and China with Iran is one of the strongest anti-nuclear agreements ever negotiated. It prevented a war and prevented Iran from building a nuclear weapon. We are the only nation who has ‘left’ the agreement,” Sanders told The Post. “I would reenter the agreement on Day One of my presidency and build upon it with additional measures to further block any path to a nuclear weapon, restrain Iran’s offensive actions in the region and forge a new strategic balance in the Middle East.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Joe Sestak

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

“Yes, I would reenter the JCPOA,” Sestak told The Post. “I would use our global leadership to further a multilateral engagement with Iran that compels resolution of issues of mutual interest (such as fighting al-Qaeda, a Sunni terrorist group which Iran (Shia) and the U.S. are opposed to) and others, in order to ameliorate relations and address further wrongful behavior of Iran. Ultimately, we must deter such behavior of Iran but with the eventual outcome of bringing it into the rules-based world order of nations with its acceptance of just behavior.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Sestak
Sestak

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“If Iran returns to compliance with its obligations under the nuclear deal, the United States should also return to compliance,” Warren told The Post. “If Iran is not in compliance, I will use strong principled diplomacy in concert with our allies to negotiate both the U.S. and Iran back into a deal that is in everyone’s interests.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Marianne Williamson

Author

Williamson would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, she told The Post. “First thing I would do is rejoin the Iran deal because the initial leaving of the Iran deal on the part of the president was how this whole thing began. That was the first grave error,” she told NPR. “We are now goading Iran and this is a terrible situation. So I would immediately seek to move back into the Iran deal into international efforts to deal with the nation of Iran, which actually by all accounts was keeping up their side of the deal in terms of a process that would ultimately lead to guarantee they would not have a nuclear bomb.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

Yang would rejoin the existing agreement and then negotiate a longer-term deal, he told The Post. “I would move to deescalate tensions in Iran, because they’re responding to the fact that we pulled out of this agreement,” he said during the second Democratic debate. “And it wasn’t just us and Iran. There were many other world powers that were part of that multinational agreement. We’d have to try and reenter that agreement, renegotiate the timelines, because the timelines now don't make as much sense.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang
Yang

Negotiate new terms before rejoining the deal

Negotiate new terms before rejoining the deal

Others said they want tougher restrictions in place before rejoining.

Cory Booker

U.S. senator, New Jersey

“It was a serious mistake for President Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and I never would have done it,” Booker told The Post. “While I strongly support a nuclear deal with Iran, we cannot turn back the clock and pretend the damage that President Trump has caused over the last three years hasn’t happened. The 2015 deal was premised on continued negotiations with the Iranians so that we could work toward a longer-term solution. We will have had four years wasted under Trump, and the sunset clauses, after which key provisions will phase out, are now that much closer. We must take stock of facts on the ground, including Iran’s recent breach of its enrichment limit, and negotiate an updated agreement to stop the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Cory Booker
Booker

Steve Bullock

Governor, Montana

“Yes, I’d begin negotiations to reenter the Iran nuclear deal,” Bullock told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Steve Bullock
Bullock

Tim Ryan

U.S. representative, Ohio

“At this point, it would be impossible to rejoin the JCPOA as it was written in 2015,” Ryan told The Post. “I would absolutely support entering a new version of the JCPOA that extends restrictions even further into the future. ... It is in Iran’s interest to reenter the agreement in order to lift sanctions, they do not need to be compensated beyond that, especially given the possibility that this money could end up in the hands of terrorist organizations and malicious actors throughout the region.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tim Ryan
Ryan

Unclear/No response

Unclear/No response

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. De Blasio did not respond to this question by publication.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

Wayne Messam

Mayor, Miramar, Fla.

Messam did not respond to this question by publication.

Candidate positions highlighted
Wayne Messam
Messam

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

Steyer did not respond to this question by publication.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tom Steyer
Steyer

Hover for more information

Tap for more information

Background It is unclear whether the shell of the 2015 deal will still be in place in January 2021, but both Iran and European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) appear to want to keep their options open in hopes that President Trump will be defeated. A Democratic president could quickly reverse Trump’s 2018 withdrawal, because the agreement was an executive action that did not involve Congress. But the new president would have to calculate whether the original goal of the deal — to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb in the near term and improve the United States’ most difficult international relationship in the long term — are still attainable.

The Post is sending detailed questionnaires to every Democratic candidate asking for their stances on various issues. See all the issues we’ve asked about so far.

See our other questions on foreign policy:

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. foreign policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role, and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports and surveys. See something we missed? Let us know.

We expect candidates to develop more detailed policy positions throughout the campaign, and this page will update as we learn more about their plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president and excluded any who had left the race. The Post will contact any additional candidates as they enter the contest and include them here.

Curious about where candidates stand on another policy? Fill out this suggestion form.