This article aims to analyze the opportunities and crisis in Iran-US relations in the aftermath of the so-called Nuclear Deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action-JCPOA) by revisiting the 2013-2018 period, which starts with Hassan Rouhani’s presidency culminating in intense diplomatic negotiations and agreement and ends with the US President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal. The article first attends to the confluence of domestic and external factors that made the JCPOA possible in 2015, then scrutinizes Tehran’s and Washington’s expectations from the deal and probes how and why these expectations were not fulfilled particularly with a focus on Iran’s perspective. In this context, it highlights the tensions between two countervailing positions within Iranian politics-the optimists and the skeptics- regarding the future of Iran-US ties and analyzes how historical animosity in conjunction with the US policies during the Obama and Trump periods have shaped power dynamics in Iran by employing process tracing and discourse analysis. The article argues that it was not plausible to expect the JCPOA to resolve the deep and multifaceted problems in Iran-US relations and this has never been the objective of the deal with its specific focus on Iran’s nuclear program, yet the post-2015 period shows that both Iran and the US had greater expectations from the JCPOA. Nevertheless, the relatively optimistic era of relations was over with the start of Trump’s presidency in 2017, as the traditional pattern of crisis and confrontation quickly resurfaced and bilateral and regional crises severely endangered the fate of the JCPOA. The trajectory of events effectively changed the domestic and external factors that once made the deal possible, and the disappointing experience of the post-deal period now shapes the difficulties of the Vienna Talks and Iran’s demands for a mutual return to the JCPOA.
Keywords: Constructive Engagement Policy, Iran’s Foreign Policy, Iran-US Relations, Rouhani Era, The Nuclear Deal