Biden taps Iran deal architect Wendy Sherman for senior diplomatic role

Wendy Sherman, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, arrived at the United Nations Office at Geneva on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 for talks on Syria. U.S. Mission Geneva Photo by Eric Bridiers

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President-elect Joe Biden tapped Wendy Sherman, an Iran nuclear deal architect, to be his deputy secretary of state — a signal of his determination to return to the deal, Politico reported Tuesday.

Sherman, who is Jewish, was the lead negotiator for the 2015 pact, which swapped sanctions relief for Iran’s rollback of its nuclear program. She took the lead in advocating for the agreement with the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, later describing tensions with Israel and some American Jewish groups as “very, very painful.”

Sherman also played a role in hewing the Democratic Party platform to traditional pro-Israel lines.

Politico reported that Sherman was Biden’s pick to be deputy to Tony Blinken, who also is Jewish. Blinken was a deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama.

Trump quit the Iran deal in 2018, saying it was not sufficiently restrictive and did not address bad acts by Iran unrelated to nuclear development. Since the U.S. departure, Iran has broken some of its commitments under the deal and increased uranium enrichment and stockpiling.

Biden has agreed that aspects of the deal should be toughened and ancillary issues like missile defense and Iranian adventurism should be addressed, but wants to rejoin the agreement quickly to keep Iran from expanding its nuclear program. The incoming president wants to open new negotiations after reentering the deal.

Iran’s leadership has indicated it is amenable to reentering the deal, but wants it kept as is.

Politico also reported that Jon Finer, another Obama administration alumnus, will be deputy national security adviser. In 2017, Finer called Trump’s foreign policy, including on Israel, an “incoherent mess.”