Foreign Policy

Iran laughs at Trump and places hope in Biden

This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP's round-the-clock coverage of the incoming US election results with brief dispatches from correspondents and analysts from around the world. The America Votes page is free to all readers.

When US President Donald Trump asked his supporters to stop the counting of ballots, he provoked laughter from the leaders of countries to which the United States had long preached democracy. The top Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tweeted, “What a spectacle! It is said that this is the most fraudulent election in US history. Who says that? The president who is currently in office. His rival says Trump intends to rig the election! So are #USElections & US democracy. "

Trump stepped out of the US-Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and again imposed weakening sanctions on the country. This "maximum pressure" policy punished the Iranian regime, but, as so often, mainly hurt the Iranian people. The resulting lack of public goodwill explains why Iranian Twitter exploded with ridicule at Trump's post-election press conferences and denied the results. One Iranian said his own regime could never match the US president's success in undermining democracy on live television. The Iranians were also quick to rejoice when Joe Biden was declared president-elect and expressed hope that he would restore normal economic relations.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his government was ready to talk, albeit in a well-calculated manner that would protect Iranian pride. He hoped that the past three years of pressure on Iran, without much success, would teach the United States a lesson that "will make the next US administration obey the law and return to all of its obligations" under the common broad Action plan that was signed at Biden was vice president. Seyed Mohammad Marandi, an Iranian-American academic and political analyst, said in an interview that Iran expects the United States to fully honor its obligations under the deal and "compensate for any damage caused by US breaches of the deal are". Only then would Iran return to the table, Marandi added.

Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior political figure and deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that while Biden has made it clear that he wants to re-join the agreement, the U.S. Senate may make it more difficult if this is the case go to the Republicans. "Even so, there would be a very obvious opening between Tehran and Washington for the nuclear deal," said Geranmayeh. "From the US point of view, and frankly also from Europe, the expanding Iranian nuclear program is the greatest security threat they have to deal with."

She added that Biden intends to end conflicts where Iran exerts influence over local actors, including in Yemen and Iraq, which would imply further cooperation between Washington and Tehran. "Biden would try to stabilize the region, which would mean reaching a direct or indirect deal with Iran."

However, in an article published in Foreign Affairs earlier this year, Biden added a caveat. He would renew his commitment to diplomacy to strengthen the existing nuclear deal "while more effectively pushing back Iran's other destabilizing activities," which would imply a cut in Iranian funding for Shiite militias in the region, including Lebanese Hezbollah. (For his part, Lebanese President Michel Aoun expressed hope that Biden would rebalance Lebanese-US relations after the Trump administration re-imposed sanctions on Hezbollah-related son-in-law Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement .)

Iranians are cautiously concerned about Biden's plans for the region. But you may need to be patient. The president-elect's most clearly set priorities, the coronavirus pandemic and China's rise, have little to do with the Middle East.

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