November 17, 2020
By Track Persia
The theocracy in Iran is deeply worried about its survival if there is a chance that President Trump is reelected for many reasons. One of them is that Trump’s reelection means a continuation of his “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, including U.S. sanctions that have nearly choked off the Iranian economy.
The economic sanctions on Iran have never been in the worse shape, especially because these sanctions have badly affected Iran’s energy exports and national currency which has consequently been devaluated. Subsequently, the country’s importation of essential goods has become more difficult than ever before. To add insult to injury, the regime’s poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has even further hurt the country’s trade with neighbouring countries, weakening the already deteriorating economy.
These issues have further increased the dissatisfaction and angry of the Iranians with the regime whose lack of legitimacy is reflected in the nation-wide popular revolts that erupted in 2018 and 2019. The regime has managed to quiet the population, for now, through systematic terror and the complete militarization of the political system. However, the Iranians will not remain quiet indefinitely. The regime has suppressed the Iranians in the last 41 years, but its campaign of terror, assassinations, and executions has also created uncontrolled fury among the people. They are, therefore, will one day break free from its current prison and join the rest of its neighbours in forging a better future.
The theocratic regime is also worried about the regional developments after the recent agreements between Israel on one hand and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan on the other hand. The agreements will lead to advanced military cooperation between these regional countries. The regime has realised that Iran has become more isolated especially because of its destabilisation activities in the region. The regime presents Iran as the self-proclaimed leader of the ‘Axis of Resistance” which consists of sectarian criminal Shi’i militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, to target the U.S. and Israel.
The Islamic Republic hopes that if the former Vice President Joe Biden wins, he will keep his promise and return to the 2015 nuclear accord which was reached by Obama administration, potentially relieving the mounting economic pressure on Iran. Before the elections, Biden promised the US will return to diplomacy and Iran nuclear deal under the Obama administration. The nuclear deal under Obama was a major failure in this regard. However, over the past four years, Trump administration has built enormous diplomatic, military and economic advantages over the theocracy. Biden’s key national security advisors have expressed interests in using increased leverage to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran among, despite they criticised Trump’s maximum pressure policy on Iran. Therefore, it is likely that Biden administration will exploit these advantages in any future negotiations over Iran nuclear agreement.
Trump’s maximum pressure policy has indeed provided Washington with an opportunity to fix the major flaws of Obama’s Iran deal. However, any new agreement must satisfy both the Democratic and Republican parties while reassuring U.S. allies and partners, including the growing Israeli-Arab block in the Middle East.
Having said that, Biden’s efforts may be complicated by the latest revelations from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which indicate that the Iranian regime has moved advanced centrifuges underground since part of its Natanz nuclear facility was destroyed by fire in July.
Additionally, there have been many developments since the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5 + 1 group in 2015. These new developments pose challenges to Tehran and the new U.S. administration before returning to the nuclear agreement.
One of these challenges is the sanctions that President Trump reimposed on Tehran because of its terrorist financing activities. These sanctions include Iranian sectors of banking, financial and energy. They have badly affected Iran reserves and this was reflected in Tehran’s ability to finance its proxies militias such as the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Furthermore, Iran’s escalation against US presence in Iraq over the last past months using Shiite militias have to attack several American interests and American soldiers in Iraq is another challenge, especially these attacks prompted Trump administration to order the airstrike that killed Gen Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)- Qods in Baghdad last January.
Biden will likely stipulate that the United States could return to the agreement through a broader framework that includes Tehran should stop its nefarious regional activities. He might focus on the bad record of human rights in Iran. In addition to Iran’s ballistic missile programme in which Tehran has invested heavily over the past few years.
The new U.S. president will also likely to wait for the result of the next elections in Iran, which are scheduled for next June. So far all indications show that the next government in Iran will increase the regime’s nefarious activities in the region because it will be headed by hardliners who have taken control of many state institutions. A hardliner or revolutionary president will most likely succeed President Hassan Rouhani, especially because the Supreme Leader has called for a revolutionary and hardliner president who would maintain the revolution of the regime and ensure the continuation of the rule of clerics. This means that further radicalisation and militarization of the Iranian executive authority and this means that Tehran will increase its support to proxy militias across the region.
Therefore, these challenges must be overcome first before any negotiations over a new nuclear agreement, especially the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, may obstruct any path towards re-lifting the sanctions if it is not convinced that Iran has changed its behaviour.
Furthermore, Biden is not Obama. Biden worked as Obama’s deputy, but he also has more experience and knowledge of domestic and foreign politics because of the decades he spent in the Senate, meeting with world leaders as chair of its foreign affairs committee. He said at the beginning of the election campaign: “‘The good news and bad news is that everybody knows me”. The most important news, as one of his congressional friends, put it, is that “Joe knows everyone.” Therefore, it is difficult to imagine Biden letting Iran expand in the region at the expense of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, thus threatening U.S. interests and those of its allies.