By Mohammad Mazhari

A Biden administration will try to weaken Iran's defense system: political scientist

October 9, 2020 - 22:56

TEHRAN - If Joe Biden wins the November presidential elections he will set a number of conditions to join the nuclear deal (JCPOA), including “significant limit” on Iran’s defensive missiles program, an American political scientist says.

“Even though Biden has expressed his willingness to return to the JCPOA, he has stipulated a number of conditions for America's return to the Iran nuclear deal, especially significant limits on Iran's chief deterrent option, namely the country's missile system,” Nader Entessar, a professor from the University of South Alabama, tells the Tehran Times.  

The following is the text of the interview:

Q: Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, has said that Iran will reverse its decision to limit its nuclear activities under certain conditions, suggesting the new U.S. administration must make commitments that it will not repeal the treaty and "to compensate the financial losses caused by the sanctions.” What is your comment?

“There is no question that if Trump resorts to the Insurrection Act, he will be crossing into a dangerous terra incognita with unimaginable consequences that will push the United States closer to a second civil war.”A: On the face of it, these are legitimate demands, given the violation of the JCPOA by the United States before the ink was dried on the nuclear agreement and the Trump administration's contemptuous disregard of Washington's obligations under the 5+1 nuclear agreement. However, given the existing realities of American politics, it is highly unlikely that the next American president, be it Biden or Trump, will acquiesce to Foreign Minister Zarif's stated conditions.   Also, we have to remember that almost all international agreements contain provisions that allow a signatory state to terminate its obligations and no U.S. president will be able to guarantee that the United States would not withdraw from a bilateral or multilateral agreement. There is a long list of international agreements and treaties from which the United States has withdrawn in recent years, and some of these withdrawals pre-date the advent of the Trump administration, such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Q: Does it make a difference for Iran who will win the American presidential elections? Don’t you think that a Democrat president may impose more pressure or set conditions through forming an alliance against Iran?

A: Although a Biden victory most likely will bring a degree of normalcy and predictability to American foreign policy, especially in terms of the strained Trans-Atlantic relations, Iran will not benefit much from the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Biden will strengthen the traditional U.S. alliance system and thus the U.S. under Joe Biden will be able to exert more multilateral and international pressure on Iran than Trump has been able to do.  Even though Biden has expressed his willingness to return to the JCPOA, he has stipulated a number of conditions for America's return to the Iran nuclear deal, especially significant limits on Iran's chief deterrent option, namely the country's missile system.   Biden's conditions are first and foremost designed to weaken Iran's defense system and make Tehran more vulnerable to outside attacks.     

Q:  New York Times reporters have obtained decades of tax information that Trump has hidden from public view. Do you think it can affect the results of the elections?

A: The impact of these revelations on the outcome of the November election will be minimal to none.  The battle lines have already been drawn.  Given the extent of polarization in today's America, Trump's supporters will continue to support him no matter what type of scandal Trump has been accused or involved in.   In fact, many of Trump's supporters have praised him for paying minimal taxes and they view Trump's tax dodging as part of his strength that has allowed him to take advantage of the existing tax laws to benefit himself and his family.  

Q: Donald Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court. In case of discord about the results of the elections, doesn’t the pick tip the balance in favor of him?

A: This serendipitous nomination was a brilliant move if we look at it from Trump's perspective.  First, Trump has revitalized his right-wing evangelical base and has put himself in a position to garner conservative Catholic votes in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin with their large Catholic population base.  Secondly, in case of challenges to the results of the upcoming presidential election, the 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court will act in Trump's favor if the Court becomes the arbiter of the election results.    

Q: Can Trump resort to the Insurrection Act to send active-duty troops onto American streets to quell possible protests over the results of elections?

A: The Insurrection Act of 1807 empowers the U.S. president to deploy the U.S. military and federalized National Guard inside the country to suppress civil rebellion, insurrection, and disorder.   There are certain restrictions on the U.S. president's power in this respect, but in general, the president can send troops at the request of a state legislature, or governors, if the legislature cannot be convened to deal with "insurrection" against the state, or if conditions in a particular state are such that make it impossible or impractical for state authorities to enforce the law.   There are differing opinions among legal scholars and practitioners as to how and when the president of the United States can invoke the Insurrection Act, but there is no question that if Trump resorts to the Insurrection Act, he will be crossing into a dangerous terra incognita with unimaginable consequences that will push the United States closer to a second civil war.

Q:  Regardless of who will be in the White House, do you expect a meaningful change in U.S. policies, including endless wars and interventions in other countries' domestic affairs?

A: The short answer to your question is no.  We will certainly see shifts in U.S. domestic politics and policies if Biden is elected as America's next president, but I don't foresee meaningful changes in U.S. foreign policy away from militarism and interventionism.  Biden's rhetoric will certainly be different from Trump's, but the contours of U.S. policies in terms of militarism and interventionism have long been cemented and are not easily changeable with periodic changes in the principal White House occupants.
 

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