By Mohammad Mazhari

Professor doubtful a Biden administration could undo the damage caused by Trump

October 9, 2020 - 22:51

TEHRAN – An American professor of politics is doubtful that a Joe Biden administration would be able to “undo the damage” caused by four years of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Lipschutz, also a president and co-director of Sustainable Systems Research Foundation, says "a Biden administration will try to ‘reset’ foreign policy to where it was in 2017 and continue from there."

Professor Ronnie Lipschutz tells the Tehran Times that "a Biden administration will try to ‘reset’ foreign policy to where it was in 2017 and continue from there."
Lipschutz, who is also a president and co-director of Sustainable Systems Research Foundation, also says "there are plenty of Democratic Iran hawks who support sanctions and pressure of some sort."

The following is the text of the interview:  


Q: Why do Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region try to reach an agreement with Israel at such a time? 

A: It would appear that the normalization of relations between Israel and Sunni Arab countries represents an effort to address the balance of power in the Middle East (West Asia) and create an anti-Shi'a/anti-Iran coalition with nuclear weapons.  Until now, Israel's strategies towards Iran and other Shi'a forces and allies were largely "go-it-alone"; now Israel can begin to legitimate its strategies and practices as having regional significance.  In all of this, the Palestinians are expendable. Sunni governments are more interested in their own survival.

“I don't see his policies (Trump’s policies) or U.S. policies more generally as having had much effect on Iran.”

Q:  Is the U.S. serious in its decision to reduce its forces in West Asia (Middle East)? Does Israel's normalization deal with certain Persian Gulf Arab states help the process?

A: For the past 60 years (at least), the United States has tacitly offered a "nuclear umbrella" to its Middle East (West Asian) allies (Israel & Arabs), especially during the Cold War. Israel's nuclear weapons were deployed for the sole purpose of deterring an attack on Israel.  Now, the Israel nuclear force becomes a nuclear umbrella for the Sunni countries--which should also limit their efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.  Whether this represents an intention to reduce the U.S. presence in the region is less clear, although the Trump administration clearly wants to reduce boots on the ground.  There are still U.S. air and naval forces deployed around the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, but planes and ships don't vote. Also, under Trump, the United States is losing interest in Persian Gulf oil and its European allies.

Q: It is possible that Trump takes a military adventure in the Middle East (West Asia) to promote his chances in the upcoming elections?

A: No. If there is a "military adventure," I would expect it to be elsewhere. But I can't imagine the Pentagon going along at this point.

Q: The Trump administration says it has activated a “snapback” mechanism to return the UN sanctions on Iran. Do you think it has a legal standing to do so?

A: The United States could do this unilaterally and put economic pressure on other countries, but I'm doubtful Russia or China would go along. I don't think Trump really understands what snapback involves; to him, sanctions are tools for domestic political gain.

“The United States is losing interest in Persian Gulf oil and its European allies.”

Q: What have been the achievements of Donald Trump's “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran?

A: Obviously, his policies have put great strain on Iran and its people by denying access to various goods and vital necessities.  But I don't see his policies (such as they are) or U.S. policies more generally as having had much effect on Iran.  The JCPOA was largely an effort to kick the can down the road and hope Iran would decide not to pursue nuclear weapons research and development. 

But it was the product of consultation and negotiation, which is far better than maximum pressure.  Given what I suggest above, the whole thing may become moot if the anti-Iran coalition starts to wave nuclear threats.

Q: Would a Biden victory lead to an immediate change in U.S. foreign policy?

A: Unlikely.  A Biden administration would spend months or more reviewing the situation and whether to restore the status quo ante-Trump.  But don't forget that there are plenty of Democratic Iran hawks who support sanctions and pressure of some sort.  A Biden administration will try to "reset" foreign policy to where it was in 2017 and continue from there.  Could it undo the damage of four years of Trump?  And why should anyone trust the United States, anyway?

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