By Mohammad Mazhari

Implications of a Biden victory for Iran?

September 7, 2020 - 21:58

Only about two months are left to the U.S. presidential election. According to opinion polls, the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has a better chance of winning the November 3 elections.

Due to such predictions, some politicians have cherished the Democratic nominee's possible victory, thinking that Biden would revive international deals, especially the 2015 nuclear deal.

Beyond that, some observers say the Iranian presidential elections in 2021 will be affected by the result of presidential elections in the United States.

How realistic is much speculation about the next year's presidential election in Iran is not the subject of this article. The question is whether a Biden victory will mean the return of the United States to the nuclear deal.

On May 8, 2018, Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal and imposed sweeping economic and financial sanctions on Iran.

The U.S. administration declared that it follows the policy of "maximum pressure" on Tehran to force Iran to agree to a new nuclear deal. Following the imposition of sanctions, after a year of strategic patience, Iran began to reduce its obligations under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name for the nuclear agreement. 

The U.S. claimed that its exit from the JCPOA is intended to "restrict Iran's regional influence.” After the pullout, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set out 12 tough demands for inclusion in a new nuclear treaty with Iran.

The most important conditions he put forward were changing Iran's regional policy, stopping its missile defense program, and making some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities permanent. 

Almost the same conditions are unequivocally agreed upon by the Democrats, who also believe that Iran's power and influence in the region need to brought under control. Like Republicans, they also see Tehran as a challenging player in West Asia.

Countries' macro-strategies and foreign policies seldom undergo fundamental changes in a short period of time, and the U.S. is no exception. 

That is why the Democratic Party's draft for the 2020 elections, although it includes a return to the nuclear deal, puts emphasis on other restrictions, including the need for missile and regional talks with Iran. 

The recently published 80-page 2020 Democratic Party Platform clearly specifies most of these restrictions if the nuclear deal is to be revived.

Democrats also explicitly have stated that they will never remove the option of sanctions and war from the table against Iran.

European countries also agree with the Republicans and Democrats in following such a policy. However, the difference is how to implement these policies.

Europe has been a junior partner of the United States from the very beginning of nuclear negotiations with Iran, and it has not played an independent role throughout this process.

Unlike the Trump term, it is expected that process of pushing Iran toward a new nuclear deal would accelerate if Biden wins due to the policies that Democrats pursue. In that situation, a coalition may emerge against Iran on both sides of the Atlantic.

It seems that the nuclear deal is practically over. Even if the Democrats win, it is very unlikely that they would return to the deal without setting new terms or conditions. They will sit at the negotiating table only if changes are made to the nuclear deal, changes that would include new conditions.

Accordingly, it can be said that there are no drastic differences between Trump and Biden's approaches towards the nuclear deal. While some in Iran and abroad have bet on the results of American elections to resolve the problems facing the world, policies by the Republicans and Democrats suggest that the U.S. hardly changes its long-term strategies.