Aug. 10 (UPI) — President Donald Trump’s chaotic handling of the coronavirus pandemic has seen his poll ratings plummet in America, as voters begin to ponder the prospects of a Democrat in the White house next year, in the shape of Joe Biden.
But what would a Biden presidency mean for the Middle East and in particular for Iran?
Trump used his first foreign tour as president to visit Saudi Arabia and Israel, the ayatollahs’ two greatest enemies, apart from America. At the Arab-Islamic-American summit held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on May 21, 2017, Trump denounced Iran as the Middle East’s main sponsor of terror and supporter of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, stating that:
“From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region.”
The U.S. president branded the Iranian regime as: “a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.” Trump accused his predecessor Barack Obama of having pursued a policy of appeasement to the Iranian regime. He denounced Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran as “the worst deal in history” and lost no time in withdrawing the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Next, Trump signed an executive order imposing a further round of “hard-hitting” sanctions on Iran that sent shockwaves through the theocratic dictatorship headed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Indeed, the sanctions specifically targeted Khamenei, together with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and eight senior commanders of navy, aerospace and ground forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the elite military unit dubbed the regime’s Gestapo and itself also listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the Americans.
These commanders supervised the IRGC’s malicious regional activities, including its provocative ballistic missile program, its sabotage of oil tankers in the Gulf, as well as its ongoing support for Assad’s bloody civil war in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon and the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq.
Trump went a stage further in January this year, ordering a drone strike on the IRGC Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as he drove out of Baghdad Airport in Iraq. Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis — the Iraqi chief of the terrorist Kata’ib Hezbollah — were killed in the drone strike. The mullahs vowed revenge and in a state of anxious paranoia shot down a Ukrainian airliner one week later, killing 176 passengers and crew in the mistaken belief that it was an American military jet. The mullahs spent several days frantically trying to deny their involvement in the catastrophe, before finally being forced to admit the truth.
Now the Caesar Act, which sanctions governments and companies that continue to support and assist the Assad regime, has been introduced in June, further tightening the squeeze on the Iranian mullahs and their allies. Trump signed the Caesar Act into law just before Christmas 2019. It has been hailed by human rights groups as a great victory in their determined effort to hold the Assad regime accountable for the war crimes it has committed and continues to commit against its own people. The act imposes tough sanctions on the Assad regime and individuals who cooperate with it, as well as, for the first time, on the governments of Russia and Iran for their support for Damascus.
Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on the theocratic Iranian regime has had dramatic results. The Iranian rial is in freefall and inflation is spiraling, as the triple whammy of sanctions, the collapse in oil revenues and the COVID-19 pandemic take their toll. Iran’s 80 million citizens are seething with rage at their own government. They have suffered for four decades under the mullahs’ corrupt and murderous regime and they are calling for its overthrow.
In America, it has finally dawned that the only way to restore freedom, democracy and justice for the Iranian people is to actively encourage regime change. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution demanding action to counter the Iranian regime’s threats and recognizing “the rights of the Iranian people and their struggle to establish a democratic, secular and non-nuclear republic of Iran.” This bombshell resolution by the U.S. Congress, on top of Trump’s withering “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions, has brought the mullahs to their knees.
But even as a cross-party coalition of Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives voted for this ground-breaking resolution, Joe Biden published his Democratic Party’s draft platform for the 2020 election, in which he says that he will oppose regime change in Tehran.
Biden’s attempt to throw a lifeline to the mullahs will come as a devastating blow to the Iranian population. They will regard it as an act of betrayal. Unsurprisingly, Biden’s announcement has been welcomed by an Iranian regime spokesman — Ali Rabei — who said it was a “small but positive step in understanding the realities of Iran, but it is still ambitious.”
Reverting to the failed policies of Obama, Biden says he will deal with Iran through diplomacy and re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal with the clerical regime. This would be a grave mistake. The increasingly dangerous and hostile reaction of the mullahs should have sounded the alarm bells. Their repeated attacks on Saudi oil installations and on foreign flagged oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and their recent ballistic missile attack on a mock aircraft carrier in the same Strait, shows that they have lost none of their warmongering aggression.
Their brutal crackdown, killing 1,500 and wounding and imprisoning thousands of other young protesters who took to the streets in nationwide uprisings last November, should also make Biden think again.
The belligerent behavior of the Iranian regime proves that attempts at diplomatic negotiation or appeasement are pointless. America must show support for the oppressed Iranian millions. With the countdown to the presidential elections underway, the sharp divide between the Republicans and the Democrats on Middle East policy must be given more airtime. The people of Iran are crying out for America’s help.
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.