Biden Defense & Security Iran Middle East & North Africa

How Transitioning to a Biden Administration Will Impact U.S. Relations with Iran

In the midst of the noise of America’s electoral drama, tensions have risen once again between the United States and Iran. In the past weeks of the Trump administration, the executive policy of ‘maximum pressure’ has escalated interactions with Iran.

In the midst of the noise of America’s electoral drama, tensions have risen once again between the United States and Iran. In the past weeks of the Trump administration, the executive policy of ‘maximum pressure’ has escalated interactions with Iran. This comes at the same time Iran’s uptick in nuclear energy investment and sale of petroleum products. A United Nations document leaked indicating a sharp rise in Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium heightened these tensions. Shortly after, satellites recorded a fourth Iranian oil tanker in just a few weeks sailing to the Persian Gulf after delivering petroleum products to Venezuela.

Questions have been raised about what a relationship between the United States and Iran under a Biden administration will look like. The predicament that president-elect Joe Biden faces is the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Iran that has been brought about by actions such as America’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, imposing sanctions, and killing Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general. It will be a difficult task for Biden to help the relationship between the two nations recover after all of these calamitous acts. 

The Trump administration planned to create economic obstacles for Iran in their final months in office. These recent developments with Iran have clearly disrupted these goals. Executive advisors went so far as to propose attacking Iran to stop its growing nuclear program. Much of Iranian nuclear growth follows Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal on May 8, 2018. There have been speculations that Iran could not abide by the terms of the agreement in the long-run and continue growing their nuclear arsenal. On the flip side, there is also the possibility that the Iran Nuclear Deal could have created a more cooperative relationship between Iran, the U.S., and thereby American allies, which would have been crucial in order for Iran to become a non-nuclear state. After Trump withdrew from this agreement, Iran’s relationship with the U.S. declined and Iran is no longer on the path to denuclearization.

Though President Trump decided against military action, tensions are still rising between Iran and the United States. These sentiments come in the form of economic aggression including recent trade sanctions. However, with Joe Biden as president-elect, questions arise about his administration’s plans for this hypersensitive diplomacy. Iran was a topic of concern on the campaign trail as well. During the final presidential debate, Biden and Trump were questioned on their approaches to s foreign election interference, especially from Iran and Russia. Joe Biden seemed to make his stance clear: Iran will “pay a price.” With the election won, however, it seems as though this may not be the case. While Joe Biden served as vice president under Barack Obama, U.S. relations with Iran approached peace, primarily due to the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. With the push for peace during Obama’s time in the Oval Office, a sudden turn to aggression for the president-elect would be a surprise to many.

After the announcement of Biden’s election success, his team announced plans to rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal shortly after entering office. The President Hasan Rouhani of Iran, even called upon Biden to rejoin the agreement. He argued that the new Biden administration should “compensate for past mistakes.” This is most likely a reference to the recent actions of the Trump administration, such as the numerous sanctions.  While peace may be a long way out, the possibility of salvaging the Nuclear Deal presents itself as an opportunity to neutralize recent tensions and work towards rebuilding the relationship the two nations once had.

Biden will be faced with a more aggressive Iran, mainly because of all the conflicting events that have occurred during the Trump administration. Iran’s familiarity with Biden and the Obama administration could gain the new president points in negotiations. However, some members of the American camp are  already outspoken  critics of Biden’s plan, including former National Security Adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster. Nevertheless, this opportunity to neutralize possibly catastrophic rising tensions is a rare moment in foreign relations. If Biden were to return to this agreement, tensions between the United States and Iran would likely decrease, beginning a positive and useful relationship between the two nations. Regardless of nay-sayers, this peace would be far preferable to the tension-filled situation that currently exists.

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By Omid Rahimdel

Omid is a current freshman at UCLA, majoring in Iranian Studies. He enjoys learning and reporting about different topics. He tries to contribute to the community whenever possible.

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