The current U.S. president has made life decidedly difficult for the Islamic Republic. But would a Biden victory really do much to benefit Iran's ailing regime?
Much of Iran's ruling class is hoping for the defeat of U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration has been particularly hostile toward Iran's clerical regime.
The country's reformist media is also hoping for a Democratic win, and openly so. But according to officials cited by the Reuters news agency, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may also prefer Senator Joseph Biden, if only to salvage the 2015 nuclear pact with the great powers, rejected by the Trump administration.
Iranian officials like the head of the Atomic Energy Organization view the accord as close to its demise, while hardline supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei have derided it as a "rotting corpse" and want it "burned." Khamenei himself has cautioned them that it might well serve Iran's interests. But he also said recently that "we know how to burn it" if needs be.
Biden, like most Democrats, backs the pact, which is ultimately better for Iran more than having to endure harsh sanctions. And yet, there are also people in Iran who believe Biden would be a greater threat to Iran than Trump, as he would revive multilateral mechanisms and bring European powers on board to pressure the regime.
Some officials fear that with or without EU support, the United States has enough clout to pressure the regime. Legislator Ali Alizadeh, a member of the parliamentary National Security Committee, says the United States, despite opposition from other powers, will likely implement several Security Council resolutions, including the important Resolution 1929, which would impose further sanctions.
There is no telling if Biden will be the president regime lobbyists imagine he will be.
Trump is warning voters that Biden will be weak with enemy powers like Iran, Russia and China, and says Iran's leaders are looking forward to a replay of the Obama administration, when they pocketed millions in frozen Iranian monies repaid with the nuclear pact.
There is no telling, of course, if Biden will be the president Iranian officials and regime lobbyists — not to mention leftists worldwide and the Europeans — imagine or hope he will be. The mere possibility of a more "benign" U.S. president may even serve the Republicans in the election campaign.
Iran's regime, in the meantime, is in such a poor state that not even its allies China and Russia can stop the slide. Biden might not be able to either, supposing he might want to. Iran's refusal to adhere to anti-terrorism and money-laundering mechanisms have meant further isolation and more restrictions on its ailing economy.
A deputy-head of Iran's Trade Chamber, Pedram Soltani, says that Russian banks will no longer finance any transaction involving Iran, even with rubles. This was in spite of Iran and Russia announcing in 2018 that they had agreed on pursuing joint financial and banking activities without use of U.S. dollars.
Joe Biden at the presidential debate last September — Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Pool/CNP/ZUMA
The point is that no U.S. president, Biden or otherwise, can overlook Iran's litany of criminal actions: from the violent suppression of dissent to the torture and execution of opponents, cyber attacks abroad, aiding and financing militias, shooting down a passenger plane or threatening shipping in the Persian Gulf..
Biden, on Twitter, denounced the recent execution of jailed wrestler Navid Afkari, and wants Iran to release other political prisoners. And while the Democrats, European states or Russia and China may oppose more sanctions, their support will not go much further than political statements. Since 2018, the United States has managed to impose unilateral sanctions on Iran, and it looks likely to do so this year as well.
Some in Tehran believe that if Iran can survive Trump, it will have earned itself immunity, like a patient or an evolved microbe. Others believe the Trump administration has harmed its economy so much that Iran cannot hope to recover the wealth and influence the nuclear pact briefly gave it.
With a withering of Iran's diplomatic sway and fears of renewed protests inside the country, there is talk in Tehran of the Revolutionary guards taking power. And if accusations by reformist politicians are to be believed, that, in fact, is what their conservative opponents want.