Former top Democrat praises Trump strategy on Iran, warns Biden against reviving deal

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The maximum pressure campaign against Iran is “one of the best things the Trump administration has done,” said former top US Democrat Joe Lieberman in an interview with Al Arabiya English, breaking with the current Democratic leadership’s condemnation of the campaign.

The Obama administration pursued “a mistaken course” in trying to negotiate an agreement with Iran – “an extremist, anti-American regime” – to limit their nuclear program, according to Lieberman.

“I was thrilled when the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement and began the maximum pressure campaign, which has weakened the regime,” said Lieberman, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000 and served as a US Senator for the state of Connecticut for 24 years.

Trump’s maximum pressure campaign is moving in the right direction, which is “to change the regime in Tehran,” he added.

After withdrawing the US from the Obama-era nuclear deal in 2018, the Trump administration imposed its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, increasing sanctions to reduce the regime’s funding of foreign interference while pressuring Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Obama’s vice president Joe Biden, now the Democratic presidential nominee, has condemned the Republican administration’s Iran strategy and signaled he will revive the nuclear deal if elected in November.

Lieberman said Biden – his Senate colleague and friend for many years - would be wrong to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear agreement.

“If the deal is recovered, this Iranian government will try to return to the days of the Obama administration when they were paid billions of dollars by the US, which they undoubtedly used to support their aggression in countries like Lebanon and Syria, as well as launch attacks against Saudi Arabia,” said Lieberman, adding that Saudi Arabia has been a “good ally” to the US for a long time, in a “mutually beneficial relationship.”

The Obama administration secretly transferred $1.7 billion in cash to Iran, designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the US State Department.

The payout was for $400 million of military equipment – plus interest - Iran ordered from the US in the 1970s, which was never delivered due to the severing of diplomatic relations in 1979.

Since the cash delivery in 2016, Iran has increased its interference in the Middle East – seizing ships in the Gulf, attacking Saudi Arabian oil facilities, and directing attacks on US targets in the region.

Lieberman said he hopes Biden will not “enter into subservient negotiations with Iran” if he does become president.

He added that Biden should take into account Iran’s failture to abide by rules set by the UN nuclear watchdog, incluidng Tehran's barring of inspectors from entering significant nuclear sites.

China-Iran agreement

Iran has been negotiating a 25-year “strategic accord” with China, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif announced Sunday.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has backed the bilateral partnership, which was first announced in 2016 when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a document on strategic relations in Tehran.

The two countries represent major threats to the US, according to Lieberman, who said China challenges the US economically and diplomatically, while Iran is an “extremist, terrorist regime” that is “decidedly anti-American.”

“Iran, though less powerful than China, is a greater short-term threat to American security,” said Lieberman, who is chairman of the bipartisan organization United Against Nuclear Iran.

“The coming together of China and Iran in an agreement is problematic to our relations with China,” he added.

The US-China relationship is already undergoing a dark period following Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, Trump signed legislation last month that called for sanctions to punish Chinese officials for human rights violations against the country’s Uighur Muslim population.

China has also been affected by the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran, which has sanctioned several Chinese private companies for dealings with Iran.

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