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Trump and Biden, two different takes on Iran

Hazem Saghieh

Published: Updated:

Is it wrong for one to support Biden’s policies everywhere yet favor Trump’s when it comes to Iran? I think that it is okay to do that. As a matter of fact, there are staggering differences between the policies of the two presidents and administrations regarding the US, international relations, the environment, globalization, the North Atlantic League, taxation on the rich, race and gender issues, diversity, human, immigrants, and refugees’ rights, international politics, institutions, diplomacy, and organizations, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and decision-making in general.

So why is Iran any different?

A handout picture made available by the supreme leader office shows, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressing nation in Tehran on July 31 2020. (AFP)
A handout picture made available by the supreme leader office shows, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressing nation in Tehran on July 31 2020. (AFP)

Simply because Iran is an exception. Tehran is not the sole source of evil in the world, but it is the source of the most dangerous and direct evil. It is the only place where an extremely oppressive and deeply disturbing imperial project is underway, to shake not political regimes, but the nature and order of things. In a way that would extend its influence, Iran is aiming to link several Arab countries across borders and sovereign nations, and cause destructive civil, sectarian, and ethnic conflicts throughout the region. On top of this, Iran's issue goes beyond nuclear weapons to missiles, explosives, pistols, knives, and any arms that can wreak havoc.

One might say that China and Russia are also sponsoring imperial and expansionist projects, which is correct. However, the two countries abide by international standards and have a vested interest in global economic stability, especially China, which recently portrayed itself before, during, and after Davos as a pioneer of globalization. Iran, on the other hand, only opens its mouth to threaten the economic and oil interests of its neighbors. Moreover, China and Russia have neighboring countries that are weaker than them, but which have enough weight and influence to earn respect, i.e., Germany and Poland for Russia, and Japan and Vietnam for China. In the Middle East, Erdogan’s Turkey is unable and uninterested to fulfill this role. The situation is also discouraging in the general Arab scene in this era of revolutions and civil strife fueled by Iranian interferences.

Russia and China, both members of the United Nations Security Council, have differently strong economies, as well as rich cultures and political weights, which are expansion factors that alleviate them above mere destruction. Iran could have been like them with its ancient civilization and oil wealth, had it not been for the Khomeinist regime that squandered them.

More importantly, Tehran’s evil is ideologized, unlike Moscow and Beijing which have abandoned theocratic rule. The Iranian evil resembles the North Korean one, with the difference being that the latter, despite its theatrical nuclear ambitions, is contained within its borders.

A few days ago marked the 42nd anniversary of the Khomeini revolution, but Iran has not progressed an inch ever since, unlike other countries that advanced tremendously within a similar span of time. In 1959, i.e., 42 years after its revolution, Russia was going through a phase of relative Khrushchevist openness, three years after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party that denounced Stalin and Stalinism. In 1991, i.e. 42 years after its revolution, China had Jiang Zemin announcing what he called the "socialist market economy" and implementing Deng Xiaoping’s reforms. In 2017, i.e. 42 years after the fall of Saigon in 1975, Vietnam has come a long way in opening up to the world which started early in 1986.

Iran is clinging to immaturity and perpetual adolescence, and we know that perpetual adolescents are a danger to themselves and others. People who opposed Iran ended up miserable: Abolhassan Banisadr is in exile, Mohammad Khatami is kept in the dark, and Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are under house arrest.

As a typical adolescent, Iran did not respond to the openness signals sent by the Biden administration and did not show any willingness to meet halfway. Instead, it escalated the situation everywhere it could and boasted with its repeated vulgar slogans of “victory.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (L) and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris in Delaware. (AFP)
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (L) and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris in Delaware. (AFP)

But why wouldn’t it? In the Biden administration, some seem to love perpetual adolescents and do not consider their actions to be evil. Today, the US’s appeasement policy toward Iran has a few symbols in the Biden administration, namely Robert Malle who handles ties with Tehran and is described as “understanding” towards Assad, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran; and Philip Gordon, advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris, who implies that external interference is harmful to the region and its people. Malle represents populist leftism, while Gordon represents Kissingerian realism turned leftist. The practical conclusion that the two agree on is that this region deserves its fate; they believe that Khomeinist Iran is our fate and a source of wealth for us that the US is blocking.

Trump was undeniably better for both us and Iran.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

Read more:

Biden, the Gulf, and Iran

Did Tehran set its hopes on a Trump victory?

Iran awaiting Biden, when the illusion shatters

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.