Vice President Joe Biden, participates in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN Studios, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
In a 2018 poll conducted by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) for which Zogby Research Services was commissioned, 48% of the 400 Iranian-Americans respondents identified with the Democratic Party and 15% with the GOP. Thirty-six percent were independent/unaffiliated. Nearly half of the participants were under the age 44 and 42% were from the West Coast. Survey period was from August 27 to September 11, 2018.
Things have changed tremendously since then; there have been several key developments from September 2018 onward. In November 2019, widespread uprising contesting the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic regime erupted across Iran, in which an estimated 1,500 people including two dozen children were killed and thousands more were imprisoned. In December 2019, students at the National University of Iran (Shaheed Beheshti University) in Tehran held a rally against the regime’s murder of November protesters. In the same month, the regime’s security forces viciously attacked mourning processions of people killed in the November protests.
In January 2020, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines commercial flight over Tehran killing 176 passenger and flight crew. Rallies were held by the Iranian people to protest this atrocity and, again, was met with brutal repression by regime mercenaries.
Then there was the unprecedented novel coronavirus outbreak in Iran, which began in the religious city of Qom, 75 miles south of Tehran. The regime concealed the outbreak and deaths attributed to it for weeks in order to allow its annual circus commemorating the Islamic Revolution, as well as parliamentary elections, to progress as scheduled. Furthermore, in the midst of the growing coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan, the regime failed to halt its numerous flights to and from China. Mahan Air, a commercial airline which routinely provides services to the IRGC, continued its scheduled flights to China well into the outbreak in Iran.
To list the regime’s numerous instances of malign incompetence and criminal behavior after the PAAIA poll is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that after witnessing such atrocities perpetrated by the regime, many Iranian-Americans who identified with the Democratic Party abandoned the party. Many more who are still Democrats tend to concur with President Trump’s policy towards the Iranian regime, despite disagreeing with him on other domestic and foreign policy issues.
This is something that Joe Biden’s presidential campaign should consider carefully. The number of Iranian-Americans who are detractors of the regime is fast growing and for them, Democrats’ policy of at best tolerating, and at worst appeasing the regime in Iran is no longer acceptable. Considering multiple instances of bloodshed committed by the Iranian regime, the issue of human rights violations and holding the theocracy accountable is more important than ever. Without question, US policy towards Iran now transcends the country’s nuclear program. As such, restoration of the Iran nuclear deal in its current (or rather previous) form is neither logical nor practical. Additional items pertaining to the regime’s malign behavior should serve as preconditions.
Should Biden wish to reach out to the Iranian-American community, he needs to provide them with reassurance that as President, he will not rush back to the negotiating table with the mullahs and restore the JCPOA. This action will be tantamount to legitimizing the regime’s brutal crackdown on dissidents, endorsing its widespread corruption, and approving its nefarious activities across the Middle East.
Biden should not easily fall for regime-organized propaganda, scams, and fraudulent claims to simply ease sanctions on the regime. It is imperative for him to study Iran’s demands carefully and place them in in the context of the regime’s past and present behavior. He should also refrain from taking advice from congresspersons like Senator Chris Murphy (R-CT) who took the liberty of meeting with the regime’s conniving Foreign Minister shortly after the downing of the Ukrainian jetliner and while the bodies of murdered protesters were still warm. This is not diplomacy; it is cozying up to a regime that is as atrocious as the Third Reich and as ideological as ISIS.
It is also crucial for the Biden campaign to understand that certain US-based organizations, such as the National Iranian American Council, often lobby Democratic Party politicians on the pretense of serving the interests of the Iranian-American community. Yet, their sole intent is to propagate the regime’s agenda in the US. Despite its ostentatious claims of being a grassroots organization aimed at empowering Iranian-Americans, NIAC is despised and frowned upon by a large majority of the Iranians in the US, including many who identify with the Democratic Party. Biden should distance himself from this dubious organization and other think-tanks with a similar mission, such as the Quincy Institute.
Biden must understand that the JCPOA failed because it was enacted in bad faith. The deal was a house of cards that was built upon deception and a series of “under-the-table” transactions. Individuals who were deeply vested in the Iran deal are alive and well and remain parts of the “echo chamber” that deceived the American people and set the stage for the enactment of the deal. Many comprise Bernie Sanders’ cadre of “foreign policy advisors.”Inviting to join his campaign individuals who are intent on fortifying the regime to the detriment of the Iranian people could be perceived as a dreadful foreshadowing of Biden’s Iran policies as president. It certainly sends the wrong message to Iranian-Americans and people inside Iran.
The overall position for the Biden campaign should be standing with the Iranian people and listen to their voices. Parroting the mainstream Democratic Party talking points and submitting to far-left ideals are no longer effective; at least with respect to Iran. He will need a succinct Iran policy that precludes regime appeasement and takes a tough stand on the mullahs. To that end, his statement regarding the COVID-19 epidemic in Iran was carefully and strategically crafted in the sense that it did not overtly call for sanctions relief on the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism. Not surprisingly, it was criticized by far-left, self-proclaimed “experts” on Iran policy who tend to support the mullahs unconditionally.
What is crucial for the Biden camp is focusing on issues that matter to the Iranian people and Iranian-Americans, and not pursuing policies simply for the sake of earning mullahs’ lukewarm promise of sidestepping nuclear proliferation. This an error his former superior Barack Obama made when he took a lackadaisical stand vis-à-vis the widespread anti-regime protests in 2009. It would be a fatal mistake to pursue and invest on the same failed policy twice