Former Vice President and Democratic nominee for President, Joe Biden, published an op-ed on Sunday in CNN criticizing the Trump administration’s policies on Iran. He argued that there is a “smarter way to be tough on Iran”. I’ll admit that when I read the headline, I was skeptical about the article and worried whether Joe Biden had the right policies in mind to address Iran’s growing aggression. However, he quickly won me over.
I am a lifelong Democrat and worked passionately to elect and re-elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden to the White House. Despite my passion and support for them, I was opposed to the Iranian nuclear agreement that their administration negotiated. At the time, I felt so strongly against the agreement that I flew to Washington D.C. several times to help lobby my fellow Democrats against it. I felt that the deal wasn’t strong enough and it didn’t address several other key issues including; ballistic missile research, destabilization efforts in the region, funding of terror networks across the globe, and the sunset clauses in the deal which delayed, not stopped, Iran’s nuclear program. We finally had the international consensus necessary to bring Iran to the negotiating table, and I felt strongly that we needed to address all of Iran’s bad behavior, not just their nuclear ambitions. However, when the agreement went through, I accepted the loss and hoped for the best.
When President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA, I had hoped that he would do so with an intent to renegotiate the agreement and address the failures of it that I listed above. He often touts his negotiating abilities and I was hopeful that this was our moment to strengthen the agreement and stop Iran’s bad behavior. But, that didn’t happen. We exited the deal at the dismay of our allies and without a concrete plan to figure out what happens next. None of the other signatories to the agreement joined us in our exit, and our traditional European allies seemed not willing to budge on the agreement as it was written. China and Russia had already started building strategic relationships that furthered their interests with Iran and it didn’t seem there was an incentive to get them on board with re-evaluating the agreement either.
Since then, the Iranian regime has only become more emboldened in its pursuit to dominate the region, doubling down on its bad behavior. They continued their regional expansion campaign at rapid speed. Today, the tentacles of the Iranian regime stretch from Iran to Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip. The regime continues to exert power through their powerful proxy states and paid militias. Iranian aggression has skyrocketed these past four years and we are seeing more attacks on American and allied interests in the region. From the seizing of European flagged oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz, to launching rocket attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil refineries, and the brazen ballistic missile barrage on American bases in Iraq following the U.S. strike that killed IRGC Commander, Qassem Soleimani, there seems to be no limit to Iran’s terror. Additionally, it is now confirmed they have exceeded their levels of uranium enrichment at levels 10 times that of such which is allowed under the JCPOA. As the region continues to erupt into more chaos and violence, Iran is working to form strategic partnerships with Turkey and Russia to undermine American interests.
It is safe to say the world is much less safe today than we were four years ago, and the current administration doesn’t seem to have a clear strategy on how we move forward. We don’t have a coherent plan to halt Iranian aggression in the region and we don’t have the necessary cooperation of our European allies to hold them accountable. Europe, China, and Russia have all benefited immensely from doing business with Iran and don’t have the appetite to address the problems at hand. One of the latest examples was the U.S. effort at the UN Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran that is due to end next month. In a stunning display of weakened American leadership and the lack of trust from our European allies, the American resolution was soundly defeated with only the Dominican Republic standing alongside the United States. For those who follow foreign policy, this should come as no surprise given President Trump’s often tense relationships with our traditional European allies and ongoing spat with China.
Iran is one of the biggest concerns for me when I evaluate the foreign policies of candidates. Their murderous conquest throughout the region has no end in sight, and the direct threats Iran poses to Israel’s security keeps me at night. We must act now to confront Iran, stop them in their path, and bring back American leadership to this volatile region before it erupts in a nuclear arms race. This administration has shown me they are not up for that task.
I believe Joe Biden is. Not only is he someone with extensive foreign policy experience throughout his time in the Senate, but also during his tenure as Vice President. While I didn’t agree with most of the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East, I never doubted Joe’s commitment to Israel’s security and safeguarding American interests in the region. In order to reign in Iran, we need the support of our traditional European allies and to convince Russia and China that this is in their best interest too. Joe Biden is a skilled negotiator and is well regarded for his ability to bridge divides to reach the consensus necessary to lead. He will not conduct foreign policy via Twitter, and will always consult our allies, European and regional, to make sure they are united in whatever direction America is moving in. We need Joe’s leadership to get this done.
This task won’t be easy and I am under no illusion that we will get everything we set out for. However, the cost of maintaining the status quo is the weakening of our alliances, the strengthening of our adversaries in the region, a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world, and American interests directly threatened by continued Iranian aggression.
There is a smarter way to be tough on Iran, with the international consensus necessary to force concessions out of them and to renegotiate a stronger, better deal, that ensures the Islamic Republic of Iran never gets its hands on nuclear weapons. Joe Biden will lead us there, and I support him in his efforts.