US elections 2020

Iran takes cautious line on Biden's incoming White House team

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. On Sunday, Rouhani called on President-elect Joe Biden to "compensate for past mistakes" and return the U.S. to Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. On Sunday, Rouhani called on President-elect Joe Biden to "compensate for past mistakes" and return the U.S. to Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP) AP

Sworn enemies for over 40 years, Iran and the United States have been in periodic hostile stand-offs since June 2019, with tensions high over the international nuclear agreement reached in Vienna in 2015. Will a Biden presidency improve relations?

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“The future US government now has an opportunity to make up for past mistakes and return to the path of adhering to international commitments and respect for international law,” President Hassan Rohani said, according to an official statement.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump unilaterally denounced the Vienna pact in 2018 and initiated a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran with economic sanctions that plunged the Iranian economy into a violent recession.

An Iranian man walks past a mural painted on the outer walls of the former American embassy in Tehran, as the US awaits the final results of the presidential election.
An Iranian man walks past a mural painted on the outer walls of the former American embassy in Tehran, as the US awaits the final results of the presidential election. AFP

In response, Tehran has since May 2019 started to slowly put into motion the re-development of its nuclear-related industry, freeing itself from most of the key commitments made in Vienna.

During his campaign, Biden hinted that if he were to be elected America’s new president, Washington could reintegrate the United States into the Vienna Accord.

Mistaken policy

“The harmful and mistaken policy of the Trump government over the past three years has not only been condemned by people around the world, but has also been opposed by its own people, especially in the election,” said Rohani, according to the statement released by the Iranian presidency.

“The Iranian people, by their heroic resistance against the economic war imposed by Washington, proved that the American policy of maximum pressure was doomed to failure,” he added.

So far, Biden has not indicated how he hopes to undo the damage caused by the US withdrawal from the Vienna agreement.

'Masked enemy'

In recent weeks, the authorities in Tehran have reiterated that there is no question that the United States can rejoin this pact without having first compensated Iran for the damage caused by the US withdrawal and subsequent sanctions.

“The world is watching whether the new American leaders will abandon the disastrous and illegal harassment policy of the outgoing regime,” Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Twitter account.

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