Hardline And Reformist Dailies Disagree Over Iran’s Prospects With Biden
Hardline and reformist newspapers in Iran gave divergent reactions on Thursday to the previous day’s inauguration of Joe Biden as United States president, highlighting different views on the future of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers and United States sanctions.
Javan newspaper, which is linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, carried a front-page headline dubbing the Biden administration “the government of smart sanctions.” A commentary warned President Hassan Rouhani that without adopting a “realistic view” of Biden, Iran would sustain more damage than under former President Donald Trump, who imposed stringent sanctions in 2018 after quitting the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
“In a realistic assessment, one of the most evil US presidents has been replaced by the Biden administration that wages war and imposes sanctions,” Javan wrote. “If Rouhani fails to realize that a government has come to power in America that supports futile wars and smart sanctions, his regret will be more immense than when the US withdrew from the JCPOA, and the Iranian people will have to face a bigger loss.”
Kayhan, another paper aligned affiliated with the Supreme Leader’s office, featured a commentary by Jafar Bolouri arguing that Trump’s replacement by Biden would make no difference to Iran. Bolouri suggested that some politicians in Iran – referring to Rouhani’s centrist government - were happy at Biden’s election victory because they could now blame Trump for their own failures in managing the economy.
Kayhan, whose editor Hossein Shariatmadari is a long-term critic of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and of the JCPOA, claimed that remarks from Biden’s nominee as Secretary of State Antony Blinken over reviving the 2015 deal were no different from Trump’s approach and that there would be “no change in US policies.”
“The coming months” would be bad for Iran, Kayhan argued, if its leaders did not “change their stances” and failed to realize that “repeating the same strategy they have followed during the past 7.5 years” – a reference to Rouhani’s presidency – would be dangerous.
The paper warned that the Biden administration might “lift one or two insignificant sanctions and use its media power to portray this as a major breakthrough.” Sanctions introduced by Trump – especially against Iran’s oil exports and financial sector – have sent the economy into three years of stagflation, with limited signs of recovery in non-oil GDP and employment.
But Kayhan warned that the US might return to the JCPOA only to activate its trigger mechanism, which allows for the snapback of sanctions once lifted, if Iran exceeded JCPOA limits on its nuclear program. In September, attempts by the Trump administration to do this were rejected by other signatories – Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany, and the UK – on the grounds that the US had left the agreement in 2018, imposing new sanctions, before Iran expanded its nuclear program in response.
Reformist newspapers took a more positive approach to the end of the Trump era. Ebtekar and Aftab-e Yazd carried detailed reports on Biden’s inauguration and highlighted the new president’s comment about the importance of US “interaction with the world.”
In Arman-e Melli, analyst Hassan Hanizadeh wrote: “Now that Trump has left the White House in disgrace, his legacy will linger in certain layers of the US society. It appears that President Joe Biden will try during his first year in office…to get rid of Trump’s legacy and repair what Trump’s strategic mistakes have damaged.”
In a commentary in Etemad, Hassan Beheshtipour counterposed remarks made by Blinken and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that the other side should be first to return to the JCPOA – with Blinken also saying the Biden administration would consult regional allies before taking any steps. Beheshtipour pointed out that Biden had picked for the new administration several hands with experience negotiating with Iran during the Obama Administration.
Former Iranian diplomat, Ali Khorram, former Zarif advisor and ex-Iranian ambassador to United Nations bodies in Vienna, wrote in Shargh that Biden would “try to sort out the damage” Trump’s policies had inflicted on America and the world.
This gave Biden a “responsibility to be the standard bearer of reasonability, logic, multilateralism and maintaining dialogue with other nations,” Khorram wrote. The former diplomat welcomed Biden’s picks for foreign policy: “Biden's team has been selected in a way to reject racism… his team members are rational and balanced, and Iranians expect to see this rationality and balance in their behavior in practice.”