Donald J. Trump’s tenure as President of the United States has been turbulent, facing a host of headwinds ranging from fierce opposition by Democrats, to the Russian probe known as the Mueller investigation, to the President’s own unorthodox outbursts best depicted by his frequent tweets.
The President’s problems do not end there: he has failed to realize a number of key campaign promises, i.e., building a wall on the US-Mexico border (for which Mexico, he claimed, would pay), or repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare.
But he has delivered on one key promise: tearing up the Iran Nuclear Deal. Many critics believe Iran’s current vows are due to President Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); some would argue that the Trump administration with its top foreign policy brass comprised of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and National Security Advisor John Bolton, is uniquely hawkish, and overtly anti-Iran.
While critics are correct in pointing out the unique concentration of Iran hawks in the Trump administration, they fail to realize that Iran’s problems with the United States, or better put, Iran’s problems IN the United States, are much more institutional, bipartisan, and go much beyond the Trump administration.
The Republican Party is almost unanimously in favor of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran Deal.
Overwhelming support for a tough line on Iran
With only a few isolationist Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), the GOP has for years favored tougher sanctions, even military strikes against the regime in Tehran. But even Sen. Paul has at times shown an inclination to support a tough line.
Even President Trump’s soft-spoken Vice President Mike Pence favors a more aggressive line against Tehran, one that would actively sanction Iran to quench its resources, and proactively supports forces within and without to instigate regime change.
The number of Democrats in the House and the Senate who favor a less hawkish approach toward Iran is rising, but the general posture of the Democratic Party and its key decision makers has been, and still is, of the view that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a foe and cannot be trusted.
It was for this very reason that President Barack Obama failed to secure a number of key Democratic votes in the Senate during his efforts to protect his signature Iran Deal against Senate disproval. Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is one of the most outspoken critics of the Iranian government and its policies in the region.Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has never shied away from voicing his concerns over Iran and voting for sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The list is long—but there are dovish, and even isolationist voices, echoing in the Democratic Party, chief among them Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Independent senator who caucuses with Democrats) or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a combat vet who has criticized the US for helping anti Assad forces in Syria.
This bipartisan disdain for the Islamic Republic is nothing new. And no member of Congress has ever lost a seat for being too tough on Iran.
Iran has a serious image problem
With the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which toppled Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, a key and reliable US ally, relations between the two countries soured.
Anti-Americanism was one of the main tenants of the Iranian Revolution and those anti American sentiments, from the Marxist left to the Islamist right, galvanized during the hostage crisis—a period of 444 days during which American diplomats at the US Embassy in Tehran were held hostage by their revolutionary captors.
The hostage crisis received wide media coverage, marked by Ted Kopple’s nightly recount of the events of the day and a reminder of the number of days Americans were held captive on foreign soil.The hostage crisis dealt a crushing blow to Iran’s image in the United States—the name “Iran” was now associated with radical Islam, hostage taking, Middle Easter terror groups, and a bloody war.
As Iran has been losing the PR war, it’s adversaries, notably Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, continue to spend large sums of resources into shaping public opinion, magnifying Iran’s evil deeds in the region, and advocating for US action against the Islamic Republic.
Organizations such as the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) spend countless hours lobbying the Hill to remind lawmakers of threats posed by the theocracy in Tehran.And the Islamic Republic provides its foes with ample ammunition: it launches ballistic missiles right after the Iran Deal is signed and paints on the missiles in Hebrew that Israel has to be destroyed. Tehran’s other regional ambitions have also run counter to US interests. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are ever more present in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon, and in many cases act as kingmakers, making the United States less comfortable with Iran’s role in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
US attitude toward Iran will not change dramatically
No matter what happens in the upcoming midterm elections (even assuming a large blue wave of Democratic victories in both houses), or what the Mueller investigation would do to President Trump’s political tenure, US attitude toward Iran will not change rapidly and dramatically—and that will continue to be the case so long as the Islamic Republic poses serious threats to US interests and national security.