Why Iran's Ayatollahs may be the Biggest Winners of a Biden Presidency | Opinion

After four years of President Donald Trump, not only did America avoid starting any new wars, but no new wars began in the Middle East, period. In spite of domestic polarization, a true Pax Americana existed internationally. But now, with the possibility of a Biden presidency, we hear dire warnings that the presumed president-elect's policies could lead to a conflagration between Israel and Iran.

Israel's settlements minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, cautioned the former vice president that any return to the Iran Deal would lead to conflict between his country and the Islamic Republic. Any such war, of course, would draw in the United States, Arab Gulf nations and Iranian proxies across the region—and set the Middle East aflame.

I hardly imagine that is how Biden would like to begin his administration. But if he hopes to avoid that scenario, he should revisit his support for a return to the Iran Deal. Now, of course, it won't be easy for Biden to repudiate the position of President Obama and uphold the policy of the president he campaigned against.

Fortunately, Biden has provided himself an escape route.

During the campaign, candidate Joe Biden presented himself as a politician ever in search of consensus and cooperation. In a time of polarization and partisanship, he swore he would engage with Republicans, reach across the aisle and collaborate on matters of shared American interest.

Biden could give all that talk of bipartisanship some substance, and avert war in the process, if he were to continue his predecessor's policies. This would be the right move. But it would also be the popular move—and the opinions of Middle Easterners on the ground prove as much.

A recent poll conducted by Arab News and YouGov of some 3,000 Middle Easterners and North Africans show that a majority of Arabs reject President Obama's legacy and would want a Biden administration to take a different approach to their region.

While it is true that more Arabs reported preferring a Biden presidency to a second Trump term, on important policy approaches and decisions President Trump was in line with the so-called Arab street. Many Arabs, for example, view Iran as a major threat and approve of President Trump taking a harder line on Tehran.

Indeed, many supported the assassination of Iranian terror mastermind Qassem Soleimani. Many pundits on the Left warned that Trump's strike on the Revolutionary Guards commander was a dangerous mistake—their predictions of World War III circulated on the web. In reality, of course, practically nothing happened. President Trump allowed Iran an impotent gesture of retaliation. That was all.

Biden
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater on November 05, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Drew Angerer/Getty

A chastened Iran subsequently lowered its regional profile, underscoring a lesson Biden—who supported the disastrous invasion of Iraq, which Trump did not—would do well to learn from. President Trump was not afraid to use force when necessary to keep the peace.

But Trump did not intervene in existing conflicts (unlike Obama)—and didn't start wars outright (unlike George W. Bush). While critics might dismiss Trump's "America First" as rhetoric in search of a policy, or as a short-sighted and ill-conceived approach, the record speaks for itself.

Not only have there been no new wars in the Middle East since Trump took office, but ISIS has been crushed, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, senior al-Qaeda officials have been wiped out and we are on the verge of a deal to exit Afghanistan and America's longest war. Making these moves took courage.

Perhaps none more so, as it turns out, than the decision to oversee an unprecedented and broad realignment of regional forces, such that Israel has achieved normalization with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan. That would not have happened had President Trump not made clear to Teheran his zero-tolerance policy for terror.

Freed of the fear of Iranian irredentism, peace has blossomed across the region, with Arabs and Jews sitting down together in ways not even Barack Obama, with his much-vaunted address to the Muslim world from Cairo, could have accomplished. That's the good news a President Biden would inherit.

Would he squander it all for a nostalgic adherence to a failed philosophy?

Let us hope Biden does not return America to the inadequate Iran Deal, setting the region back on a path to war. Such a conflagration would harm Americans, Israelis, Arabs and the Iranian people themselves, doomed to conflict by a government that does not represent them.

Is that what Joe Biden wants?

Biden has said, time and again, that he is willing to reach across the aisle, learn from and work with Republicans. If he's a man of his word, he should be willing to learn from and work with the legacy of President Trump. The security of America and its allies depends on it.

Dr. Maurizio Geri is a former analyst on MENA/Africa at NATO Allied Command Transformation. He has also worked as an analyst for the Italian Defense General Staff and has 20 years' experience in research and civilian operations on peace and security, international order, democratization, human rights and collective defense (particularly in the Middle East & North Africa).

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.