Guest post by Goudarz Eghtedari, Ph.D.
NIAC is a non-profit, non-partisan 501 c(3), and therefore does not endorse candidates for political office. The following article should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any candidate for any office, and reflects solely the personal opinion of the author.
By the time you read this, you might have already heard who the actual VP is on Senator Obama’s ticket. And I’ll bet a dollar to a doughnut that there is a good chance that my phone will ring early morning, like two million other phones to say that Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for the Vice Presidency of the United States of America.
In a speech before an event sponsored by the American Iranian Council in March 2002, Biden gave his prescription for U.S.-Iran relations. The address, later entered into the Congressional Record, offered a five-step program for U.S. policy to improve relations with Iran. Biden said the United States should allow non-governmental organizations to support a range of civil society and democracy building activities in Iran; continue to work with Tehran on matters of mutual interest; should go along with Iran’s bid to join the World Trade Organization; should work to “indirectly assist” the Tehran regime in the fields of refugees and anti-narcotics efforts; and should encourage citizen exchanges with Iran.
Back in 2004, Biden held a high-level, 90-minute meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, which took place during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Of that unprecedented meeting, IRNA, the state Iranian news agency, reported Biden “stressed the importance of Iran and the role which it can play in the sensitive and volatile region” and said “he hoped the existing problems between the Islamic Republic of Iran and America would be removed someday.”
After expressing concern about Tehran’s nuclear intentions, Biden reportedly told Kharrazi he also is urging his own government to rethink its positions. “You have to grow up, and my administration has to grow up, with all due respect, and find out if there is any common ground,” the Senator said. “We are on the course of unintended consequences.” Biden criticized Bush’s unwillingness to rule out an armed response, according to the report.
Today these words seem very reasonable and not too controversial, but back in 2004 it required a whole lot more guts.
Early in 2005, Biden was cited by Boston Globe columnist H.D.S. Greenway, who wrote that President Bush’s rhetoric about freedom and specific references to Iran are making people wonder if Tehran will be the next target, after Iraq. Iran’s historical nightmare is foreign intervention, he asserted, whether it be by the Soviets and British in the past, or the American coup against a democratically elected government in the 1950s. With American armies on their borders in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with Bush calling them part of an ”axis of evil,” some believe that nuclear weapons have become an emotional necessity for Iranians. “Senator Joseph Biden said that even if Iran was a full democracy like India, it would want nuclear capability, like India. What the world needed to address was Iran’s emotional needs, he said, with a nonaggression pact.” The columnist added that the U.S. and Europe might not succeed in preventing an Iranian nuclear bomb “unless they are willing to address Iran’s nightmares and guarantee its safety. But that runs contrary to the reigning theology in Washington that divides the world into good and evil, and believes in the benefits of using force.”
In February of 2005 right when the Iran-EU negotiations had reached a stalemate, Biden said the Bush administration, which says it does not rule out any option to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, had to be willing to sign on to a “genuine nonaggression pact.” “This is a case where we’re remaining to sit on the sidelines,” Biden said. “The three European countries that are negotiating with the Iranians are saying, ‘Look, we’ve got to get in the deal with them. We can’t just sit on the sidelines.”‘
He criticized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for saying the U.S. might not sign on to a deal even if Iran promised to eschew missiles and nuclear weapons in a verifiable way. Shortly after those comments Iran and EU stopped the negotiations and few months later when Khatami was ready to transfer the office to Ahmadinejad, Iranian party started the uranium enrichment activities.
Later in December of 2007 in a posting to Huffington-Post Joe Biden wrote: “War with Iran is not just a bad option. It would be a disaster. We’re talking about a country with nearly three times the population of Iraq – 70 million people – and infinitely more problems waiting for us if we attack. The regime is unpopular, but it has millions of fervent supporters it will mobilize for war. If you thought going to war with Iraq would be a “cakewalk” maybe that wouldn’t deter you. But if you are a part of the reality-based community, it should.”
If Iranian Americans all across the country wake up tomorrow to that text message, I would bet that most would consider it pretty good news!