Iranians 'stood their ground' against Trump, presidential adviser says

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranians “stood their ground bravely until that coward left”, Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iran’s president, tweeted on Saturday, shortly after Democrat Joe Biden captured the U.S. presidency on Saturday.

Relations between Iran and the United States have taken a turn for the worse since U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Tehran’s economy.

Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, tweeted: “Finally, the political life of a man who only spreads hatred is over.”

The election of Biden could create an opportunity for new negotiations with Iran to resolve rows between the longtime foes, including Tehran’s nuclear programme, as sanctions pile economic pressure on its theocratic leaders.

Iran has responded to Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy by gradually scaling back its commitments under the nuclear agreement.

Biden, vice president under President Barack Obama when Iran’s nuclear deal was reached, has pledged to rejoin the accord if Iran returns to compliance with it.

Biden’s idea appears to be a return to the deal as a prelude to wider talks on Iran’s nuclear work, its ballistic missiles and regional activities.

But Iran’s leadership has ruled out halting its missile programme or changing its regional policy. Tehran demands a change in U.S. policy, including lifting sanctions and compensating Iran for the economic damages caused during the U.S. withdrawal from the accord.

“Tehran sees Trump’s defeat as a vindication of its resistance policy. This will have devastating consequences for those who think diplomacy with Iran post-Trump will be cheap or easy,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior fellow at think-tank FDD in Washington.

Hardliners close to Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are concerned that easing pressure on Iran could offer their rival pragmatists a boost in the June presidential election, in which anti-U.S. security hawks are expected to win.

But analysts said the country’s battered economy, combined with coronavirus crisis, would force Iran’s anti-U.S. hardliners to engage with Biden’s administration despite their tightening grip on power.

“Iran will never normalise ties with the United States but the leadership will show ‘heroic flexibility’ in order to secure the survival of the Islamic Republic,” said Tehran-based analyst Saeed Laylaz.

Iran’s troubled currency rose to a two-month high against the U.S. dollar on Saturday, helped by hopes of reduced U.S. sanctions under Biden.

“I am so happy. Biden’s victory means less pressure on Iranians. He is like Obama. The hardship is over,” university student Nima Sardari, 26, in Tehran told Reuters by telephone.

But Iranian Shahrzad Nikou disagreed. “Do not be so happy. Biden will not bring us democracy,” she tweeted.

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