In this article, I contrast President Biden’s foreign policy with that of the Trump administration, particularly concerning Iran. As President, Trump had no detailed domestic and foreign policy, nor did the Republican Party formulate a new one at its 2020 convention. Rather, it simply used the one from the 2016 presidential election.
President Biden, meanwhile, had a very detailed, 46-page, domestic and foreign policy agenda. Biden’s foreign policy may be compared to a chair with three supporting legs. First, Biden named Antony J. Blinken as his choice for Secretary of State. Second, Biden chose Jake Sullivan as his National Security Advisor, and third, selected Linda Thomas-Greenfield as his nominee for Ambassador to the United Nations.
Each of Biden’s foreign policy team were longtime experienced diplomats dealing with U.S. foreign policy, in contradistinction to Trump’s team, many of whom had no diplomatic experience to draw upon, e.g., Trump’s appointee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was a businessman, CEO of Exxon-Mobil, who fired the four top diplomats in the State Department as one of his first decisions in office.
Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken worked as Deputy Secretary of State under President Obama and had a well-deserved reputation as a defender of global alliances. Mr. Blinken has let it be known that he will use diplomacy to build trust with NATO allies, Indo-Pacific nations, countries in Africa, and extend an arms-control agreement with Russia that will last hopefully for the next five years.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan majored in political science at Yale, where he received his law degree, and became a Rhodes scholar. Sullivan speaks French and Spanish, acted as a key advisor to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State and played an important role in hammering out the Joint Commission Plan of Action (J.C.P.O.A.), or nuclear deal, with Iran that Trump pulled out of during his presidency.
Mr. Blinken will work closely with Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, to clean the “shattered glass,” courtesy of the Trump administration’s foreign policy team, led by Mike Pompeo. Both Blinken and Sullivan have attacked Trump’s “America First” strategy on the grounds that it isolated the U.S. from its trusted allies like NATO, Japan and South Korea, among others.
Biden chose Linda Thomas-Greenfield, an Afro-American, as his choice for Ambassador to the United Nations. She has been a 35-year veteran of the Foreign Service and served as director general of the Foreign Service, Ambassador to Liberia, and the top diplomat in the Bureau of African Affairs.
Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State pushed Linda Thomas-Greenfield out of the State Department in 2017, yet President Biden named her Ambassador to the United Nations. Trump did not make his three ambassadors to the U.N. (Nikki Haley, Heather Nauert and Kelly Croft) members of his cabinet, but Biden made Linda Thomas-Greenfield a member of his cabinet and, to boot, gave her a seat on the National Security Council. After Biden’s nomination, she said “America is back, multilateralism is back, and diplomacy is back."
Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, whereas Biden wants to start a dialogue with Iran about joining the J.C.P.O.A. under certain conditions. The Trump administration under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a huge mistake in demonizing the Iranian government (particularly in the person of the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei) and imposed draconian sanctions on Iran for the past four years.
Mike Pompeo’s goal or purpose was to bring Ayatollah Khamenei to the bargaining table, an event that never happened. Meanwhile, the citizens of Iran had to face economic hardships, including lack of food, the inability to buy pharmaceutical drugs, and the lack of fuel for their cars. These unilateral and arbitrary sanctions and blockades had no support from international law or the U.N. Security Council.
If another country did this to the U.S., we would have declared war on them. In September 2019, the Trump administration added the Central Bank of Iran to its terrorist watch list. Hence, no bank around the world can exchange money with Iran. This is tantamount to calling the U.S. Reserve Bank a terrorist organization. Go figure!
Richard Penaskovic is an Emeritus Professor at Auburn University. His writings have appeared in the Birmingham News, Columbus- Ledger Enquirer, Montgomery Advertiser and online by Informed Comment and Politurco.