Analysis: Why Iran considers Biden a ‘weak’ president

“In Tehran’s eyes, Biden is a pushover,” wrote Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, former editor-in-chief of the Saudi newspaper Ashraq Al-Awsat.

By Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute

It is only one month into his term in office, and President Joe Biden is already facing criticism from Arabs over his administration’s soft policy toward Iran.

The Arabs say they are worried because Iran sees Biden as a “weak” president, and that is why the mullahs in Tehran and their proxies in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon have increased their terrorist attacks in the Middle East.

“In Tehran’s eyes, Biden is a pushover,” wrote Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, former editor-in-chief of the Saudi newspaper Ashraq Al-Awsat.

“It has only been eight weeks since President Joe Biden was sworn into office, but Iran has already tested him on several fronts. First, thousands of the Iran-backed Houthi militia rushed to threaten the densely populated city of Marib in Yemen. Afterwards, Iranian militias targeted Basra and Baghdad, and more recently, Erbil and Iraqi Kurdistan, with dozens of missiles, killing and wounding several individuals in a U.S. facility. Then Lokman Slim, Iran’s most prominent and vocal opponent in Beirut, was murdered and his body was found on the sidewalk.”

Slim, a prominent Lebanese publisher who criticized Hezbollah, was found earlier this month shot dead in a car in southern Lebanon.

Al-Rashed pointed out that Iran “does not deny responsibility for all these events that were organized by its affiliated militias in Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon.”

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According to Al-Rashed, all these attacks were “a test of Biden’s administration, and so far, we did not see anything from Washington except for verbal condemnation. This is an expected start on both sides; Iranian provocations and American silence.”

If the Biden administration wants Iran to return to the negotiating table and discuss the nuclear deal and the war in Yemen, the Saudi columnist advised, “then President Biden needs to flex his muscles.”

Another Saudi columnist, Hella Al-Mashouh, also criticized the Biden administration’s soft approach toward Iran. She specifically criticized the Biden administration’s recent decision to revoke designation of Yemen’s Houthi militia as a terrorist group. The decision reversed actions taken by the former U.S. administration of President Donald Trump regarding the Iran-backed militia.

Commenting on the decision, Al-Mashouh wrote:

“Today, we are facing an imminent Iranian threat and a lenient American administration policy toward this danger. We will face this Iranian threat over the next four years. The question that arises here: Who benefits from this Iranian terrorism and tampering with the region? Syria is devastated, and Hezbollah is dominating Lebanon, which is collapsing economically, politically and socially. Iraq is being flooded with weapons and militias of Iranian terrorism. The Houthis and Al Qaeda are tampering with a disintegrated and ravaged Yemen. So what next? Who will deal with the head of the snake?”

Sayed Zahra, deputy editor of the Gulf newspaper Akhbar Al-Khaleej, predicted that Iran and its proxies would step up their terror attacks in the Middle East in the next few years.

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Zahra said that the recent escalation of terror attacks by Iran’s militias in Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon were aimed at “practicing direct terrorism” against the Biden administration to force it make the concessions Tehran wants from the US. According to Zahra:

“The Iranian message to Biden is clear. It wants him to understand that Iran has many terrorist cards and can undermine security and stability in the region and present his administration with major challenges. The Iranian regime, in other words, wants to force the Biden administration to yield to its demands regarding sanctions and the nuclear agreement. The Iranian regime bases its calculations on the basis that Biden is weak with regard to the nuclear file.”

Zahra pointed out that Iran knows that many Biden administration officials, especially those concerned with the issue of relations with Iran and the nuclear agreement, are the same people who worked in the Obama administration:

“Most of these people are sympathetic to Iran in general, and it is not possible for them to engage with it in any form of confrontation. Iran knows that Biden does not have Trump’s resolve and strength in dealing with it. Biden, for example, does not dare to take a step like the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. Iran is testing Biden’s weakness.”

Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, was assassinated in a targeted U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3, 2020 in Baghdad.

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Iraqi journalist and political analyst Ahmed Al-Adhame said that the recent terror attack on a U.S. facility in Iraq “came because of the failed policies of the Biden administration toward Iran.” Al-Adhame noted that the U.S. administration gave orders to withdraw the aircraft carrier Nimitiz from the Middle East, a move that further emboldened Iran and its proxies.

Arabs are turning to the Biden administration with the frank plea: Your weak approach to the Iranian regime is already threatening whatever precarious stability exists in the Middle East. It is already emboldening terrorist groups. We are begging you: do not back down to Iranian threats.

Such messages show that many Arabs share Israel’s concern over U.S. and European efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. It is, frankly, the last thing the Arabs want. It will only lead to war and set back the region more years than one would care to count.

Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.