Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is using stark imagery in an Iowa mailer that appears to pitch him as a bulwark against the Iranian government, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, with whom former President Barack Obama negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement.
HuffPost obtained a four-page piece of campaign literature that the Biden campaign sent to voters in Des Moines.
The mailer’s front features a dark, red-hued drawing of an Iranian tank in the foreground. A soldier standing atop the tank is saluting a row of Iranian military officials led by President Rouhani. A framed photo of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, is in the background alongside them.
“We live in the most dangerous moment in a generation,” the mailer says in bold white font at the bottom. “Who is ready to lead us?”
The back of the pamphlet repeats the same lines, but overlays them on a black-and-white photo of the Oval Office.
Inside, the pamphlet contains information and images promoting Biden’s foreign policy experience ― fairly typical campaign material. A headline in large, navy-blue letters across the top of the two-page spread says, “Joe Biden: Strong, Steady Leadership.” A photo on the third page shows Biden speaking at a lectern with U.S. military service-members and an American flag arrayed behind him.
Still, the message on the mailer’s front evokes an unusual degree of foreign-policy alarmism for a Democratic presidential candidate, particularly concerning Iran.
It suggests that Iran ― rather than, say, the so-called Islamic State, Russia, or China ― represents the greatest threat to the U.S. And it frames the relationship between the two countries as fundamentally belligerent.
The campaign’s inclusion of Rouhani ― a political moderate in the Iranian context, especially given his role in the historic U.S.-Iran nuclear deal in 2015 ― is especially puzzling. Biden is fond of touting the role he played in Obama’s negotiation of the accord with Iran and has vowed, as recently as last week’s Democratic debate in Des Moines, that he would reinstate it if elected president.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated significantly since President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that his administration would be withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden’s presidential campaign, responded with incredulity at the notion that the mailer was in any way at odds with Biden’s support for the Iran nuclear deal and opposition to Trump’s march to war with Iran. The threat of war that the mailer presents reflects Biden’s concern about Trump’s erratic leadership and how it brought the country to the brink of war with Iran, Bates said.
“I’m not a doctor or theologian, but I can’t understand how sounding the alarm about Donald Trump rushing toward war was anything but called for after the events of this month,” he said. “The Obama-Biden administration used diplomacy to mobilize a global effort and cut off Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons.
“Donald Trump walked away from an agreement that was working and unleashed a cycle that brought us to the brink of war,” he continued. “Vice President Biden has blasted that decision ever since Trump made it, warning that it would worsen tensions, let Iran off the hook to restart its nuclear program, and make conflict more likely with a country of 80 million people. Unfortunately, he was right.”
Trump has been subjecting Iran to a “maximum pressure” campaign that includes wide-ranging, painful sanctions. The Iranian government has responded by ratcheting up the activities of its proxy militias in Iraq, including a violent mob attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 31.
Two days later, Trump ordered the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran responded by firing missiles at two U.S. military bases in Iraq.
Biden, like other national-security hawks in the Democratic Party, shares some of Trump’s suspicion of the Iranian government. But he was critical of Trump’s handling of Soleimani’s killing.
“The haphazard decision-making process that led up to it, the failure to consult our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow — was dangerously incompetent,” Biden said in a speech in New York on Jan. 7.