Few nations are likely to be celebrating President Donald Trump‘s election defeat like Iran—a punching bag for the administration over the past four years and the target of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign which has tried to isolate Tehran on the world stage and collapse its economy.
Iran has been struggling with Trump’s sanctions, which combined with the coronavirus pandemic have left the country’s economy teetering. Tehran has already been resorting to force to put down social unrest, and another four years of Trump would have been a daunting challenge.
But the president is not out of the Oval Office yet. Axios reported Sunday that the administration is coordinating with Israel and several Gulf allies to launch a new sanctions campaign, seeking to cripple Iran and make it hard for Biden to ease the pressure or re-enter the floundering nuclear deal come January.
Still, Iranian officials have remained defiant. Iranian leaders celebrated the chaos of last week’s election, citing Trump’s repeated false claims of victory and fraud as evidence of the rot at the heart of American democracy.
Once the winner became clear, Iranian leaders both said they were looking to the future and that Tehran will not be cowed regardless of who is in the White House.
Foreign minister Javad Zarif on Sunday appealed to Iran’s neighbors to again work with Tehran and reduce reliance on the U.S. “A sincere message to our neighbors: Trump’s gone in 70 days. But we’ll remain here forever,” he wrote on Twitter, which is banned in Iran.
“Betting on outsiders to provide security is never a good gamble,” he added. “We extend our hand to our neighbors for dialog to resolve differences. Only together can we build a better future for all.”
Axios reported that the Trump administration hopes to impose a new set of sanctions on Iran every week until January 20, when Biden is set to take over. The sanctions, according to two Israeli sources briefed on the effort, will target Iran’s ballistic missiles program, its assistance to terrorist groups and its human rights violations.
The administration believes these measures will be harder for Biden to roll back than sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear activity. Newsweek has contacted the Biden campaign to request comment on the reported plan.
Observers have warned that Trump’s remaining two months in office give him a window to escalate the situation with Iran, whether upping sanctions or taking military action.
Iranian officials have veered between pressing for sanctions relief and stubbornly vowing to survive anything the U.S. throws at them.
On Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani said the Iranian people will resist any American efforts to force a capitulation. “Washington’s policy of maximum pressure is doomed to failure,” the president said. He added: “Iran has always adhered to its international commitments and considers constructive interaction with the world as its strategy.”
Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in an interview published Monday that Tehran is demanding sanctions relief and hoping for a U.S. return to the kind of dialogue that produced the nuclear deal under President Barack Obama.
“The difference between Biden and Trump is obvious, but we are waiting for practical steps to be taken,” he said. “The United States must repent. This means that it must firstly, admit to its mistakes and secondly, stop the economic war against Iran. Thirdly, it must mend its ways and commit to its obligations and, as the fourth step, compensate for losses,” Khatibzadeh added.