Analysis & Opinions - The Wall Street Journal

Here’s Where Biden Will Face Early Foreign-Policy Decisions

| Nov. 30, 2020

President-elect must weigh whether to undo some of Trump’s executive actions—on Iran, Afghanistan and climate change, among others

A rule of thumb in Washington says that when a president is hemmed in by Congress and domestic political constraints, he still can find freedom of action on the international stage.

This rule often applies at the end of a president’s term, as his domestic influence wanes. In the case of President-elect Joe Biden, it actually may apply at the outset of his term. Depending on the outcome of two Senate runoff races in Georgia, he may face a Congress divided between the two parties, and narrowly so.

He will find much more room for unilateral action on the foreign-policy front. That’s particularly true because he faces early decisions on whether to undo a set of executive actions President Trump took on his own—on Iran, Afghanistan and climate change, among other topics. Here’s a look at the most pressing:

—The Iran nuclear deal: This is rapidly emerging as Mr. Biden’s toughest near-term decision. He was vice president under Barack Obama when the deal was struck, and has long argued that it was the best tool for blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. President Trump, of course, backed out of the agreement, arguing it merely delayed Iran’s move toward nuclear-weapons capability, and re-imposed harsh economic sanctions. Iran has responded by resuming uranium enrichment on a large scale.

In his campaign, Mr. Biden vowed to re-enter the agreement—but with conditions. He said he would re-enter “if Tehran returns to compliance with the deal,” which presumably means halting that nuclear enrichment and rolling back its newly accumulated stockpile. And he promised to “strengthen and extend it.” So perhaps it’s not simply a matter of stepping back into a deal but addressing what Israel and other critics have charged are its principal shortcomings: the need to address Iran’s burgeoning arsenal of precision missiles and its support of extremist groups.


For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:Here’s Where Biden Will Face Early Foreign-Policy Decisions.” The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2020.