Democrats' Presidential Platform Commits to Return to Iran Nuclear Deal

A final draft of platform also opposes 'regime change' in Tehran and espouses more traditional U.S. views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, defeating the party's vocal left-wing

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
Washington, D.C.
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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the Colonial Early Education Program at the Colwyck Training Center,  New Castle, Delaware, July 21, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the Colonial Early Education Program at the Colwyck Training Center, New Castle, Delaware, July 21, 2020.Credit: Andrew Harnik,AP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — The Democratic Party’s platform for the 2020 election will call for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from two years ago. An almost final draft of the platform also expresses clear opposition to “regime change” in Tehran, while emphasizing the importance of constraining Iran’s “regional aggression, ballistic missile program, and domestic repression.”

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The 80-page general platform document ends with one page devoted specifically to Middle East policy. One long paragraph  deals with Iran, and it opens with the statement: “Democrats will call off the Trump Administration’s race to war with Iran and prioritize nuclear diplomacy, de-escalation, and regional dialogue. Democrats believe the United States should not impose regime change on other countries and reject that as the goal of U.S. policy toward Iran.”

The document further states that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which was signed by the Obama administration, “remains the best means to verifiably cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb” and that it was a mistake for Trump to withdraw from it. Trump, according to the Democrats, “isolated us from our allies and opened the door for Iran to resume its march toward a nuclear weapons capacity that the JCPOA had stopped. That’s why returning to mutual compliance with the agreement is so urgent.”

A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015.Credit: Carlos Barria/ REUTERS

The nuclear deal, the platform states, “was always meant to be the beginning, not the end, of our diplomacy with Iran. Democrats support a comprehensive diplomatic effort to extend constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and address Iran’s other threatening activities, including its regional aggression, ballistic missile program, and domestic repression.”

The same page also includes the platform’s language on Israel and the Palestinians. It represents a victory for former Vice President Joe Biden and his supporters over the party’s left flank, which has sought to adopt a more critical approach towards Israel.

The draft platform states that Democrats believe in a “strong, secure and democratic Israel” as “vital” to the interests of the United States. It expresses an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge, and specifically to the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding, which the Obama administration signed with Israel and gives it the most sizeable military aid that the United States has ever provided.

Biden, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has expressed pride in recent months over his involvement in securing that assistance and strongly rejected calls from the party’s left wing, particularly from Senator Bernie Sanders, to limit or condition aid to Israel, calling such limitations “outrageous.” The language that will likely be included in the platform is much more in line with Biden’s approach.

The platform will also express opposition to unilateral steps by either Israel or the Palestinians, including unilateral Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements. It will also call for direct negotiations between the two sides with the aim of reaching a two-state solution. With regard to the Palestinians, the platform will state that they have the right “to live in freedom and security in a viable state of their own.”

While the platform represents a more moderate and traditional approach towards Israel than the ideas pushed by the more progressive wing of the party, it also reflects some major policy differences with the Trump administration. The platform will include a pledge, for example, to renew U.S. civilian aid to the Palestinians, which had been completely cut off by President Trump. The Trump administration cut funding for Palestinian hospitals that treat cancer patients and the blind and ended support for civil society organizations that promote cooperation between Jewish and Arab children.

Palestinians protest Jewish settlements and Israel's planned annexation of parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in the Palestinian town of Asira ash-Shamaliya, July 10, 2020.Credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS

On the sensitive issue of Jerusalem, the platform will likely state that the city’s final status should be determined through negotiations, but that it should remain the capital of Israel. At the same time, it will call for renewed U.S. diplomatic ties with the Palestinians – an apparent hint at reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that served the city’s Palestinian population and was shut down by the current ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. The Palestinian Authority decided to boycott the Trump administration at the end of 2017, following Trump’s declaration that he had taken Jerusalem “off the table” by recognizing the city as the capital of Israel.

The Israel Policy Forum, an organization which promotes a two-state solution, wrote in response to the anticipated platform language: “We welcome the reported inclusion of our policy priorities in the Democratic platform: clear support for two states, unreserved opposition to annexation and unwavering commitment to Israeli security.”