Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, Joe Biden, then a senator, demanded that the United States send Iran a $200 million, no strings attached, taxpayer-funded check as they went through their mourning, according to a Politico report.
“It seems to me that this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a $200 million check to Iran,” Biden said. At the time, that suggestion was not well received, and some of the officials responded, “I think they’ll send it back.”
Despite this, Biden did not give up on the idea of the U.S. reaching out to Iran.
Nearly two months after Bush included Iran in the “Axis of Evil,” Biden spoke before the American-Iranian Council, calling for the U.S. to make positive overtures to Iran without expecting much in return. The goal, he noted, was to forge a diplomatic relationship between the United States and Iran amid infighting between hardliners—characterized as anti-American hardliners wielding power—and reformists or moderates in Iran’s government. In that speech, Biden suggested: “I think the United States will ultimately have to facilitate regime change in Iraq.”
Over the next year, as the fighting between the two groups within Iran’s government intensified, Biden and other U.S. lawmakers sought possible diplomatic overtures with the not-so-subtle goal of helping moderate reformists. “It’s clear that there are important elements today in Iran that believe they need a more normalized relationship with the United States in order to develop their economic and political potential in the world,” Biden was quoted as saying by The Washington Post.
However, the then–senator’s plan did not yield the expected results.
In January 2004, Biden met with then Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. At that time, a group of congressional aides, including a Biden aide, were on the verge of visiting Iran to lay the groundwork for a subsequent trip by lawmakers. But Iranian officials scuttled the plan, according to a Forward report.
In the end, Iran’s hardliners outnumbered the reformists in the years that followed, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president of Iran. Growing violence in Iraq increased tensions, as Iran, through its political and military ties, seemed determined to ensure that Shiite Muslims would dominate the neighboring country’s government. At the same time, Iran’s nuclear advances raised even more international concern.
In several forums, Biden insisted that the United States should not push for regime change in Iran but should coordinate with European countries to talk to Tehran (Iran’s capital) and curb its nuclear program.
He also voted against a Senate resolution urging Bush to label Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group, saying he did not want Bush to use it as a justification for war with Iran. And he continued to press for Iran, without resorting to military force, to halt its nuclear program.
Biden dropped out of the 2008 presidential race relatively early, but at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing held just weeks before Barack Obama chose him as his vice president, he called for the United States to use both negotiations and sanctions to coax Iran into a nuclear deal.
“A diplomatic presence would increase our knowledge of the forces at work inside Iran. It would give us a stronger diplomatic hand to play and lessen the chances of a miscalculation,” he stated.
In 2015 when Biden was vice president, the Barack Obama administration signed a controversial nuclear deal with Iran, a deal later abandoned by the Trump administration when Iran failed to comply with the deal’s stipulations.
As The Daily Wire notes, “some experts believe Iran never actually complied with the limits set by the Obama administration, and the Trump administration abandoned the deal and reimposed sanctions on the religious dictatorship in 2018.”
“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should never, ever have been made,” then-President Donald Trump said of the deal. “It did not bring calm, it did not bring peace, and it never will.”
The Obama-Biden administration also notably gave Iran $1.7 billion in January 2016.
“On Jan. 17, 2016, the day after four U.S. detainees, including The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, were released, a jumbo jet carrying $400 million in euros, Swiss francs and other currencies landed in Tehran,” The Washington Post reported. “That money was allegedly partial payment of an outstanding claim by Iran for U.S. military equipment that was never delivered. Shortly afterward, $1.3 billion in cash followed.”