Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, the behavior of two American political parties toward Iran has always been contradictory:

  • From the beginning and after hostage-taking by revolutionaries, president Carter negotiated the release while Reagan, on the campaign trail at the time, advocated an approach more aggressive towards the Iranian regime.
  • President Obama's policy of Iran seems also strange. He persisted to open negotiations with Iran.
  • On the other hand, the Republican party has always been very strict to the regime. Reagan advocated not paying "ransom for people who have been kidnapped by barbarians", Bush called the Islamic regime a part of the axis of evil and Trump called it the rogue regime.

The Islamic regime's behavior shows that it has done many things against the US and human right:

The regime's past shows that they are very hostile towards the US, so I cannot understand the reason behind the Democrats' seemingly accommodating behavior toward the Islamic regime. Can anyone explain?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 23:12
  • @Philipp I saw that the On hold was removed and I thought that it's ok to put a bounty. Bedides I think that after editing, the question is no longer partial. I think also that this question can have more views. You can delete the question if you want. Excuse me if I' ve done anything against the site's rules.
    – user35692
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 15:04
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    @Coditoergosum I don't want to imply there is anything wrong about putting a bounty on this question. I just want to make sure people understand what you want to achieve with that bounty so you get the most out of it.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 15:52

4 Answers 4


The issue is the mis-characterization of Obama as "very friendly".

The fact that a country signs a treaty with other does not mean that they are "friends" per se. Obama (together with 4 other parties) signed a treaty with Iran to dismantle Iran's nuclear program, and in exchange removed some of the sanctions that the USA and other countries were applying to Iran.

While Obama (and others) defended the treaty (as still do Russia, China, France, the UK, Germany1), that did not mean that he showed any sign of support to Iran's regime.

While the idea that the USA should impose its values in all of the world (by force if necessary) sounds simple, appealing (after all, if we are the best then anything we do is right?) and "ethical"2, the implementation has been found to be "complicated" and overwhelming costly(look at Irak for a recent example).

So, countries sign treaties with countries even if they do not like each other, as a way of achieving their objectives. It does not mean any affection between the two, it is just a recognition that an agreement is preferable to war or to no treaty at all.

For example, almost nobody has objected to the Trump administration engaging in talks with the North Korea regime, which is far worse than Iran. And even during the Cold War, with the USA calling the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire", treaties were held and diplomatic talks did happen.

Of course, that does not mean that engaging with talks with an hostile regime cannot be used as political ammunition about the politicians engaged, either because some people honestly do not like it, or if that serves to become an attack on the politician, even if there is no realistic alternative3. So, the "Obama is friendly towards Iran" claim appears4.

A different issue is that Donald Trump has been criticized for actually praising Kim Jong Un and his regime in repeated occasions. But that is because he has gone far beyond what engaging in diplomatic talks requires, and even that could be "brushed under the rug" in the case that the process ends with a satisfactory treaty.

And, as a side note, if you do think that "respect to the Human Rights" is used as a meaningful guide for USA foreign policy, you really should read a little more.

1In short, the whole world except the Republican Party, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

2Then the old issue appears: what happens if "they" freely decide not to be like the USA?

3And not only in one side; in Iran Conservative politicians did accuse the Iranian representatives who signed the treaty of leaving the country defenseless against ISIS.

4Which gets to work well together with the "Obama is secret Muslim" and other propaganda spread by some conservative sectors.

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    -1 for misrepresenting Obama being very friendly to Iran, and the absolutely laughable claim that almost the entirety of the Democratic Party/media complex hasn't gone after Trump on North Korea. The rest is mostly unattributed opinion.
    – user9790
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 13:04
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    Please tone down the conversation a bit. Using terms like "absolutely laughable" or "idiotic" doesn't make the argument more convincing.
    – Thern
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 15:42
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    @KDog Are you sure you're commenting on the right thing? This answer doesn't say either of those things.
    – Cubic
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 16:09
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    @KDog The first sentence says that it's wrong to describe Obama as "very friendly"! Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 16:17
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    @KDog Senate Democrats vow to buck Trump on North Korea without tough deal Top Senate Democrats on Monday told President Donald Trump not to make a deal that leaves North Korea with nuclear weapons Democrats are just asking for a substantial treaty and not a cosmetic one. Of course, feel free to explain yourself if you are meaning something else...
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 16:18

US foreign policy isn't exactly evaluated based on any sort of moral calculus, it's not even necessarily rational. There's too much history baked into geopolitics for what might appear to be rational on the surface to work in reality.

For example, objectively speaking, on the topic of internal freedoms and human rights, Saudi Arabia is measurably worse than Iran. There's not even a veneer of democracy, women are oppressed to a greater degree, it's arguably even more of a theocracy, and it imports what's basically slave labor funded by state oil money. More importantly from a purely American perspective, Saudi Arabia has sponsored the groups that actually managed to kill large numbers of American civilians. Whatever the Revolutionary Guard has achieved as a terrorist organization (according to Bush II), it can't have done even a fraction of the damage to American interests as 9/11.

However, because of the history behind the Iranian revolution, the realities of the global oil markets, Israel, and an array of lesser factors, Iran is an "enemy" of the US while Saudi Arabia is an "ally".

Also in regards to your question about US political parties and their attitudes towards Iran, it needs to be remembered that any action by a political actor should be evaluated both on policy goals and the political effects of a statement itself. For example, you laid out the supposed differences in tone of Bush II and Obama towards Iran, but if we look at their actual policy, they agree on many parts. The targeting of the Iranian nuclear program by Stuxnet was started near the end of the Bush administration, and when Obama came into office he accelerated the program because you know, Obama was so very kind to Iran. Things like publicly labeling an enemy an axis of evil or calling them the great Satan are meant at least in part for domestic consumption; it doesn't necessarily reflect actual policy.

The fact that Republicans have built bellicosity into their image doesn't mean either party necessarily have significant policy differences. A major shift like Trump and the withdrawal from the Iran deal is a deviation from the norm. I honesty don't believe that a generic Republican like a hypothetical McCain 2016 or Romney 2016 would have done the same thing.


For a really jaundiced and cynical answer, it is because politics has nothing to do with right and wrong or morality and justice. Instead politics exists only for the purpose of obtaining and retaining power.

To answer your specific question, Democrats are "soft" on Iran and Republicans are "hard" because each believes that being so will increase their power. Neither party, in my opinion, cares a whit about Iranians or what they do but both want to use them to further their own ambitions.

In today's highly polarized political climate, it also seems that each party acts as a sort of reverse barometer for the other. Thus today, Democrats are "soft" on Iran precisely because Republicans are seen as "hard". I can almost guarantee that if Republicans softened their stance, Democrats would begin to harden theirs. The reverse would also be true. If Democrats began to harden their stance, Republicans would begin to soften theirs.


Any answer here would be an oversimplification of the various nuances of human nature and the perspective of each person as he decides on an ideology. So to charge in with this oversimplification I will write that differences in the approach to the Iranian issue of each modern party is one of ideology.

It is important to state "modern" since over time the parties have drifted from having more of one ideology to another. The ideologies I write about are liberalism and conservatism. Once again, this is an oversimplification since neither party are fully liberal nor conservative. However, it can be argued that in recent history the democratic party has been more liberal and the republican party has been more conservative when compared to each other.

That being said, both parties have the same goal and acknowledgement of the problem. The problem is that Iran is an enemy of the US and will do whatever harm it can to the US and its citizens.

President Obama - "Let me be absolutely clear: Iran is a grave threat. " Wikiquotes

President Trump - "Eight years of Obama-Clinton policies have sacrificed our safety and undermined our freedom and independence. ... The Obama-Clinton foreign policy has unleashed ISIS, destabilised the Middle East and put the nation of Iran — which chants Death to America — in a dominant position of regional power and, in fact, aspiring to be a dominant world power." WIkiquotes

Social Liberal theory esposes that individuals or groups that have a grievance against those in power must be supported and helped to overcome whatever is keeping them in the aggrieved state. From the point of view of liberalism it is the repeated support of the US of the government of the Sha in the 60s and 70s, the military support if Iraq during the Iran/Iraq war. The way to stop Iran from being an enemy of the US is to listen to them, make allowances for grievances, provide a path out of hostilities by showing that the US can be supportive.

Conservative foreign policy has always been one of "Peace through Strength" Individual groups have their own agenda and only the constant competition between cultures can achieve lasting relationships between those groups.

To answer your questions, both parties want to resolve the issue but from their own point of view, they are doing what they consider the stronger braver thing.

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    It's funny how you seem to take into account that there are political parties/factions in the US, but you consider Iran a monolithic enemy that "will do whatever harm it can to the US and its citizens". The only thing reasonably certain is that a lot of Iranian (hardline) propaganda depicts the US as having the same attitude towards Iran. It's hard to poll in Iran, but have a look at journalistsresource.org/studies/politics/ads-public-opinion/… Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 20:41
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    @Fizz I was referring to the point of view of government of the US. I know that the people of Iran are people: Tall, Short, Lazy, Hard Working, want to have a family and a good job, etc. The difference is the way the two groups of people are organized not the people themselves. It truly makes all the difference. Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 21:59
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    My opinion is that you're reading too much into what Obama said... or he wouldn't have struck a deal. After all, Obama didn't make a deal with Bin Laden, did he? Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 22:44

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