What do Iranian Americans expect from a Biden administration? There's no one-size-fits-all answer

By Sarah Parvini, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

LOS ANGELES — Joe Biden wasn't Hanieh Jodat Barnes' first choice.

An immigrant from Iran who served as a California delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders earlier this year, she threw her support behind Biden only once he was named the Democratic presidential nominee. She wanted to do whatever she could to ensure that President Donald Trump would not be in office for another four years, she said, while also organizing to push Biden's platform to the left.

So Barnes joined voter mobilization efforts and co-founded the initiative Immigrants for Biden, working on a 50-state mobilization campaign.

"What was at stake was greater than ego," said Barnes, a progressive Democrat who is in her 30s. "Another four years of Trump would have been horrendous, especially for people of color."

In California, as in other parts of the nation, Iranian Americans for decades have been caught in the middle of a geopolitical pingpong match, watching as U.S. policy toward Iran shifts from diplomacy under one administration to a more hardline approach in the next.

Since 2016, they have seen the United States leave the landmark multilateral nuclear accord with Iran and witnessed the Trump administration's targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani last January, bringing the two countries near the brink of war.


They also have watched as additional economic sanctions leveled by Trump have further undermined Iran's economy. As his term winds down, Trump is moving to impose even more economic restrictions on the regime amid a "maximum pressure" campaign aimed at forcing Iran to come to a better nuclear deal — despite critics' charges that such policies have hurt ordinary Iranians far more than their leaders.

As many as a half-million Iranian Americans live in Southern California, according to community estimates. As they look to the incoming Biden administration to grapple with issues that are top of mind for many in the diaspora — the economy, jobs, foreign policy and the coronavirus pandemic — community members say it would be a mistake to assume that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to pleasing a portion of the electorate that is so politically diverse.

Among Democrats, some, like Barnes, identify as progressives, while others see themselves as moderates who respect Biden's more centrist politics.

The southern half of the state — centered on enclaves of Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego — is home to a conservative Iranian contingent that tends to back Trump, his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and his tough talk against the Islamic Republic. Indeed, some Iranian Trump voters continue to support his unfounded claims that he won the election, echoing some of the president's backers across the nation.


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