As the United States prepares for 2020 presidential elections, the ghosts of foreign interference continue to shadow the electoral process. Last month, the director of US counterintelligence had said that foreign states will continue to use “covert and overt influence measures” in their attempts to sway the voters’ preferences and perspectives, singling out Russia, China and Iran.
US Polls: Who do Russia, China, Iran support?
Mueller Report, a 448-page ‘Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election’, never established that there was a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential elections. However, the reports of Russian interference in US elections were not denied.
The US intelligence believes that Russia is using a range of measures to “primarily denigrate” former Vice President Joe Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia “establishment.” NCSC Director William Evanina stressed that Russia’s opposition to Biden is consistent with its public criticism of him when he was Vice President in the Obama Administration.
Trump has regularly downplayed the threat of Russian interference even after contradictory intelligence inputs. On the other hand, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned Russia, saying there would be a "price to pay" if it continues to interfere in US elections.
The intelligence assessment further suggests that China don’t want Trump, whom Beijing sees as “unpredictable”, to get re-elected. The Trump administration has been at loggerheads with Beijing over COVID-19 pandemic, treatment of minorities in Xinjiang, Hong Kong crisis, aggression in the South China Sea, and data security.
The Trump administration has sanctioned several Chinese officials over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims and ordered the shutdown of China’s Houston Consulate. The targeting of tech companies and forcing ByteDance to sell its TikTok operations to a non-Chinese company has worsened the US-China relations.
Trump retweeted an article published on Conservative Breitbart website title "China seems 'to be favouring Joe Biden' in presidential election". While Trump has been trying to create a narrative the Democrats are soft on China, Joe Biden has promised to remain "firm" on human rights and other issues.
The relationship between Iran and the US saw a glimmer of hope during the second term of the Obama administration when the former President started negotiations with Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani. In 2015, Iran reached a historic nuclear deal with P5+1 group which included the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.
Iran-US relations has hit its nadir after Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) which was agreed by the Obama administration in 2015. Trump ordered the killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in January which created a war-like situation with Tehran attacking US troops stationed in Iraq. The United States has even unilaterally declared the restoration of UN sanctions and extension of arms embargo which was set to expire on October 18.
The US intelligence believes that Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Evanina said that Iran’s activities are driven by a perception that Trump’s re-election would result in a continuation of US pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change.