Iran’s pref­er­ence – Hil­lary Clin­ton or Don­ald Trump?


BERNIE San­ders would have been Iran’s top pref er­ence to be­come the next Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. His speeches crit­i­ciz­ing cor­po­ra­tions, the widen­ing gap be­tween rich and poor in the US, and the size of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary and its in­volve­ment around the world, were even tele­vised on Iran’s state me­dia out­lets.

San­ders’ for­eign and Mid­dle East poli­cies lean to­wards iso­la­tion­ism, which would be con­gru­ent with Iran’s agenda of push­ing Amer­i­can forces out of the re­gion, and pur­su­ing its re­gional hege­monic am­bi­tions.

But cur­rently San­ders has most likely run out of luck and lacks del­e­gate votes to win the demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion. There­fore, which can­di­date – Hil­lary Clin­ton or Don­ald Trump – would be Ira­nian lead­ers’ top choice? On the nu­clear deal For Ira­nian lead­ers, the first is­sue to ex­am­ine is the can­di­date’s view on the nu­clear agree­ment.

Al­though the Supreme Leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, pub­licly crit­i­cizes some as­pects of the nu­clear agree­ment and con­demns the West for not ful­fill­ing its share com­pletely, he re­mains in fa­vor of the agree­ment. The con­tin­u­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the nu­clear agree­ment is lead­ing to the re­lease of bil­lions of dol­lars into Iran’s trea­sury, in­crease in oil sales, re­join­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, the global fi­nan­cial sys­tem, and en­hanc­ing Iran’s global le­git­i­macy which al­low Iran to more ef­fi­ciently, com­fort­ably, and freely de­ploy its hard and soft power in the re­gion. Al­though Clin­ton is slightly more hawk­ish in com­par­i­son to Obama, she has shown al­most no de­vi­a­tion from Obama’s for­eign and Mid­dle East poli­cies Hil­lary Clin­ton has come out in fa­vor of the nu­clear agree­ment. In fact, dur­ing the time that she served as Sec­re­tary of State, Clin­ton as­sisted in ush­er­ing the Ira­nian lead­ers to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

She pointed out, at the MSNBC Demo­cratic fo­rum, “I spent 18 months putting to­gether the sanc­tions against Iran so that we could force them to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble”.

On the other hand, Don­ald Trump has ral­lied his cam­paign against Iran’s nu­clear agree­ment. Stand­ing against the nu­clear agree­ment ap­pears to be Trump’s top pri­or­ity as the bil­lion­aire’s son, Eric Trump, stated on a ra­dio show that what drove his fa­ther to run for pres­i­dency was Obama’s nu­clear deal with Iran.

“I think, hon­estly, the Iran nu­clear deal was one of the things that made him jump into the race…I think that was a game changer for him.”

As a re­sult, when it comes to the nu­clear agree­ment, Clin­ton’s pol­icy scores bet­ter with the Ira­nian lead­ers, par­tic­u­larly the ma­jor de­ci­sion makers: Khamenei, and the hard-line mil­i­tary of­fi­cers of Iran’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Mid­dle East Pol­icy: The best can­di­date that Ira­nian lead­ers can wish for would be some­one who does the fol­low­ing: not take lead­er­ship po­si­tions on is­sues con­cern­ing the Mid­dle Eastern na­tions, en­vi­sions a min­i­mal role in Iraq and Syria (Iran’s red­lines), al­lows Iran to take the front seat, al­lows tac­ti­cal co­op­er­a­tion with Iran – as­sist­ing Tehran be­hind the scenes but not strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion – turns a blind eye on IRGC role in the re­gion in­clud­ing in Iraq, Syria, and Ye­men, and ig­nores Iran’s en­hanc­ing mil­i­tary ca­pac­ity such as bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

In other words, Iran de­sires a pres­i­dent whose poli­cies re­sem­ble those of Pres­i­dent Obama. Al­though Clin­ton is slightly more hawk­ish in com­par­i­son to Obama, she has shown al­most no de­vi­a­tion from Obama’s for­eign and Mid­dle East poli­cies.

Ira­nian lead­ers also de­sire pre­dictabil­ity in US for­eign pol­icy in or­der to more ef­fec­tively chart their longterm agenda. Clin­ton’s poli­cies are mostly pre­dictable.

Clin­ton’s “wait and see” for­eign and Mid­dle East pol­icy would be ben­e­fi­cial to Iran’s po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment.

She is more likely to al­low the IRGC to con­tinue its ac­tiv­i­ties in the re­gion and thus al­low Iran to take a lead­er­ship role.On the other hand, al­though Trump ap­pears iso­la­tion­ist and con­verges with San­ders when it comes to for­eign and Mid­dle East poli­cies, he is, how­ever, more crit­i­cal of Iran’s mil­i­tary role in the re­gion and he has ar­gued that he is will­ing to put forces on the ground in the re­gion.

Fi­nally, since Trump is not part of the long-stand­ing Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment as Clin­ton is, since there ex­ists no prece­dence of how he will im­ple­ment his for­eign and Mid­dle East pol­icy, and since his for­eign and Mid­dle East poli­cies are not as pre­dictable as those of Clin­ton, Iran would be un­com­fort­able with the un­pre­dictable as­pect of Trump’s poli­cies, hence, fa­vor­ing Clin­ton in that re­spect as well.

—Cour­tesy: AA. [Dr. Ma­jid Rafizadeh, an Ira­nian-Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist and Har­vard Univer­sity scholar, is pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Amer­i­can Coun­cil. Rafizadeh serves on the board of Har­vard In­ter­na­tional Re­view at Har­vard Univer­sity. He is also a mem­ber of the Gulf project at Columbia Univer­sity. Rafizadeh served as a se­nior fel­low at Non­vi­o­lence In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Wash­ing­ton DC. He has been a re­cip­i­ent of sev­eral schol­ar­ships and fel­low­ship in­clud­ing from Ox­ford Univer­sity, An­nen­berg Univer­sity, Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Santa Barbara, and Ful­bright Teach­ing pro­gram. He served as am­bas­sador for the Na­tional Ira­ni­anAmer­i­can Coun­cil based in Wash­ing­ton DC, con­ducted re­search at Woodrow Wil­son In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Schol­ars, and taught at Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Santa Barbara through Ful­bright Teach­ing Schol­ar­ship. He can be reached at Dr.rafizadeh@fas.har­, @Dr_Rafizadeh]

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