Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
BERNIE Sanders would have been Iran’s top preference 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 long-term 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.
[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 Iranian-American 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.firstname.lastname@example.org, @Dr_Rafizadeh]