Among all the US presidential candidates, the Democratic contender Bernie Sanders was certainly a favorite of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the prominent Iranian economist Fariborz Raisdana told Al-Monitor. Sanders — who declared on Jan. 17 that America had to “normalize relations” with Iran — is now out of the race, however, with Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee. Neither of the two remaining contenders, the other being the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, is likely to mean a boost for Iran’s faltering economy, said Raisdana.
“As far as economic issues are concerned, America will act only within the framework of capitalism, regardless of who is going to be [the next] president,” the socialist economist and university professor said. He added that there is an “ongoing negative approach” toward Tehran in Washington that will not change despite recent political developments in Iran that have seen pro-Western Reformists and moderates gain a stronger position in parliament.
In the best-case scenario, Raisdana said, the United States could export capital to Iran, but that would be insufficient because the Iranian economy is suffering from “injustice, high inflation and high unemployment.” In his view, neither Clinton nor Trump will have a “positive impact” on Iran’s economy.
Clinton, who claimed that she was the only adult in the presidential race when it comes to foreign policy, announced in January that her approach toward Iran would be to “distrust and verify.” She, however, welcomed full implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a major part of which focuses on lifting economic sanctions on Iran. Clinton described the landmark nuclear deal as an important achievement of diplomacy “backed by pressure,” referring to her effort to intensify sanctions on Iran.
She said on Nov. 6 that while serving as secretary of state, she had spent 18 months “putting together the sanctions against Iran so that we could force them to the negotiating table.” In this regard, Raisdana has concluded that Clinton is similar to Trump, because both candidates believe in the “absolute domination” of the United States over other countries. Another prominent Iranian economist, however, disputes this argument.
“Though she’s been more hawkish than Obama, Clinton eventually endorsed the JCPOA,” said Hossein Abdoh Tabrizi, an adviser to the minister of roads and urban development, arguing that Clinton and Trump could act very differently when it comes to actual policy toward Iran.
Trump has been critical of the nuclear deal, calling for an expansion of sanctions as a way to force the Islamic Republic to make more concessions, adopting “America First” and a “stay unpredictable” approach toward Iran. Yet, Raisdana believes that Trump could be more reliable as far as the nuclear deal is concerned given the GOP’s record on major foreign policy decisions. In this vein, Raisdana points out that Republican President Richard Nixon ended America’s involvement in the war in Vietnam and opened diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Trump comes from the same party as Nixon, a party that can easily change its hostile approach toward Iran if need be, Raisdana said.
Abdoh Tabrizi disagrees. He told Al-Monitor that Trump is “too risky” to deal with, whereas Clinton is more predictable. In this vein, he acknowledged that Barack Obama has been an “exception” among US presidents. “We have to take advantage of the several months of his remaining term to hammer out agreements in favor of our country and economy,” Abdoh Tabrizi emphasized, implicitly agreeing with Raisdana that Clinton would not be as favorable to Iran.
One can perhaps argue that Clinton is more predictable than Trump, yet she has insisted that Iran “continues to threaten the peace and security of the Middle East” and that the country is “violating UN Security Council resolutions with its ballistic missile program.” These statements indicate that if her concerns are not addressed, Clinton could cause trouble for Tehran, just as she has in the past, pushing for tough sanctions.
Nevertheless, on the other hand, Trump has vowed to tear up the nuclear deal and wants to get people from Wall Street to run the US economy. Though scrapping the JCPOA sounds frightening, the latter idea could lead to closer ties between pragmatic Iranian and American economists. It cannot be denied, however, that unpredictability still looms when it comes to Trump.
Raisdana said he believes President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, which is neoliberal and therefore very much interested in investment ties with the West, will in the upcoming months take a “wait and see approach” toward the US elections. He believes that the presidential nominees are the same in the eyes of the current administration. Rouhani will try to make a deal with whoever emerges victorious in November, a policy that Raisdana said will help the Iranian president implement his economic structural adjustment program in his second term.