What a Trump presidency will mean for Iran

Trump is a prominent opponent of the Obama administration’s policy towards Iran

Dr. Theodore Karasik
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It’s important – immediately – to start thinking seriously about a Donald Trump presidency to be sworn into office on January 20, 2017. The republican front runner is pulling away from his rivals, and, with Super Tuesday on March 1, is likely to be crowned the Republican Party nominee by default.

There are a host of issues in the MENA region that need to be analyzed in what seems to be a very probable outcome. At this time, not only will the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s discretions perhaps lead to her dropping out of the race but also there is an extremely high likelihood of ISIS followers to throw off the election in the United States by using Paris-style violence in American cities. Both can give The Donald a victory.


A key question is: How will a Trump presidency look and interact with the Islamic Republic of Iran? The answer may surprise you. Trump is a prominent opponent of the Obama administration’s policy towards Iran and plays keenly into the narrative that the current president retreated. He is appealing to what can be called American economic patriotism. Trump has previously said he would be much tougher than the current U.S. president.

Opposed to JCPOA

The potential next President of the United States has been dead set against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) process and its aftermath since last year. In July 2015, Trump stated: “We were dealing from desperation. We look so desperate, and it’s a disgrace. I think the deal is absolutely something. I love the idea of a deal. But it’s not a well negotiated deal. We should have doubled up the sanctions and made a much better deal.” The republican front runner is still advocating scrapping the deal.

Trump also banged the drum on other Obama administration deals with Iran especially a hostage exchange deal two months ago: the release of five American hostages in exchange for U.S. clemency for seven Iranians held in America plus the release of frozen assets as a result of sanction lifting. Trump argued that “they’re getting seven people, so essentially they get $150 billion plus seven, and we get four. I’m happy they’re coming back, but I will tell you it’s a disgrace they’ve been there so long.”

Simultaneously, the Iranian capture of 10 sailors and their two boats in the Arabian Gulf also ignited The Donald. He exclaimed “… the Iranians like to taunt us because they don’t have like respect for our leaders, right?” He elaborated: “When I see pictures of them with arms up in the air and guns pointed at them, I wouldn’t exactly say that’s friendly”.

At that time, Trump said Iran resolved the standoff so quickly because Tehran wants to stay on good terms with the United States with the Implementation Day a few days away. The Donald asserted “Obviously they’re going to release them. They’re not going to keep them. If it happened two weeks from now, they would have kept them, and they would’ve kept them for a long period of time.”

It is quite likely that Donald Trump doesn’t like it that the Europeans and the Asians are beating him to the Iranian treasure chest based on American economic patriotism

Dr. Theodore Karasik

At this time, Trump’s attitude with Iran may play well to an American audience sick of the last eight years of Obama. But his biggest negotiation is coming up yet in 2017. Opening Iran to American business and accelerating the process based on his vision of U.S. economic prowess. Yes, you read that right, the real estate mogul cum U.S. president is likely to accelerate Iran’s acceleration into the global economy.

The next American president cannot avoid the biggest business deals ever, even of his own corporation, has gone through numerous bankruptcies. It is quite likely that The Donald doesn’t like it that the Europeans and the Asians are beating him to the Iranian treasure chest based on American economic patriotism. Perchance for President Trump, Iran is the biggest piece of “real estate” ever with immense wealth and opportunity for American companies. The billions of dollars’ worth of business is too good for the next American president to pass up.

Currently, U.S. sanctions remain in place. U.S. persons and banks are still prohibited from all dealings with Iranian companies including investing in Iran or facilitating third-country trade with Iran. That might just change under President Trump, and, all of us need to be prepared for that outcome, both good and bad. The “sea-change” required in Washington thinking about core Iran sanctions may be coming in January 2017.

This scenario between Trump and Iran will not play well with Gulf Arab neighbors especially in the current environment. According to an Emirati analyst, Trump’s comments about the Gulf states have been less than reassuring.

Don’t be surprised if a Trump presidency cuddles up to Iranian business. Overall, a President Trump will likely find a domestic resonance for his outreach to the Islamic Republic if American companies create new jobs and opportunities to make America great again no matter what the cost.

Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans. He tweets @tkarasik

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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