And in an article published by the Jewish Journal on January 6, 2016, Clinton declared,
“We have to send Iran an unequivocal message. There can be no doubt in Tehran that if Iran’s leaders violate their commitments not to seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons, the United States will stop them. They will test our resolve with actions like their provocative ballistic missile test, for which we should impose new sanctions designations. They need to understand that America will act decisively if Iran violates the nuclear agreement, including taking military action if necessary.”
Clinton has always been opposed to improving relations with Iran. Back in January when Sen. Bernie Sanders called for improving relations between Iran and the United States, Clinton’s campaign quickly issued a statement, saying, “Normal relations with Iran right now? President Obama doesn’t support that idea. Secretary Clinton doesn’t support that idea, and it’s not at all clear why it is that Senator Sanders is suggesting it. . . . It’s pretty clear that he just hasn’t thought it through.” Clinton herself added that Sanders’s comments reflect a “fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to do the patient diplomacy that I have experience in.”
And in her speeches, Clinton refers collectively to Iran, ISIS and Hamas as if they are allies, which they are not.
Now consider Trump’s pronouncements regarding Iran. He believes that the nuclear agreement with Iran is “so bad,” and that the nuclear agreement threatens Israel’s security. But he also believes that although the nuclear agreement is “horrible,” as an international accord, it must be implemented.
Trump has also declared that if elected president, he would cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran in order to negotiate “a better agreement.” In May one of his advisers said that if Trump is elected president, he will consult with Congress regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran. Trump has also claimed that as soon as the nuclear agreement with Iran expires, Iran will have nuclear weapons.
Worst of all, Trump has repeatedly claimed that, as a result of the nuclear agreement, the United States “gave” Iran $150 billion, calling it “stupid” because Iran agreed to buy passenger planes from Airbus, rather than from Boeing (although Iran and Boeing have reportedly reached an agreement for Iran buying a large number of passenger aircraft) and weapons from Russia. Trump has also claimed that he will deceive Iran by selling it defective missiles.
Shadow of Israel on Iran-U.S. Relations
Relations between Iran and the United States are closely tied with Israel. Israel has repeatedly suggested that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons to destroy Israel, that its ballistic missiles are intended for the destruction of Israel, and that it supports Hamas and other groups that commit terrorism against Israel.
At the same time, according to a resolution approved by Congress, the United States is obligated to preserve Israel’s strategic and military advantage in the region. Since 1962, the United States has provided at least $124 billion in aid to Israel, and is negotiating to provide it with another $40 billion over the next ten years, although Netanyahu has demanded $50 billion over the same period.
Both Clinton and Trump will be closer to Israel than President Obama has been, and may provide even greater aid to that country. All this, while the far right is in power in Israel; the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as the new minister of defense has also created considerable anxiety and criticism, to the point that even some Israelis warn of the emergence of fascism and the creation of a state of affairs in Israel akin to the 1930s (see here, here, here, here, here and here). But neither Clinton nor Trump has uttered a word about what is happening in Israel.
In fact, Clinton has vowed that her first action as president will be inviting Netanyahu to the White House to take the U.S.-Israel relationship “to the next level.” Clinton’s support of Netanyahu has prompted many Israeli progressives to declare that she is not a true friend of Israel.
Trump has not been doing much better. Although at the beginning of his campaign he said that between Israel and Palestinians, it is the former that may not want peace, he has apparently changed his mind because Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire and ardent supporter of Israel, is now supporting Trump. Adelson is the man who suggested in 2013 that the United States drop a nuclear bomb in Iran to warn its leaders about Iran’s nuclear program.
But overall, if Trump actually does what he says he would, his foreign policy will be isolationist and noninterventionist, whereas Clinton is an interventionist and hawk when it comes to foreign policy, particularly the Middle East. On the other hand, Trump will be representing the GOP, a political party that has always been hostile toward Iran. This is the same GOP whose senators wrote an open letter to Iranian leaders warning that any nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States will not be respected by a Republican administration, about which Senator Sanders said, “My Republican friends seem to be itching for that war. When you sabotage the effort to reach a peace agreement by the leader of the United States of America—the man who is charged with dealing with foreign policy—that, to me, is really unspeakable.” Indeed, Trump has also mentioned the possibility of using nuclear weapons against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which would completely destroy the region for decades, if not longer.
Thus, despite what Khamenei believes, the nature of the U.S. administration and its political system is not frozen in time. In fact, in the post-Obama era, Iran will have fewer opportunities to reach accommodation with the United States. Even if Congress can limit the power of the president in domestic affairs, he or she is the commander-in-chief and leader of foreign policy, and thus one of the most powerful people in the world. Add to this the fact that neither Clinton nor Trump will be as interested in diplomacy with Iran as Obama has been, and we may enter an era of even higher tensions between Iran and the United States.
Akbar Ganji is an Iranian investigative journalist and dissident. He was imprisoned in Tehran from 2000 to 2006, and his writings are currently banned in Iran.
This article was translated by Ali N. Babaei.
Image: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad casting his vote in Iran's 2016 election. Wikimedia Commons/Hamed Malekpour