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by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The Mullahs' candidate of choice.
Iranian leaders are aware that an American president with uninformed policies would be critical for the advancement of their ideological, Islamist, geopolitical, and strategic interest.
When it comes to current presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders was Iran’s top preference to become the next American president. His speeches, denouncing Western capitalism, advocating for socialism, being weak on supporting Israel, and criticizing 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 are indeed pure isolationism, which would be congruent with Iran’s agenda of scuttling US and Israel security and national interests in the region, pushing American forces out of critical strategic points, and pursuing regional preeminence.
But currently Sanders has most likely run out of luck and lacks delegate votes to win the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton is now the best shot for Iranian leaders.
For Iranian leaders, the first issue to examine is the American candidates' views on the nuclear agreement. Although the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, publicly and hypocritically criticizes some aspects of the nuclear agreement and condemns the West for not giving Iran more, he remains a robust advocate of the nuclear deal.
The continuing implementation of the nuclear agreement is leading to the release of billions of dollars into Iran’s treasury and an increase in its oil sales to a pre-sanction level of four millions barrel a day. Iran is also rejoining the international community, connecting to the global financial system, and enhancing its global legitimacy, which will all allow the country to more efficiently, comfortably, and freely deploy its hard and soft power in the region. It will also empower and embolden the ruling clerics to continue more forcefully with their anti-American and anti-Semitic activities.
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 working with Iranian politicians and 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."
As a result, when it comes to the nuclear agreement, Clinton’s policy scores well with the Iranian leaders, particularly with the major decision makers: Khamenei and the hard-line military officers of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
On the other hand, the second issue that Iranian leaders would consider in an American president is his/her general foreign and Middle East policy. The best candidate that Iranian leaders can wish for would be someone who does not take a leadership position on issues concerning the Middle Eastern nations, advocates for a minimal role in Iraq and Syria, allows Iran to take the front seat, permits tactical cooperation with Iran such as through assisting Tehran behind the scenes, turns a blind eye to the IRGC's role in the region (including in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen), and ignores Iran’s enhancing military capacity. In other words, the Iranian regime needs someone who would be similar to President Obama.
Thus, Iran desires a president whose policies resemble those of President Obama. Although the mainstream media contends that Clinton is slightly more hawkish in comparison to President Obama, she has shown almost no deviation from Obama’s foreign and Middle East policies.
Finally, Iranian leaders also desire predictability in the next American president’s foreign policy. This would allow them to take proactive measures and more effectively chart the regime’s long-term ideological, Islamist and geopolitical agenda. Clinton’s policies are predictable since she and her husband have been part of the Democratic political establishment for decades. Clinton's “wait and see” foreign and Middle East policy would also be beneficial to the Islamic Republic’s political establishment. She is more likely to allow the IRGC to continue its activities in the region and allow Iran to take a leadership role. If Clinton is elected as president, her presidency will definitely be viewed as a victory from the perspectives of the mullahs and ayatollahs.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist, author, business advisor and public speaker, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review (Harvard University). Harvard-educated, Rafizadeh grew up most of his life in Muslim countries (both Sunni and Shiites nations). He is the author of the memoir “A God Who Hates Women” and the upcoming memoir “The Renegade.” Dr. Rafizadeh can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu. Follow him at @Dr_Rafizadeh.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.