The election of Donald Trump is sure to have a significant impact on relations between Iran and the United States.
Throughout his short political career, the president-elect has been a rabid critic of the Obama administration’s limited engagement with Tehran, and has repeatedly denounced last year’s nuclear accord struck between Iran and the P5+1 countries (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States). “My number-one priority,” Trump told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March, “is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”
As a result, Iranians paid particularly close attention to the 2016 presidential race. In fact, Iran’s state-run media broadcast all three presidential debates live for the first time. To accompany the debates, Iranian television also aired episodes of Netflix’s hit political drama, House of Cards, which portrays a ruthless politician’s thirst for power in Washington, D.C.
As elsewhere around the world, many observers in Iran were shocked by the result of Tuesday’s vote. Most Iranian dailies had pre-printed headlines in anticipation of a Hillary Clinton victory. When news of Trump’s victory first broke, trading on Iran’s stock market dipped by several percentage points.
The substance and direction of Trump’s foreign policy is still up in the air and difficult to predict. Analysts and policy experts working with The New York Times have been “unable to stitch Mr. Trump’s rambling speeches and scant white papers into a coherent worldview.” When pressed on the fate of the deal with Iran, a top policy adviser to Donald Trump hinted that, as president, Trump may not fully scrap the deal after all, but, rather, will seek to re-negotiate certain terms.
If Trump does decide to do away with the agreement, he is highly unlikely to experience pushback from the Republican-controlled Congress, which has opposed the deal since it was first announced in 2015. But, as explained in Lobelog by Derek Davison, a Washington-based researcher and writer on international affairs, it remains unclear whether “President Trump outright tears up the deal or simply orders his administration to take punitive actions against Iran, which could well cause Tehran to tear it up.”
For its part, as the presidential campaign came to a close, Iran’s government worked to highlight the benefits afforded to Iranians by the nuclear agreement. On U.S. election day, Iran announced a twenty-year, $4.8 billion agreement with French energy giant Total SA and China National Petroleum Corporation to develop natural gas projects in Iran’s southwest. To avoid U.S. sanctions on dollar-denominated trade with Iran, the project will be funded in Euros. At a separate event, Iranian officials revealed that a financing scheme had been put in place to realize the sale of the first batch of Airbus planes to Iran.
After Trump’s victory was announced, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reinforced the sanctity of the deal, saying, according to Yahoo, that it “was approved by a resolution of the UN Security Council and there is no possibility that it can be changed by a single government.”