By Russ Read
Iranian state media makes a constant point to push Sen. Bernie Sanders to the masses, but Iranians are quite worried about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump presidency.
No prior U.S. election has infatuated Iran as much as the 2016 U.S. presidential race, according to Nasser Karimi, an Associated Press journalist based in the capital of Tehran. Of particular concern to both Iran’s generally pro-U.S. population and its radical theocratic leaders are the various candidates’ opinions on last July’s Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Trump has been heavily critical of the agreement since he began his bid for the White House, calling it a “horrible agreement.” He has said that, upon assuming office, he would amend the deal to ensure Iran’s compliance and threatened there would be “hell to pay” if the Islamic Republic breached it. The GOP presumptive nominee’s rhetoric has Iran’s leaders and JCPOA supporters worried.
“[Trump would] not have the same positive and good will that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have toward Iran and the deal,” wrote Ali Khorram, Iran’s former envoy to the United Nations, in Iran’s Etemad newspaper. Iranian political analyst Fayyaz Zahed went a step further saying Iran “may turn to a military, extremist and hard-line figure” in response to Trump in its next election.
Nasser Hadian, a professor of international relations at Tehran University, doesn’t buy Trump’s threats regarding the Iran deal, saying “Trump will remain loyal to the deal since he is a businessman and businessmen do not violate contracts unilaterally” in Iran’s Shargh newspaper.
Clinton is not quite as worrisome to Iranians, but she is nonetheless a concern for what Karimi calls her “relatively hard line” on Iran during her tenure as Secretary of State. That said, Clinton came out in support of the nuclear agreement September of last year, essentially nullifying any threat her presidency could pose to the JCPOA.
What is particularly telling is that Sanders seems to pose no threat to the Iran’s radical theocratic leadership. Indeed, Karimi noted that clips of Sanders pushing his inequality narrative have been featured on state television several times. This is not particulary surprising, given that Sanders and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khameini have a shared disdain of capitalism. Khameini has a history of endorsing America’s internal criticism of capitalism, having once endorsed the Occupy movement saying he hoped such protests would “thrive to the extent that the capitalist system of America and the West will be completely razed to the ground.”