Trump used sensational slogans to win support: expert
TEHRAN – Professor Farhang Jahanpour, a former senior research fellow at Harvard University, is of the opinion that many American voters viewed Donald Trump “as an outsider standing up against the establishment.”
In an interview with the Tehran Times, Jahanpour also says, “Trump made use of some sensational and often contradictory slogans as a way of winning popular support.”
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: There have been many alarming statements about Donald Trump’s unexpected election as the new U.S. president. In your view, what is the significance of his election for the world?
A: American elections are not only important for the U.S.’s domestic policies, but they also have a major bearing on the rest of the world. This is why the whole world shows such an interest in American elections. There are many reasons for this:
1- America is still by far the greatest military power in the world, with a unique reach to all corners of the earth. In military jargon, America enjoys “full spectrum dominance” on the ground, in the air and at sea. America has nearly 700 military bases in over 130 countries. America’s military operations extend from the South China Sea, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, etc. to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Central Asia, the Persian Gulf region, Iraq, Syria, Libya, most European countries right up to the North Pole and the American continent. Therefore, whether they like it or not, most countries have to deal with America’s global power.
2- America is still the biggest world economy and the U.S. dollar is the leading global currency. Any economic problem in the United States affects the rest of the world, as we saw in the case of the economic crisis of 2007-08.
3- America is a nation of immigrants from all over the world, and therefore she has close human links with all the continents.
4- For the past 240 years, America has been regarded as a pioneer of democracy and representative government. Its constitution, based mainly on the European Enlightenment, laid the foundations of republican governments and influenced the French Revolution and other revolutions.
5- In the current global village where all nations are closely connected through the communication revolution, commerce, culture and human contacts, everything that happens in one corner of the world affects all of us, especially if it involves an influential country such as the United States.
6- For the Iranians, events in America have an added significance as more than two million Iranians live in America, and play a major role in that country and can act as a bridge between the two countries.
Therefore, it is not strange that everybody is interested in the U.S. elections.
“In view of the fact that the JCPOA is an international agreement reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, it is unlikely that Trump would rescind it, because if he does so certainly Russia and China and even many European countries would not go along with it.”Q: What were the main reasons for his popularity in the eyes of the voters?
A: Experts will debate the outcome of the U.S. election for many decades, but it is already possible to see some reasons for public dissatisfaction with the current political and economic situation in the United States. As was the case with the British Referendum that led to Brexit, there is a major split in American society and profound public dissatisfaction with political classes. Here are a few of the reasons for public anger:
1- Globalization. Up to a few decades ago, the United States was the main engine of world economy and the biggest producer of manufactured goods. However, as the result of globalisation and the transfer of jobs to other parts of the world, and also due to greater automation, many blue-colour workers have lost their jobs. Just look at one figure, in 2001 America produced 28% of global manufacturing. However, a decade later America’s share dropped to only 16.5% of global output. In 2010, China replaced the United States as the largest manufacturing country. Manufacturing output has grown faster in China, Japan, Germany and Mexico than in the United States.
2- Protectionism. In the face of this steep decline in manufacturing, Trump has accused China and Mexico of unfair practices and of having gained unfair advantages. He has promised to curb imports from those countries and impose tariffs on them.
3- He has blamed NAFTA and TPP for the loss of U.S. jobs and has threatened to withdraw from them.
4- He attacked his opponent’s links to the banks and to big business that were responsible for the 2007 banking crisis and the loss of many jobs.
5- Just as in Europe, anti-immigrant sentiment has grown in the United States, both due to the loss of jobs, as well as the changes it has brought to the traditional dominant white, European makeup of the society.
6- Trump has highlighted the cost of foreign wars and the failure of American military adventures in the world. He has accused NATO members and the U.S.’s other allies of not paying their fair share of common defence. For instance, America pays roughly 75% of the total NATO costs, while Europeans that are larger in number and collectively richer than America only pay 25% of it. However, this statement goes against Trump’s pledge to increase spending on the U.S. military.
7- Finally, I believe that there was an element of racism and misogyny among the voters who did not want to have a female president after an American-African president. Trump’s statement that generals with many medals would not take orders from a woman, such as Clinton, was quite telling.
Therefore, the combination of these factors attracted many people to him who saw him as an outsider standing up against the establishment.
Q: What are Trump’s main foreign policy goals?
A: The recent election campaign lacked any substantive debates that clarified the views of different candidates. Mr Trump made use of some sensational and often contradictory slogans as a way of winning popular support.
From what one can gather from his repeated statements, he wants to build a giant wall between the United States and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it. He has pledged to deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrants. He wishes to ban any Muslim from entering the United States, or at least to impose “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants, and also to put U.S. Muslims under surveillance. He has threatened to discontinue U.S. support for NATO, cancel the Paris climate change agreement, and scrap existing free trade agreements (NAFTA and TPP). These are huge commitments that go against longstanding U.S. policies and even contradict the U.S. constitution. However, it will be seen how many of those threats and promises will survive when President Trump has to deal with the real world.
Q: How would Trump’s policies affect the Middle East?
A: One has really to discuss this separately in the case of different countries. As far as the conflict in Syria is concerned, Trump has accused President Obama and Hillary Clinton of creating DA’ISH or ISIS. He has also said that America should join hands with President Putin to crush DA’ISH. If he fulfils his promises, there is a good chance that relations between America and Russia would improve and they would jointly fight against DA’ISH. To that extent, it would mean a cooling of relations with the Persian Gulf littoral states, especially with Saudi Arabia that was one of Hillary Clinton’s financial backers. Putin was one of the first leaders to congratulate Trump for his victory and expressed his wish for closer relations between them.
Q: What would his policies mean for Iran? Will he try to reverse the JCPOA or BARJAM?
A: At times, Trump has said that he would tear up the nuclear agreement with Iran and has called it a very bad agreement. Certainly, some Republicans who remained faithful to him and supported him during the election and who would get senior jobs in his cabinet have very hostile views towards Iran. However, at other times, Trump has said that he would make sure that Iran abides by the terms of the agreement. In view of the fact that the JCPOA is an international agreement reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, it is unlikely that Trump would rescind it, because if he does so certainly Russia and China and even many European countries would not go along with it.
Iran has been implementing its commitments, and it is essential that Iran continues to do so and does not give any excuse to its opponents who wish to use any pretext for rescinding the agreement and impose new sanctions. In fact, under the present circumstances, Iran can use the JCPOA as a means of gaining support in Europe and the rest of the world, and also to persuade the new U.S. administration to cooperate with it.
Trump’s policy towards Iran is a two-way street, and closer relations by the American side would require friendlier relations by the Iranian side. Iran and America share many common interests in their fight against terrorism and in bringing stability to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf region as a whole. In fact, if Iran plays her cards right, there is every hope that under a new U.S. administration that wishes to end America’s costly wars in the Middle East, the two countries can get closer and can cooperate more than ever before.