Trump will soon realize he cannot reverse all previous policies: Georgetown professor
TEHRAN - Like all his predecessors President-elect Donald Trump will soon find out that it is impossible to undo all policies followed by the previous administrations, a professor of political science from Georgetown University says.
"As a general rule, presidents soon realize that they cannot wipe the slate clean and reverse all previous policies," Shireen Tahmaasb Hunter tells the Tehran Times.
Hunter also "If Trump improves relations with Russia and cooperates with it in solving the Syrian crisis, this would weaken Saudi position in the Middle East."
Following is the text the interview:
Q: What the Trump administration’s foreign policy will look like in the Middle East?
A: It is too early to predict what the United States’ foreign policy will look like under the Trump Presidency. As a general rule, presidents soon realize that they cannot wipe the slate clean and reverse all previous policies. Doing so could incur serious costs. Donald Trump, too, is likely to realize that reversing all previous American policies and commitments, such as those to NATO and other US allies like Japan will not be easy. The same to some extent will be true of the Middle East, especially as far as Israel is concerned. On other Middle East issues, Trump’s instinct would be to reduce the risk of American military engagement, especially on behest of regional states. Thus Trump will be less willing to support Saudi Arabia’s regional ambitions. But he will not abandon it either.
Regarding Iran, much will depend on who Trump picks as his secretary of state. Some names that are mentioned such as, Senator Bob Corker, Newt Gingrich, and John Bolton are all very anti-Iran. For example, John Bolton supported military action against Iran and was against JPCOA. He is also a staunch supporter of Israel. Trump also is concerned about Islamic extremism. Although Iran is not like IS or Al Qaeda, many see its revolutionary Islamic ideology as radical and against Western ethos.
However, if Iran were to be willing to talk to America, I believe Trump would be responsive, especially if he saw economic and trade benefits for America in dealing with Iran.
In general problems in U.S.-Iran relations are structural and would not change with changing U.S. administrations.Q: What is your prediction of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia during Trump's presidency?
A: I do not foresee significant changes in U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia. However, as I noted earlier, he would not be responsive to Saudi views of regional developments. If Trump improves relations with Russia and cooperates with it in solving the Syrian crisis, this would weaken Saudi position in the Middle East. However, this would also undermine Iran’s influence there. In general a U.S.-Russian cooperation in the Middle East would reduce the influence of regional players, including Iran.
Q: Trump first vowed to rip up the JCPOA. Then he said he would renegotiate the terms of the deal. What do you think of him?
A: Trump’s attitude on JCPOA would depend on the direction in which Iran’s relations with America moves. He has said that he would talk to anyone who is willing to talk to America. But he would be less tolerant of certain Iranian provocations such as the capture of American sailors and showing them bound and kneeling. The same applies to sanctions. However, some sanctions such as those under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ISLA) depend on the Congress.
Q: On the whole, how do you evaluate Trump's foreign policy towards Iran?
A: The main problems in U.S.-Iran relations which are related to Iran’s anti-American stands, plus the animosity of significant portion of American political class towards Iran, including in the Republican Party, will remain. Therefore, U.S.-Iran relations will not improve under Trump. Meanwhile, a Trump administration will be less tolerant of some of Iran’s activities than Obama has been. In general problems in U.S.-Iran relations are structural and would not change with changing U.S. administrations.