A Professor of International Affairs Dane Rowlands believes that President Trump has not any strong views about Iran or Iranians, and his policies are all electoral politics.
He says in an exclusive interview with ILNA news agency that President Trump is all about disruption, opposing anything that President Obama did, and rejecting years of U.S. policy positions. He referrers to Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) and adding “If President Trump is re-elected; the JCPOA will continue to be in trouble.” Dane Rowlands received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Toronto and is currently the Paterson Professor of International Affairs at Carleton University. He teaches and conducts research on international development, the IMF, conflict management, and migration.
Here you can read his full interview with the former director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs:
Q: Despite US threats, Iran sent flotilla of five fuel tankers to Venezuela and the Iranian government has announced that they are prepared to send more oil. In your opinion, Can Iran's action increase political tensions between the two countries?
A: Personally I find the current Venezuelan government highly objectionable and incompetent and President Maduro unfit for his office. The fact that a country with one of the largest proven oil reserves in the world is unable to meet its own needs and needs to import oil is a sad indictment of its incompetence. However, all countries have the sovereign right to pursue their foreign policy objectives in a peaceful manner, and so if Iran wishes to send oil to assist Venezuela, that is Iran’s decision to make. There is a humanitarian disaster in Venezuela, caused primarily by government incompetence and exacerbated by foreign sanctions. My preference would be for Venezuelans to receive humanitarian assistance, but in a manner that encourages the government to step down and hold free and fair elections. Whether I think the oil transfer is a good thing depends on the balance between helping average Venezuelans on the one hand, and helping the current Venezuelan government stay in power, on the other.
Q: Iranian media are hailing fuel shipments to Venezuela as a victory. Can we say transferring oil to Venezuela was a defeat for the United States?
A: It could be seen as a defeat for the United States, though not a very severe one. In fact the longer the crisis goes on, the happier the current U.S. administration is likely to be; in that sense, it is more problematic potentially for Iran, as it will hand President Trump a political win by having a regional crisis to deflect attention too and with which to flex American power. Essentially the U.S. and President Trump cannot lose in Venezuela, as the worst-case scenario is not so bad for them since, in reality, what happens in Venezuela is no longer very important strategically, especially since it oil production has collapsed and oil prices are low. The upside of the Venezuelan crisis is quite good for the U.S. and President Trump since a solution that gets rid of President Maduro would be held up as a foreign policy success, and the continuation of the crisis gives President Trump an excuse to be tough on a regional crisis and deflect attention from domestic problems. The only real losers here are regular Venezuelans.
Q: The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement is breaking apart. How much longer will the Iran deal last under Trump?
A: Unfortunately the JCPOA’s future probably rests in the hands of the U.S. electorate in November. If President Trump is re-elected, the JCPOA will continue to be in trouble and, for all intents and purposes, will be ineffective from the perspectives of all parties. If President Trump loses the election, presumably to Biden, then there would likely be a good chance that the JCPOA would be rejuvenated.
Q: The US sanctions having a damaging economic and business impact, affecting Iranian people more than the government. Trump's policy to impose sanctions against Iran is not Trump's enmity with the Iranian people?
A: I do not think that President Trump has any strong views about Iran or Iranians, and he has no fundamental enmity towards the, his policies are all electoral politics. If President Obama had been very hard on Iran and imposed harsh sanctions, President Trump would have tried to befriend Iran and been very easy on Iran. The fact that he gets to antagonize the Europeans and the foreign policy establishment in Washington is an added bonus for him. President Trump is all about disruption, opposing anything that President Obama did, and rejecting years of U.S. policy positions. There is no strategy here, and there is no principle, it is simply electoral politics for President Trump, and a desire to appear to be against the American political establishment.
Q: Some diplomats say the United States would likely struggle to get Iranian allies Russia and China to allow an arms embargo extension. Could the Trump administration's snapback plans succeed?
A: The U.S. will use any policy or instrument it can to harm Iran now, including arms embargoes, economic embargoes, and other sanctions. It will do so regardless of any international agreement or framework within which such activities could be either encouraged or discouraged. So the U.S. will try to persuade or coerce others to join it in its policies targeting Iran. At the same time, aside from U.N. sanctions, there is nothing legally stopping other countries from assisting Iran. There is only U.S. coercive power and influence. In my view, Iran has not helped itself by pursuing regional policies that allow its enemies to portray it as disruptive and harmful, rather than as an innocent victim of U.S. aggression.
Q: What do you think about recent riots in the United States? How will it affect Donald Trump's re-election bid?
A: I would not use the term riots, as the demonstrations have generally been peaceful, with a few exceptions in which certain groups have taken advantage of the situation to engage in looting; that activity has been frowned upon by the organizers of the demonstrations. These demonstrations occur relatively frequently, particularly in the United States, and are a reflection of a society trying to deal with longstanding social problems such as racism and inequality. These events, collectively, can push a country to reform, but it is a long process. I do not think the demonstrations will help President Trump, but they will not likely damage him electorally too severely. His supporters are unlikely to change their opinion, and his detractors will simply become even more vehement in their opposition to him. There is an important intermediate group that remains neither strongly for nor against him, and they could find the riots troubling and shift away from the President. However, these situations are volatile. If the demonstrations become more violent and, I fact, become primarily riots, then the intermediate groups would like to shift their view in favor of the President if he restores law and order. If the demonstrations remain primarily peaceful, then there could be some shift away from the President.
Q: Can Donald Trump still win the 2020 election?
A: That is difficult to predict, it could still go either way and will depend a lot on intervening events (especially the economy and the Covid-19 pandemic). President Trump has a highly committed core of voters and a lot of money; it is unusual for a sitting President to lose a re-election bid. At the same time, and unusually, the level of vehement opposition, and indeed disgust, with this President is exceptionally high. The election will be incredibly bitter and divisive, but the outcome is highly uncertain. By contrast, President Obama’s re-election for his second term was essentially a foregone conclusion, and it was not really in doubt from very early on.