In an interview with Muslim Press, Kambiz Zarrabi said, “Better relations or potential cooperation between the Trump administration and Putin’s Russia might mean the development of a rift between Russia and Iran.”

Read the full text of the interview:

Muslim Press: Donald Trump has chosen Rex Tillerson as his nominee for secretary of state. What could that mean for the future of Iran-US relations?

Kambiz Zarrabi: Two points must be emphasized before attempting to respond to this and other questions: First, in the American political system the office of the president, in other words, the Executive branch of the government, is not the ultimate policy maker; it is, as the name implies, the body that “executes” or carries out decisions that are made by the Legislative branch or the Congress.

That is not to say that the President does not make decisions independent of the Congress; but in major decisions, such as going to war, the Congress is the body that must make such declaration.

However, with the Republican dominated Congress, Donald Trump who will occupy the White House on January 20th, 2017, will have a much easier time convincing the Congress to accommodate his preferences particularly in matters dealing with America’s foreign policies.

Second, Mr. Trump is an entrepreneur and a showman with no political or diplomatic experience. He clearly prefers handling his job as would a shrewd business executive rather than a politician. But, as a good CEO, he should rely on the advice of more knowledgeable and experienced people to handle certain tasks, such as dealing with foreign policy issues.

Here is where his appointment of a capable Secretary of State will be so important. Not a sycophant who’d follow whatever his boss dictates, but someone who’d have the guts to stand up to this megalomaniacal showman.

It is not 100% certain that Mr. Tillerson would receive Senate’s confirmation, but we can assume at this time that he will. Tillerson has been the head of one of the world’s biggest corporations, the Exxon-Mobil oil company, with far reaching global interests. He certainly does not need the money or the recognition or job related security as a government employee to accept the job of the Secretary of State. My gut feeling, therefore, is that he would carry out his duties as he sees best for the interests of the United States, which in my opinion is developing better relations with Iran, in spite of what President Trump tweets or says about Iran or the nuclear agreement.  

MP: How would Trump’s cabinet picks react to the nuclear deal? Are they all united against it?

Kambiz Zarrabi: President-Elect Trump’s Cabinet picks are not as yet fully disclosed. But some among those who are disclosed, who might have bearing on US/Iran relations, are disturbingly controversial to a point that their Senate confirmation is greatly in doubt. Among them are, for example, his choice for the National Security Advisor, General Flynn, who is a rogue anti-Iran hawk, and the choice for US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, whose radical Zionistic views are quite alarming even to many pro-Israel camps here.

More important than Trump’s Cabinet picks are his behind the scene advisors who are trying to benefit from what they perceive as the President-Elect’s lack of experience in foreign affairs in order to pursue their personal agendas. People such as Rudy Giuliani, Frank Gaffney, Michael Ledeen, James Woolsey, John Bolton, all Islam and particularly Iran-haters, are among the most vocally notorious characters on this list.

MP: Do you see a conflict of interests among Trump’s cabinet picks regarding Iran and their opposition to it? 

Kambiz Zarrabi: The main conflict of interest among Trump’s Cabinet picks that might interfere with their respective duties on the job is supposedly their business affiliations in certain countries, such as Russia, who are regarded as less than friendly with the United States. However, in my personal opinion the most egregious and, in fact dangerous, conflict of interest, something that will never enter into open media dialogue or political debate, is the neocon’s support for anything Israeli, and opposition to anything that Israel considers objectionable! This directly affects US/Iran relations.

MP: With Trump heading the United States, do you think Washington’s policies towards Iran would change? If so, in what way?

Kambiz Zarrabi: This is impossible to predict. Trump is either deliberately, or possibly genuinely, vague about the future course of America’s foreign policies, especially regarding Iran. His habit has been to tweet or say something thoughtlessly or off the cuff, then change his mind or even reverse his point of view without hesitation. He is basically a businessman, a predatory capitalist in its truest sense. He believes he can change his mind or renege on a deal as a dominant negotiator from a position of power and authority, like a man with a large wad of $100 bills negotiating to buy a bag of peanuts from a desperate street vender!

His innuendos about his relations with Vladimir Putin and relations with Russia, something that seems to concern the Congressional panel that is to confirm Mr. Tillerson’s appointment as the Secretary of State, whose Exxon-Mobil/Russia connections are raising some concerns, should be of concern for the Iranian government as well.

Better relations or potential cooperation between the Trump administration and Putin’s Russia might mean the development of a rift between Russia and Iran. Iran has been Russia’s rival in marketing of its oil, gas and condensates. Russia would not hesitate to drop its Iranian relations into a waste basket if it would mean improved relations with the United States with its economic rewards.

Nevertheless, I am hopeful that Trump, the megalomaniacal super showman, would play his sycophantic neocon supporters like he did his rivals and competitors during his campaign, and do what is truly right for the country, which in my opinion would include a more effective rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

Kambiz Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. He has conducted lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues. Zarrabi's latest book is Iran, Back in Context.