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Iran presidential candidates agree Trump will take office soon

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Throughout Iran’s presidential campaign, in debates, rallies and speeches, one singular figure has been a constant presence: Donald J. Trump.

Hear Six candidates The former president is said to be a foregone conclusion to win the 2024 presidential election. The pressing question facing Iranian voters when they go to the polls on Friday is who is best suited to deal with him.

They almost never mention President Biden or the many polls showing the US election will be very close. Instead, Trump’s name is mentioned again and again.

“Just wait and see what will happen when Trump comes to power,” one candidate, cleric Mostafa Pourmohammadi, said in a recent televised debate. “We have to be ready for negotiations.” Another candidate, Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani, accused his opponent of “Trumpophobia” during the debate, insisting that only he could deal with Trump.

In a campaign poster in Purmohammadi, he and Trump stare into each other’s eyes. The poster reads: “The one who can stand up to Trump is me.”

Iranians have good reason to be wary of a second term as president. Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from Iran’s deal with world powers over its nuclear program, even as United Nations inspectors repeatedly confirmed that Iran was meeting its commitments. Resuming trading Since taking office, he has done nothing.

Trump also imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran’s oil revenues and international banking transactions, which remain in place under Biden. Those measures, along with corruption and economic mismanagement by Iran’s leadership, have caused the country’s economy to struggle, with its currency plummeting and inflation soaring.

Analysts said the shadow cast by Trump showed how important foreign policy is to the election, with all six candidates – five conservatives and one reformist – acknowledging that any hopes for economic recovery are inextricably linked to Tehran’s relations with the world.

“The potential return of a Trump administration to the White House has become a taboo in presidential debates,” said Vali Nasr, a former Obama administration official and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

“Hardliners believe their tough stance will tame Trump, while moderate and reformist candidates believe Trump will respond to the hardliners by increasing pressure on Iran, suggesting they are more capable of changing the dialogue with the United States,” he said.

In Iranian political circles, fears of a Trump comeback predate the special presidential election, which is to replace incumbent President Ebrahim Raisi. Died in a helicopter crash Iran’s Foreign Ministry set up an informal working group in the spring to begin preparations for Trump’s return, two Iranian officials said.

Iran has held numerous indirect talks with the United States through Oman and Qatar this year and last, seeking to swap prisoners and ease regional tensions, and has also held indirect talks with both the Trump and Biden administrations on returning to the nuclear deal.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Iran would continue indirect talks if Trump is elected but would not meet with him directly. They said they discussed whether waiting to deal with Trump made more sense than striking a deal now with Biden only to have it torn up by Republicans, whether it be Trump or another future Republican president.

“When we face a dishonest enemy like Trump, we have to be thoughtful in our behavior,” said Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the conservative speaker of Iran’s parliament and considered a frontrunner in the presidential race. Ghalibaf, a former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, said restoring the nuclear deal and lifting sanctions were among his top priorities. He said if the president didn’t make a decision in time, he would “either sell Iran to Trump or create tension in Iran.”

Trump, who has said repeatedly during his presidency that his policy of maximum pressure on Iran is aimed at forcing concessions on its nuclear program and that he is not seeking regime change, defended his policy in a statement last week. Virtual interview with All In Podcast.

“I would make a fair deal with Iran; I would get along with Iran,” Trump said in the interview. He said his main goal was to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon. “I was at a point where I could negotiate,” he added, a claim that was questioned by analysts. “A little kid could have made a deal with them.”

Under Iran’s theocratic system, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all major state affairs, including negotiations with the United States and nuclear policy. But Iran’s president does set the domestic agenda and has some influence over foreign policy.

Iranian voters are concerned about Trump, said a campaign worker for reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Voters had contacted Pezeshkian’s campaign on social media, asking what the candidate’s plans were to confront Trump, the worker said by phone from Tehran.

Dr. Pezeshkian has Former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad ZarifHe was the chief nuclear negotiator who helped broker the 2015 deal and is the face of its foreign policy. But Pezeshkian’s advisers said his choice for foreign minister would be Abbas Araghchi, Zarif’s deputy and part of the team that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal.

In a televised roundtable discussion, Zarif told one of Pezeshkian’s conservative rivals that Iran was able to boost its oil sales to pre-sanctions levels of 2 million barrels a day because Biden had “relaxed the controls.” Zarif added: “When Trump comes back, we’ll see what you do.”

At a rally in Tehran on Monday, Saeed Jalili, an ultraconservative candidate involved in the nuclear talks, addressed Trump with a quote from Qassim Suleimani, a senior general whose assassination Trump ordered in 2020.

“Mr. Trump, you are a gambler, and we are the ones who can deal with you,” Jalili said, sparking loud cheers and applause from the crowd.

Riley Nikunazar Contributed reporting.

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