AIC Chairman Senator Johnston was interviewed by Javad Heirannia from Tehran Times. The interview was originally published in the Tehran Times.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: What is your assessment of Trump’s foreign policy?
A: Critics of President Trump say that he has no foreign policy (or domestic policy for that matter), that it is all made up off-handily from day to day. The best face for his foreign policy is that it resides in the hands of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo (the “Big Four”).
Q: In his campaign speeches Trump said he would annul the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear agreement). However, later he talked about a revision of the deal. Basically, what is his alternative for the JCPOA?
A: The Big Four seem to be committed to the JCPOA and, indeed, there is no satisfactory alternative to it either for the United States or for Iran. However they, particularly General Mattis, believe that Iran is the chief troublemaker in the region and has spoken of sanctions and other countermeasures against Iran but not a repudiation of the JCPOA. The outlines of such actions remain unclear.
Q: What is your prediction of U.S.-Iran relations during the Trump presidency?
A: The outlook for the United States-Iran relationship under the Trump Presidency depends, first of all, on Iran. The Supreme Leader has been quoted as saying that he does not wish a cozy relationship with the United States. Whether Iran will act in ways that the United States regards as provocative remains to be seen but, if so, General Mattis, et.al. would likely respond. Of course, the Iran election will greatly affect the relationship. Armed conflict is not desired or in the interest of the United States or of Iran and, in my view, will be avoided.
Q: Some experts say Trump’s remarks are a blow to NATO or that his disdain of NAFT is in line with the interest of the American people. On the other hand, some say his insistence on economic protectionism are not in harmony with liberalism or neo-liberalism. What do you think?
A: President Trump’s remarks about NATO have been repudiated by him, and the Big Four are strongly in support of NATO and will keep the United States securely in support of it. The United States is sharply divided between supporters of Trump (about 40 percent) and those who oppose him. Each group seems to have its own set of facts, news sources and opinions. The danger of Trumpism are a constant source of news, opinions and conversation in the United States and opponents range in intensity from those who see the United States on the brink of fascism to those who are much less concerned. My view is that the Trump honeymoon is over and that the United States view of liberal democracy will survive intact.
Q: Considering the decline of Trump’s popularity, some say he won’t be elected for a second time. What is your prediction? Is there a possibility of presidential candidacy by Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama?
A: I would be surprised if Trump wins a second term but it is way too early to predict the candidates, the issues and the mood of the American people in 2020. One of the great things about American Democracy is its faults are self-correct.