World Politics

Tensions with Iran could make Trump 'look strong' ahead of the elections, analyst says

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump could use tense relations with Iran to his advantage — as long as the situation doesn't get out of control, Cedric Chehab, global head of country risk at Fitch Solutions, told CNBC.
  • If tensions between the U.S. and Iran "rise a little bit," it does make Trump look strong ahead of the elections, he said.
  • That's because it will look like he's fighting "one of America's foes," which could be "good in terms of corralling some of the support from his base," Chehab added.
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President Donald Trump could use tense relations with Iran to his advantage — as long as the situation doesn't get out of control, an analyst told CNBC Thursday.

That's because it will look like he's fighting "one of America's foes," Cedric Chehab, global head of country risk at Fitch Solutions, said.

"If tensions rise a little bit, it does make Trump look strong ahead of the elections," he told CNBC's "Capital Connection."

His comments come as the U.S. and Iran appear to be taking steps away from military action. Tensions between the two countries soared last week after a U.S. airstrike killed Iran's top general. Tehran responded by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at American targets in Iraq that resulted in no casualties.

On Wednesday stateside, Trump announced that the U.S. would impose more sanctions on Iran. But Chehab said tension with Iran could be "good in terms of corralling some of the support from his base," since Tehran is seen as an adversary of the U.S.

"As long, of course, as the situation doesn't … come out of control," he qualified. "As long as Trump can dial it up and dial it down to his liking, I think he could potentially use it in his favor."

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His tactics in relation to Iran also cannot impact the economy or "perceptions of his policy making," Chehab added, though he acknowledged that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has "already" questioned Trump's policies.

He said Trump has been able to "really dial up," or down, the rhetoric when it comes to China and Iran. "When he thinks he has to take a tougher stance, he will, and that might hit markets a little bit," he said. "But as long as it doesn't escalate too quickly, I think that markets should respond generally favorably as they deescalate."

Separately, Ben West, a global security analyst at Stratfor, told CNBC that representatives from the U.S. and Iran could meet.

Asked if there is a pathway toward a meeting between Washington and Tehran in 2020 or 2021, West said it's "certainly in the cards," noting that the U.S. presidential elections are happening in November this year.

"President Trump needs to have something to show for, for exiting the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)," he said, referring to the 2015 international nuclear deal that the U.S. withdrew from in 2018. "Hopefully that's not continued escalatory, military actions, but some sort of peace, some sort of negotiations."

— CNBC's Amanda Macias, Jacob Pramuk, Christina Wilkie and Riya Bhattacharjee contributed to this report.