It is difficult to predict President-Elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy in general, and thus even more difficult his policy toward Iran, given the contradictory positions he took during the campaign. However, drawing on key signs, there are both lights and shadows in his likely policies toward Iran.

On the bright side, Iran may face less pressure due to a number of components Trump highlighted in his foreign policy vision.

“America first,” one of the Trump’s central slogans, is reminiscent of pre-World War II isolationism. Challenging a decades-old American foreign policy bipartisan consensus, he said: “The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony. I am skeptical of international unions that tie us up and bring America down. … America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.” Trump added, “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies.”

This line of thinking, if implemented, should give the Iranian government a level of comfort. Logically, under this doctrine, the new U.S. administration would not ardently take a side in the conflict between Iran and its arch enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. In fact, with minimum fanfare, President Barack Obama has pursued a similar foreign policy in his second term.

While the implementation of such a policy is easier said than done in the context of the Iran-Israel conflict, the Saudis’ increasingly belligerent rivalry with Iran may lose steam.

Trump appears to view protecting the Saudis against Iran from a business perspective, which depends “on what the deal is.” He says, “Saudi Arabia is going to have to help us economically. They were making, before the oil went down, now they’re making half, but they were making a billion dollars a day.” These statements stirred anger among the Saudis. One Saudi observer tweeted that Trump perceives their country as merely “a source of cash.” 

Second, Trump is determined to forge new relations with Russia. Trump asserts, “I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia – from a position of strength – is possible. Common sense says this cycle of hostility must end.” “We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism,” he remarked. 

Iran appears as part of this equation, because it has close relations with Russia. Cooperation between Iran and Russia took a practical turn during the Syrian war. Both countries support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in opposition to U.S. and Western interests, as well as the interests of various regional actors including Saudi Arabia. 

It is safe to assume that the Iranian-Russian alliance will remain strong for the foreseeable future. A friendly U.S.-Russia relationship could mitigate the risk of an escalation between Iran and the United States, given that the Russians could act as a mediator. As a practical example, from the perspective of the White House, Russia played an “important role in the [successful] culmination of” the Iran nuclear deal.

Third, fighting ISIS is a priority for Trump. That puts Iran in an unwritten alliance with the United States, which again reduces the possibility of escalating conflict between the two states. In his second debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “I don’t like Assad at all. But Assad is killing ISIS, Russia is killing ISIS, and Iran is killing ISIS.”

On the dark side, however, there are several warning signs that Iran and the United States may enter a new phase of their historically conflictual relationship.

Some of the likely members of Trump’s cabinet have not only relentlessly advocated military attacks and “regime change” for several years but also are some of the closest American “friends” of the notorious Iranian political-militant organization known as the MEK (Mujaheddin-e Khalq). The group, whose political front is called the National Council of Resistance, has been in an armed struggle against the Iranian regime since 1981. 

The group was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department from 1997 until 2012, when it was delisted following a heavy lobbying effort by former U.S. officials of both parties.

John Bolton, a possible pick for Secretary of State, called for bombing Iran as early as 2015, while the nuclear negotiations with Iran were nearing success. Bolton has appeared at numerous MEK rallies; the most recent instance was in July 2016According to several reports, he was among a group of politicians that the MEK paid to lobby for its delisting. 

Other possible members of a Trump administration are also leading anti-Iran hawks. 

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, tipped for the position of either Secretary of State or Attorney General, has also been paid to lobby for MEK, according to the New York Times. In MEK gatherings in Paris, he has said that supporting the group is the “only way to stop Iran.”

Newt Gingrich, another candidate for a major role in a Trump administration,  is also a friend of the MEK. In July 2016, Gingrich delivered an epic speech to the group’s gathering in Paris. In his remarks, Gingrich praised the MEK and congratulated the group on the presence of Prince Turki al-Faisal, a senior member of the Saudi royal family and former head of that nation’s intelligence service.

At the heart of future developments in U.S.-Iran relations lies the fate of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  In addition to the above figures, there is an army of angry opponents to the JCPOA in Congress who failed to stop Obama from finalizing the deal.  Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is another speculated candidate to be appointed as Secretary of State, was one them. 

Given the presence of these anti-Iran hawks surrounding Trump and his own expressed distaste for the deal (although there is suspicion that that was a tactical position during the campaign to discredit Clinton and Democrats), will the JCPOA survive? 

It seems that when the moment of truth arrives, Trump may not be able to unilaterally abandon the accord, which is not bilateral but a delicate and complex agreement involving all the world powers, as well as the United Nations.

However, under a hawkish administration, plus a Republican Congress, any infraction of the JCPOA or aggression outside the nuclear deal has the potential to lead to additional sanctions. 

It would come as a complete surprise were Trump to fight a Republican Congress to obstruct new sanctions on Iran. Iran would undoubtedly interpret the imposition of new, biting sanctions as a violation of the agreement, and would abandon it. That would most likely lead to a perilous confrontational situation between Iran and the United States. 

The relevant question now is whether the shadows of Trump’s foreign policy will overcome its lights. 

Shahir Shahidsaless is an Iranian-Canadian political analyst and freelance journalist writing about Iranian domestic and foreign affairs, the Middle East, and the US foreign policy in the region. He is the co-author of Iran and the United States: An Insider’s View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace. He is a contributor to several websites with focus on the Middle East as well as the Huffington Post. He also regularly writes for BBC Persian. He tweets @SShahisaless