Betting on America Only
Terry H. Schwadron
May 9, 2018
Once again, President Trump has pulled America out of an international deal, a treaty, in effect, without a net in place. There is no Plan B.
And now the United States is in violation of the deal, not Iran.
Trump’s decision over the advice of European allies, will create uncertainty, will provoke Iran, will force worldwide economic and diplomatic boomerangs, and it will undercut the security of the Middle East. It will encourage Iranian hard-liners, and it brings war closer.
The Iranians vow to restart nuclear weapons development, and now too many, from Israelis to a ready-to-war group in the White House, equally vow that there will never be nukes in Iran. At the minimum, Iran will turn to China, Russia and others to create a broader anti-U.S. bloc.
And watching all of this is North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un, who actually has nuclear weapons.
It was a total presidential moment. It was all about the power and position of the United States in the world. But it was a Trump presidential moment, once that reflected domestic politics as much as the world order, one that gave a Trump backhand to a prime achievement of the Obama era, and one that underscores America First and Only, an endorsement of isolationism.
In his announcement, the president remained belligerent and bellicose. He gave a minimum of olive branches, alternative agreement proposals, or offers of even toughly negotiated hopes. Instead, powerful economic sanctions will kick in immediately, to apply as much against any allies who continue to trade with Iran as against Iran itself.
Trump argued that the agreement has allowed Iran to continue to process uranium, to develop non-nuclear weapons and to interfere with its neighbors militarily. He derided the deal as inadequate and inappropriate. He never said that Iran had abridged the terms of the deal.
Trump, of course, offered a partisan re-statement of what the deal did: According to Politifact.com, the deal restricts certain Iranian nuclear activities for periods between 10 to 25 years, and allows for more intrusive, permanent monitoring. It also forbids Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons in the future. In exchange, Iran was relieved of crippling economic sanctions. It allows for verification.
In other words, it is everything we are currently also simultaneously seeking from North Korea.
European leaders called on Iran to stay with the program despite the United States. Former President Barack Obama called the move “misguided.”Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, said he has directed his diplomats to negotiate with European countries, Russia and China about remaining in the nuclear deal but said that Iran is ready to start unlimited uranium enrichment if these negotiations do not yield benefits in a couple of weeks.
Of course, there were other ways for the United States to seek the further demands it wants to negotiate without withdrawing completely.
This approach leaves a large number of issues were left in an uncertain state:
· Worldwide oil prices will rise, in part because of general uncertainly, but absolutely because Iranian oil will be blocked. Iran sells 40% of its oil to Europe.
· Iran is threatening Israel and Israeli outposts in nearby Syria.
· Winning trust from allies in the future will be a major problem.
· The immediate future of compliance efforts and international nuclear inspections were in doubt.
· The break in the nuclear deal will mean real and immediate problems for Iranian President Rouhani, who may be forced to resign by harder voices in Iran who will never want to make an agreement with the U.S. again.
· Economic sanctions will put a strain on Iranian banks and oil companies. In turn, that will create problems for Europe and markets that thrive on stability.
· The Iranian parliament’s Nuclear Committee said it would install more centrifuges and enrich uranium beyond the levels allowed under the accord. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear power plants or — if enriched at much higher levels — as fissile material for nuclear weapons. Or it could start working in secret on the weapons.
· Iran’s economy is failing again. The BBC says in real terms, Iranians have become 15% poorer over the last 10 years. Unemployment may be as high as 40%. That creates a population that is already on edge.
· Russia and China are less subject to U.S. sanctions and will move to fill the vacuum left by the United States.
True Trump supporters may be the only ones who see good news here.