The new US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was at the Heritage Foundation, Washington DC, on Monday to speak on the Iran nuclear deal, in effect, to add flesh to the declaration by US President, Donald Trump, that the United States was withdrawing from the deal. President Trump’s decision has been gravely disappointing to many countries of the world as was his decision earlier to pull out of the Paris Accords on climate change.
Mr. Trump seems determined to flout all known conventions about international treaties, especially so, when he is determined to spite his predecessor, President Barack Obama. The Iran deal, the climate change agreements, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are regarded as some of President Obama’s most important contributions to international peace and security. Now, President Trump has repudiated them in spite of worldwide protests.
Now, the Iran nuclear deal has special significance on the issues of war and peace which informed the years of patient negotiation, the delicate balancing, the welding of a fragile, historic coalition, and the concessions made on the side of Iran, on the one hand, and by the United States, on the other, which made this important agreement possible. Indeed, the Iran Nuclear Deal is probably the only such agreement which has managed to unite the five permanent members of the UN Security Council on a single issue in recent years.
It is so easy to forget the background to this deal. It was done to avert a war. When the 20,000 centrifuges were spinning and Iran was piling up weapons grade nuclear materials, Israel was preparing to attack the nuclear facilities. It sought American support. President Obama resisted. He was loath to start a new military adventure in the Middle East, same reason he kept out of Syria. It was one of the reasons Prime Minister Netanyahu worked so hard to have him defeated in 2012. Both men never became friends thereafter. The essence of the deal was to allay the fears of Israel, end the isolation of Iran, and reduce tension in the Middle East.
It was highly acclaimed when it was signed. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. Netanyahu was the only exception, a man who is so intoxicated with Israeli military power and prowess, any agreement has to be on his own terms.
We think it was a grave error of judgment on the part of the Trump administration to repudiate the deal. We also think it was utterly disrespectful to ignore the appeals, the visits, the good counsel of top European leaders from German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, through President Emmanuel Macron of France, and Boris Johnson, UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who actually visited Trump.
The European Union is trying to make the best out of a bad situation by keeping the pact in effect with Iran “even without US participation.” The European Union has been playing the role of the ‘adult’ in the room in the Western Hemisphere since the election of Trump. It must continue to do so to preserve international peace and security and should continue to resist the brinkmanship which has become the hallmark of Donald Trump’s foreign policy.
The 12 basic demands of the Trump administration as enunciated by Secretary Pompeo on Monday was proof of American arrogance. Expert opinions have noted that they sound like an ultimatum and are clearly the evidence of the administration’s wish for a regime change in Iran. This is how the invasion of Iraq began.
The imposition of the “strongest sanctions in history” on Iran, as Pompeo blustered, seems to ignore why the Obama sanctions were so effective. It was crippling because the entire European Union, Russia, China and other US allies were persuaded of its necessity. Now the game is going to be different and Iran has endured US sanctions since its 1979 revolution. It is thus on familiar territory.