US burning down post-Cold War order

Last Updated : 23 January 2018, 18:56 IST
Last Updated : 23 January 2018, 18:56 IST

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Donald Trump's conditional "certification" of the Iran nuclear deal demonstrates, once again, his infantile determination to wreck all the accomplishments of his predecessor Barack Obama. On January 12, Trump signed a waiver allowing for US compliance with the terms of the 2015 agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), for dismantling Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for lifting punitive UN, but not US, sanctions which have wrecked the Iranian economy.  

Trump has, however, pledged to press the US Congress to adopt legislation mandating an end to expiration dates for access to all nuclear sites for international weapons inspectors and limits on Iran's uranium enrichment. Such changes would violate the so far successful JCPOA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran's compliance, has repeatedly reported that Tehran has honoured its commitments, while other signatories to the deal - Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the European Union - insist it must be preserved. They agree with Iran's contention that the JCPOA cannot be changed or renegotiated.

Trump has given Europe until May 12 to join with the US to hold the JCPOA hostage force Iran to halt its involvement in Syria and Iraq, end its ballistic missile programme, and sanction Iran for human rights violations. None of these issues are part of the JCPOA. "If other nations fail to act during this time, I will terminate our deal with Iran," he said.

Although strongly supported by Obama, the US, driven by an anti-Iran Congress, has refused to abide by the letter and spirit of the accord by using its financial muscle to discourage European and Asian governments, firms and banks from doing business with Iran. Consequently, Iranian expectations of an early dividend did not materialise and impoverished Iranians protested in the provinces, putting the government under severe pressure to deliver relief from high prices of food and fuel.

Of course, Trump attempted to exploit the protests to call for Iran to be sanctioned for cracking down on the protestors, undermining the efforts of moderate President Hassan Rouhani to carry out reforms.

Trump is motivated by visceral hatred of Obama, the first US black president. Trump's outrageous pronouncement about the entry into the US of migrants from "****hole" countries in the Caribbean and Africa, as well as his attitude toward Hispanics and Muslims, confirms his racist approach to policy-making. By thrashing the JCPOA, he claims he is honouring a campaign promise to voters, although a poll conducted last October showed 56% of the public supported the deal and only 19% disapproved of it. A second survey showed a 66% approval rate.

Like Congress, Trump is heavily influenced by neoconservatives who promoted the disastrous 2003 US war on Iraq, their allies in the powerful pro-Israel lobby, influential pro-Israel donors to election campaigns, and Israel itself. As if guidance from these quarters were not enough, Trump has appointed as his West Asia envoy son-in-law Jared Kushner, an investor in illegal Israeli colonisation activity in West Bank and East Jerusalem.

His way or highway

A former JCPOA negotiator, Robert Malley, observed, "Trump appears to have presented the (Europeans) with a false choice: either kill the deal with me, or I'll kill it alone." Other analysts suggest that Trump will use the ancient Chinese extreme execution method "death by a thousand cuts" by taking incremental measures to slay the deal. His call on members of the G-20 grouping, including India, to end commercial ties with Iran and his threats against the JCPOA have stirred unease among potential investors in Iran and are violations of the JCPOA.

These actions breach paragraph 29 of the accord, which requires "parties to refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran."

Trump does not take into account that the JCPOA serves US and global interests by ensuring Iran is far from developing nuclear weapons (which Tehran says it does not want), preventing a West Asian nuclear arms race, and allowing Iran to re-engage with the international community, strengthening moderates and making Tehran susceptible to pressure to adopt certain policies.

Trump's hardline on Iran is part and parcel of his assertive new national security policy, which is designed to counter growing international influence of Russia and China, and argues that North Korea and Iran seek to "destabilise regions, threaten Americans and our allies." He refuses to see that Russia and Iran are fighting on the same side as the US against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq, or that China is pressing North Korea to end its dangerous war-of-tweets with Trump.

Instead, he has driven relations between the US and Russia back to a Cold War low, antagonised China, and threatened to burn North Korea and destroy the Iran nuclear deal. Trump and his hawkish advisers - notably Nikki Haley, his ambitious UN ambassador of Indian origin - are determined to finish off the already US-destabilised post-Cold War "order", risking fresh uproar and unrest.  

Published 23 January 2018, 18:06 IST

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