In 2002 and 2003, as the United States geared up for the invasion of Iraq, many protests broke out across the country, as did a passionate public debate about why America was going to war and whether it should. That debate, sadly, was not proportionately reflected on Capitol Hill, but it still mattered.
The invasion destroyed Iraq as well as the dual containment policy that, despite its many flaws, had kept a relative lid on Iraq’s ambitions and Iraq’s ability to upset regional stability. The ensuing years of combat spawned the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, and destabilized the entire region, most severely affecting Syria.
Now, the same forces have come together to take down the most significant diplomatic achievement in the Middle East in recent memory and create a new, highly unstable future. Donald Trump today announced the reimposition of sanctions on Iran, putting the United States in direct violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially called the Iran nuclear deal. In Iraq, the United States went in with no exit strategy. The Trump administration likewise has no plan for the day after exiting the Iran nuclear deal. In both cases, however, the real goal is regime change. Read more at LobeLog
French President Emmanuel Macron likely wrote the epitaph for the Iran nuclear deal as he was leaving Washington. Based on his statements, U.S. relations with Iran and North Korea as well are becoming increasingly dangerous.
“(President Donald Trump’s) experience with North Korea is that when you are very tough, you make the other side move and you can try to go to a good deal or a better deal,” Macron said. “That’s a strategy of increasing tension … It could be useful.”
Trump accordingly believes that North Korea has agreed to talks because Kim Jong Un was intimidated by Trump’s belligerence. But this is unlikely to be the case. Colin Kahl, the former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, wrote on Twitter that “Trump likely misreads Kim Jong Un’s reasons for agreeing to a summit: to legitimize rather than dismantle his nuclear program. Remember, Kim said North Korea could stop testing because the nuclear program was already complete.”
Although no one can be certain of Kim’s thinking, Kahl’s interpretation is much more consistent with what is known about Kim and the current diplomatic state of play. So, what does the US leaving the Iran nuclear deal mean for the relationships with Iran and North Korea? Read more at LobeLog
Donald Trump’s first trip abroad seems to have been a successful one for him. Although controversies continue to rage at home, he seems to be accomplishing what he set out to do, at least in Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The mainstream media has had a good time with some Trump gaffes on this trip (including his wife slapping his hand away and, more importantly, Trump’s foolish confirmation that he divulged classified intelligence given to the US by Israel). But it has generally applauded his speeches and statements. Trump has set the bar so low that all he has to do is let the soberer minds around him write his speeches and no one will pay much attention to the policy implications of words and deeds. Read more at LobeLog
Once upon a time, it seemed that the Obama Administration had held off opponents in Congress as well as pressure from Israel in order to press forward with negotiations with Iran. It seemed that President Barack Obama’s penchant for diplomacy was finally bearing fruit and that the United States and Iran were coming to the table with a sense of determination and an understanding that a compromise needed to be reached over Iran’s nuclear program.
These days, the story is different. Almost halfway through the four-month extension period the parties agreed to in July, the possibility of failure is more prominently on people’s minds, despite the fact that significant progress has been made in the talks. Right now, both sides have dug in their heels over the question of Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities. Iran wants sufficient latitude to build and power more nuclear reactors on their own, while the United States wants a much more restrictive regime. Read more at LobeLog
The new nuclear talks with Iran seem to be reflecting a new direction for the Islamic Republic under Hassan Rowhani and a new openness from the US and Europe to a reasonable compromise. The unhappy parties are Israel and Saudi Arabia, but at least for now, they are not able to scuttle the hope for a resolution. Some of what this theater demonstrates is the obvious fact to anyone who has been paying attention for the past fifteen years: the entire issue of an Iranian bomb has been phony. I explain this week in Souciant.
The mindless way in which Americans simply assume that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon is just appalling. I have found it most repulsive in that my school, the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, reflects in its classes the absolute certainty of this “fact,” despite the reality that the evidence points to multiple possible conclusions, and an unyielding Iranian pursuit of a nuke is far from the most likely. I explore this mindless, zealous almost religious belief that permeates government, the media and, sadly, academia this week in Souciant.
As much as I often heap scorn on Barack Obama’s foreign policy acumen, he is taking the right approach with Iran by pushing forward and taking advantage of the opening by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani while also trying to forestall the hawks by proceeding with caution. Israel, AIPAC and the Gulf States are not blind, however and they are gearing up for an all-out assault in Capitol Hill to sabotage efforts to resolve the sanctions and nuclear dispute peacefully. I examine at LobeLog.