Having shredded the Iran nuclear agreement, and seeking to draw North Korea (NK) into something similar, we are about to find out just how good a negotiator, Trump is. What follows are separate resume’s of recent events involving each coupled with critical analyses.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement
In the interest of full disclosure, let’s first run down what we got and didn’t get in this arrangement negotiated by then-President Obama in concert with England, France and Germany.
The “gets”: Iran agreed to stop its enrichment and production of weapons-grade uranium, and to allow on-site inspections to insure compliance. Additionally, the agreement was subject to renewal every 90-days, contingent upon favorable reports from the on-site inspectors. The agreement was to have a 10-year life. Finally, four prisoners held by Iran for different periods of time, were set free.
The “didn’t gets”: No effort was made to prohibit Iran’s support of such terrorist organizations as Hamas and Hezbollah. Nor was there a prohibition of Iran’s desire to continue to test ballistic missiles, ostensibly only for defensive purposes. (1) Lastly, the US surrendered possession of well over a billion dollars of Iranian money (2) that we had confiscated in retaliation for their seizing our embassy and hostage-taking back in November 1979.
Trump gets involved: When campaigning, candidate-Trump described the Iran deal as the “worst” and vowed, if elected, to re-negotiate it on terms more favorable to the US. If that proved impossible, then the agreement would be ended. As we now know, President Trump took the latter step in just the last few days, doing so in spite of pleas from the aforementioned allies to leave the deal in place while attempting to forge a better one (3). What is more, Trump is now in the process of slapping a new and harsher set of sanctions against Iran in an attempt to force that country to the (re-)negotiating table.
The aftermath: Iran, along with our allies, seem intent on finding ways to keep the original agreement alive, though perhaps with some “tweaks” to it here and there. This plan will run headlong into 45’s commitment to apply the new, tougher sanctions, not just to Iran, but to any entity or country that does business with it. The odds are good that this broadening of the sanctions will put US policy at odds with some of our closest friends. In that case, the real beneficiary of this clash will be Vladimir Putin who has as one of his principal goals, the widening of fissures between the US and our European allies. Such an outcome would deepen the suspicion that Trump is, for reasons presently unknown, beholden to Putin and thus, willing to make policy decisions that are in that tyrant’s nefarious interests.
The Trump – NK Summit
What has been happening on the Korean peninsula is no small matter: The North and the South have agreed to bilateral negotiations to end the hostilities and estrangement that came out of the armistice that ended the Korean war. The leaders of the two countries have met, and in a symbolic gesture, walked back and forth across the Demilitarized Zone that has separated the two nations. Of even greater consequence, NK has agreed to a summit wherein it would be willing to negotiate denuclearization. To that end, they are already in the process of dismantling their nuclear test site. (4).
Caveat Emptor (buyer beware): What is to be made of this sudden agreeableness on the part of NK, after almost 70 years of belligerence and multiple broken promises to other US presidents? Is NK ready to join the community of nations, and enter the 21st century? Or, is there the belief that Trump can be “played” so that he gives up much but gets little in return? We may be starting to get the answer.
Pulling back: NK has now said that it will back out of the planned summit unless there is an end to joint South Korea/US airborne military exercises that are viewed as “hostile”, US claims that they are for defensive purposes only, notwithstanding.
In view of this NK “about-face”, what are Trump’s options? He can: (1) simply say “no deal” and walk away from the summit; (2) comply and end the maneuvers; or (3) find some “middle ground”, e.g. the exercises are down-sized to NK’s satisfaction.
To the extent that anyone can accurately predict 45’s behavior, it is hard to imagine him just walking away. With his own words, he has hyped the summit and his role in making it possible. How could he possibly ever turn his back on a world-shaping outcome that has already generated talk of his being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?
We are definitely in “stay tuned” territory.
- Iran has very recently broken with at least the spirit of the agreement by firing missiles into Israeli territory.
- As stated, the money returned was Iran’s, contrary to right-wing claims that it was taken from US taxpayers.
- Remember your parents’ wisdom; i.e. “Don’t quit your present job until you have another one locked up”? Same logic applies here.
- On the face of it, NK’s announcement that it would dismantle its’ nuclear test site seems like a very positive step forward. In reality, it is far less. That is because the site, due to extensive overuse, has become so unstable as to be rendered valueless. In other words, the NK announcement is an empty gesture.