Saturday, May 12, 2018
Let's Do the Time Warp Again!
The Trump administration telegraphed their decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal as you would on a bad reality show. Everyone knew it was coming. There was nothing Emmanuel Macron or Angela Merkel or even John Oliver could do to prevent it. In the end, it was Bibi Netanyahu's powerpoint presentation that sealed the deal, although I imagine Trump had long made up his mind (what's left of it anyway) on the subject.
Bibi wasted no time going after Iran in Syria, claiming the Iranians launched rockets at Israeli forces in the Golan Heights first. Who's to say? We only have Israeli "intelligence" to verify the claims. Of course, in most Americans' minds that's good enough.
The repercussions will be felt far and wide, as it is not just Iran, Trump rejected, but the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia, who are all co-signatories. This leaves it up to the remaining parties to salvage the deal before Iran takes matters into its own hands, and attempts to restart its nuclear weapons program, assuming it ever had one. The only thing anyone could prove was that they had the ability to start one. Unlike Israel, which has kept its nuclear weapons program "secret" for decades, but apparently the Middle East is not big enough for two "secret programs."
If it is starting to sound like a bad Western, that's the way we've always treated the Middle East. Israel is like a fort, the Masada if you will, under constant siege from warring native factions. For the past six decades the US has supported Israel, hoping to offset this alliance by giving succour to the "Good Arabs" who more or less support Israel's statehood. Of course Iran has not played along, and therefor they are "Bad Arabs," albeit of Persian descent.
Iran has been supporting guerrilla forces in Syria and Palestine for decades, namely Hezbollah and Hamas, which has earned them the undying scorn of Israel and the US. Under the Obama administration, the US tried to open up to Iran, as the US previously had under Clinton, hoping to get Tehran to quit providing military aid for these two branded terrorist organizations. However, succeeding Republican administrations were having no part of it. Dubya immediately shut down talks with Iranian moderate President Khatami, and now Trump has chosen to rebuff another moderate in Rouhani. In between we had the crazed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offering us his recalcitrant historical views while waging a holy war against Israel. This is who Israel wants representing Iran because it makes it easy to label them the "Bad Arabs."
As it turns out, Iran is not a country mired in the dark ages, and its citizens are very open to cultural and economic trade with the US. With the nuclear deal, Boeing was set to sell $20 billion of aircraft to Iran, a staggering leap in trade between the countries, but now all such deals are called off in the name of Trumpism. The President has vowed to impose the toughest sanctions yet on Iran.
I suppose he thinks he can carve out a new deal like the one he imagines making with North Korea this summer. It just takes a little show of force. The only problem with this logic is that it has been South Korea, not the US, who has been working with Kim Yong-un to bring him to the table. Now that Trump has rebuffed all the other signatories of the Iran nuclear deal, who will act as his liaison? Macron may be many things but he is not a stooge.
This is a mess Trump has to clean up himself, or at least leave it to members of his administration while he goes play golf. His newly installed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will have a lot of catching up to do, as whatever bridges existed between the US and Iran are now burned. It doesn't seem like he is too worried about it, making his first official foreign visit to Israel, no doubt working with Bibi on that powerpoint presentation.
The other signatories of the nuclear agreement will do their best to placate Iran, maybe even send the country Airbuses instead of Boeings, but then Europe may fear the wrath of Trump, who will no doubt threaten the EU with tariffs if it doesn't support his sanctions. As for China and Russia, they find themselves sitting in the catbird's seat. Iran will move even more into its sphere of influence.
Sadly, the Trump White House, and the conservative base it appeals to, has no awareness of the world we live in. They view Iran as if it was still 1979. In fact, many conservatives seem to view Trump as the second coming of Reagan, as if all that has happened since 1988 is but a bad dream. This was Trump's heyday, so not surprisingly he taps into it, hoping to garner all the 1980's energy he can get. It's like going to those midnight movies and doing The Time Warp all over again.