Standing in the UN, speaking to the leaders of all countries of the world, the US president Donald Trump promised war and blood to those who stand opposed to the global system under the sole domination of the US. Donald Trump’s belligerent maiden speech to the UNGA is deeply ironical in that the war and blood that he has promised tend to run against the core values of the UNO, yet not a word of condemnation has come from the body itself. Could there be a greater irony than the fact that Donald Trump, standing in the UN, chose to call the UN backed Iran nuke deal disappointing and ‘the worst’ possible deal that could get even worse? One is, therefore, tempted to ask: what is the point of speaking to the UN when you’re unable and unwilling to respect what it has achieved? But the unfortunate fact is that this is the United States, the world’ self-declared ‘sole superpower’ and the ‘defender’ of democracy and human rights, which has caused more bloodshed, both directly and indirectly, in the world in the last one and a half decade than the rest of the world combined.
Accordingly, the US has promised more war. This is least surprising that Iran and North Korea are the two most prominent targets of the new wars that Trump has promised to deliver to the world. According to Trump, Iran is “an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos,” a “murderous regime” profiting from a nuclear deal that is “an embarrassment to the United States.” And, according to him, North Korea under the leadership of “rocket man” will be destroyed for whatever (the hell) it is making.
What Trump, however, doesn’t seem to have factored in his policy is that he might not be able to just roll back the deal and bomb Iran to the ‘Stone Age.’ To be sure, a lot has happened since the deal and Iran’s economy has developed a significant relationship with the West, particularly the EU, which the US might not be able to reverse. There are two fundamental reasons for this. First, Iran is a big market that the EU sees as highly lucrative. Secondly, a number of European allies seem to disagree with the US president’s foreign policy. Already, Trump’s decision to pull the US out of Paris agreement has created a rift between the US and the EU, and now the unnecessary emphasis on re-negotiating the deal with Iran is only going to risk the deal and jeopardize the entire foreign investment Iran is receiving from the EU and other countries.
For instance, on August 29, Mohammad Khazaei, the head of the Organization for Investment, Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran was reported to have said that “deals worth $29 billion to $30 billion will be signed with four European countries and an Asian country in less than a month.” What is evident here is that European market is reaching out to Iran and is all set to make profit. This partly explains why countries like Germany and even the UK have expressed disagreement over the issue of re-negotiation the deal, or cancelling it. As such, in his joint press conference with Tillerson, the UK’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson said in a markedly different tone from that of the US secretary that “we in the UK feel that Iran – a country of 80 million people, many of them young and potentially liberal – could be won over. I think it is important they see there are benefits from the JCPOA, so we in the UK want that alive.” This statement’s importance lies in the fact that Tillerson had clearly argued in the same press conference that Iran was violating the terms of the deal, implying that the US president might not give the US Congress clearance on Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal.
While disagreement is evident here, the reason for this is not just the US’ discomfort or the UK’s comfort with the deal, it is rather political and has more to do with how the partner countries view Iran’s role in the Middle East. While the US has claimed that Iran’s role in Syria and Yemen has been far from satisfactory, European diplomats have rejected that Iran’s policies in the Middle East could be used to cancel the deal. On the contrary, European officials have been reiterating that it was clear at the time the agreement was signed that it was solely about Iran’s nuclear programme and was designed to prevent chronic tensions in the region turning into a nuclear arms race.
Europe’s position over the deal became even more anti-US after the P5+1 meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to assess implementation of the Iran nuclear deal. EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini was reported to have stressed that there was no doubt the deal was being respected. She even warned that “all member states are considered to be bound by its implementation. The international community cannot afford to dismantle an agreement that is working and delivering.” She also confirmed that Russia and China are clearly opposed to re-negotiating the deal, let alone scrap it.
What is also on the cards is the emphasis coming from Iran, and tacitly from Russia and China as well, about using the Iran-deal as a model for settling other identical issues, such as that between North Korea and the US/the rest of the world. Were Iran’s Rouhani to succeed in convincing Europe and Russia and China to follow the same framework vis-à-vis North Korea, the space for the US to push for a renegotiation of the deal would shrink further. Certainly, a big reason for the US to worry!
The US, therefore, is left with limited options to pursue its ‘sole-superpower’ path and thus satisfy its ‘deep-ally’, Israel. The path of hegemony that Trump is attempting at carving out for the US by threatening war and destruction is thus most likely to face a lot of opposition both from within Europe and Asia. And, as Iran’s Rouhani has already made it clear, Tehran will not take any action as long as Europe remains in the deal. He has tactically left the ball in Europe’s court, and has embarked upon a wait and see strategy, leaving the US with nothing but an irritant in the form of Europe to deal with first. And, Trump has done little in the first few months of his presidency to impress Europe with his leadership of the United States.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.