Problems on hold
The US decision to unilaterally pull out of the Iran nuclear deal has shaken the entire world. The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: UK, China, France, Russia and US; plus Germany; known as the P5-plus-1 group, had in 2015 signed the agreement with Iran. It meant Iran would relinquish its military nuclear programme in return for lifting oil and financial sanctions that had been imposed on it. The US withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while the five partners criticised the US stance and pledged to hold on to the deal. Iran, on the other hand, was enraged both on the official and public levels and vowed to reactivate its military nuclear programme if the P5-plus-1 failed to honour the agreement.
I feel with the Egyptian political administration and diplomacy which now need to walk a tightrope to balance various Egyptian strategic interests. Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have supported the US decision. Many others, however, have criticised it: former US president Obama; a number of European countries including the UK, Germany and France; Russia and China; and Syria and Turkey. The US withdrawal served to rearrange friends and foes; the Gulf States stand on the same side with Israel, European countries with Russia and China, and Turkey with Syria. Egyptian diplomacy has exercised wisdom, poise, and self-restraint; it only alluded to the importance and benefits of Iran’s abiding by the JCPOA which serves the purpose of peace and stability in the region. The Egyptian administration condemned neither the US stance which Russia described as a “flagrant violation of international law” nor the Iranian response. It must be remembered that even though Iran restrained its military nuclear programme, it has caused unrest and terrorism in the entire Middle East, which was the main reason why the US decided to pull out. The world now holds its breath lest the region turns into a war field as world forces play out their battles on it its ground.
When Trump became US president in November 2016, I was among those who were wary of the new US president and his unprecedented profile—at least among post-WWII presidents of America. I voiced my concerns back then, asking: “Will Trump’s impulsiveness gain the upper hand over the behavioural requirements of a president?”
I wrote that political decision making in the US depended not on the President alone, but on research and strategic study centres as well as a large team of aides and consultants. Now, following a short period in office—January 2017 to May 2018—Trump has thrown all fundamentals to the wind, and has overthrown those among his aides and consultants who disagreed with him. It comes as no surprise then that he has adopted a shocking approach that disregards his allies, friends, international rules or global law. Following are a few instances:
Almost a year ago, Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on the climate change mitigation. Earlier this year, he violated the rules of the World Trade Organisation by imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminium, reneging thus on partnerships and mutual interests such as free trade, lifting taxes and criminalising monopolistic practices. The poorly calculated decision was followed by a series of concessions and exceptions the US had to offer in order to save the day with partners. And recently, Trump pulled the US out of the Iran Nuclear Deal. The outcome is that many in the world are reviewing where they stand, given that the US’s respect of accords and agreements can no longer be trusted.
The upcoming summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is expected to see negotiations that would end the cold war and nuclear armament in North Korea. Do Trump and his aides realise that he has hammered the first nail in the coffin of this summit? US commitment to agreements it signs is now in serious doubt.
20 May 2018