Trump’s Iran stance conceals foreign policy failures - GulfToday

Trump’s Iran stance conceals foreign policy failures

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Donald Trump

President Trump with his top team members.

Donald Trump appears to have recognised the rising threat of a conflict with Iran when last Thursday he called for Tehran to “call me” and negotiate a “fair deal” to defuse the increasingly perilous situation. He seems to signal that a new agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme would end sanctions instead of insisting that Iran would have to comply with a dozen US demands outside the nuclear deal. These have been put forward by aides as conditions for the punitive US sanctions regime to be lifted. Trump indicated that he has had, on occasion, to “temper” regime hawks.

His call seems to indicate — until he changes his mind — that he is at odds with them on this issue.  His proposal coincided with the deployment to the Gulf of a US aircraft carrier group, long-range bombers, ships carrying amphibious landing craft, and Patriot missiles.  

His advisers claimed the deployment had been necessitated by secret “intelligence” reports that Iran and its “proxies” were planning attacks on the 5,200 US troops based in Iraq. Experts have dubbed these reports as “fake news” concocted by Trump regime hawks who make no secret that they want to engineer a US attack on Iran without considering consequences for the region.

A former unnamed Trump regime official told Al Monitor, “There is intel every day of random s**t from Iran. Mostly junk. Bolton turns every strand into ‘Gulf of Tonkin,’” a clash between a US ship and North Vietnamese patrol boats in international waters that provided Washington with the pretext to mount a full-scale war on Hanoi: a war the US lost.

The official continued, “We are pressuring Iran with a policy that sees pressure as an end in itself. The Iranians may well react, which provides casus belli to these nuts.”

The chief Iran hawks are security adviser John Bolton, an Iraq-war advocate, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and Vice President Mike Pence.  All are cheered on by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who has long pressed Washington to take military action against Iran which he claims, falsely, is using its nuclear facilities to build bombs.

Official policy of the US government is that Iran has to “change its  behaviour” in the region by ending its support for Hizbollah, the Palestinian resistance, the Syrian government, and Iraqi Shia militias as well as its minimal involvement on the side of rebel Houthis in the Yemen conflict. Giuliani, however, says he and many fellow citizens believe the Iranian government has “to go.”

Trump’s hawks are very well aware that once a military build-up reaches a certain level, Washington will have to make use of its assets. This is precisely what happened when, in 1991 and 2003, the US waged war on Iraq once it had sent critical numbers of planes, ships, armour, and ground troops to the region.

Although world public opinion opposed these wars, there was no possibility of the US withdrawing without launching a military campaign.   

The latest US deployment coincided with the announcement by Tehran that, in response to a new round of Trump regime sanctions, Iran would suspend the limit on its stock of enriched uranium in the 2015 deal agreed with six global powers.

Trump violated the deal by withdrawing a year ago. Under this agreement Iran pledged to dismantle most of its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting of all international sanctions. Thanks to malign US control of global finance and banking, sanctions have largely remained in place because the US imposes stiff fines on governments, banks and firms investing in or doing business with Iran.

While Iran has continued to enrich uranium to the low level needed for medical purposes and generating electricity, it has exported 98 per cent of its production, earning sorely needed foreign exchange.  Under Trump’s latest round of sanctions it will be nearly impossible for Iran to export for payment.

Consequently, the only way for Iran to carry on with activities agreed in the nuclear deal would be to dramatically reduce uranium enrichment to the point of nearly shutting down its nuclear facilities — which is, of course, the aim of the Trump regime.  Iran is not going to oblige.

The US build-up in this region is, all too clearly, intended to deflect domestic and international attention to major Trump regime foreign policy failures both in this region and elsewhere.

Pompeo’s recent visit to Baghdad to press the Shia-dominated government to cut political and economic ties with Iran has been rejected. Iraq depends on Iran for electricity, natural gas, refined oil products, food, vehicle spare parts, medicine and other goods.  Annual trade has risen to $12 billion,. Pilgrimages by Shias to both countries are worth $5 billion.

Trump’s reversal of his decision to pull 2,000 US troops out of northern Syria has caused confusion. Washington’s Kurdish allies fear they will be abandoned to Turkey which has promised to expel them from the border zone. Arabs living under US-backed Kurdish rule have protested and have made deals with the Syrian government.

Trump’s “deal of the century” to resolve the century-old Arab/Palestine-Israel conflict has been rejected by the Palestinians following leaks of the proposal in Israeli, Arab and international media. Trump’s ongoing effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government has, so far, collapsed, leaving that country in chaos and its people suffering from US sanctions and blockade.

The Trump regime’s re-imposition of sanctions on Cuba has not forced its government to change its policies. US sanctions on Russia have not altered its stand on Ukraine or compelled Moscow to pull out of Crimea.

Trump’s trumpeted opening to North Korea has flopped.  North Korea has not budged over dismantling its nuclear arsenal or programme and has resumed testing of short-range missiles to show its displeasure over Trump’s refusal to phase out sanctions.

And, Trump’s policy of more than doubling tariffs on Chinese goods is not only likely to launch a trade war with the world’s second largest economy but also risks a global recession. His tariffs are certain to result in US consumers paying at least 25 per cent more for purchases of the wide range of Chinese imports from clothing to washing machines. China has retaliated by reducing imports of US agricultural produce, harming US farmers. His China policy alone could bring about his defeat in next year’s presidential election.

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