Trump, Pompeo, and Iran
Current US policy toward Iran has three facets of pettiness, ignorance, and arrogance. My criticism of the leadership style of Donald Trump, the new normal of abusive language in political rhetoric, and the arrogance and ignorance of the President and his Administration is well known. The President’s petty Obamaphobia and the hypocritical interpretation of historical facts is dangerous and self-indulgent. He has surrounded himself with washed-out neocons like John Bolton and, now, I’m just waiting for the rehabilitation of Paul Wolfowitz next. And now a Tea Partier is the Secretary of State. Mike Pompeo is highly qualified for many offices, perhaps the CIA, and perhaps even the Pentagon. The leader of the State Department ought to be a Warhawk. Yet, on May 21, 2018, the top diplomat of the United States of America said that the US will “crush” Iran. Crush? Is that now the new-normal for diplomatic parlance?
- From the White House Correspondents Dinner of 2011 to the campaign trail of Election 2016, it is apparent that the US President Donald Trump has a personal vendetta with all things Barrack Obama. No, it’s not even a policy disagreement, its personal Obamaphobia. The cornerstone of this Administration seems to be to dismantle the name Obama from the government as if the name was an interloper’s moniker on the side of a Trump Tower. Indeed, there seems to be little logic behind policy-reversals, just that the policies were ascribed to Obama… Obamacare anyone? From DACA, to Cuba, the Paris Accord and Net Neutrality, to off-shore drilling, Bears Ear, transgender bathrooms, and the Iran Agreement. Of course, an incoming president has the right and, as presidents from opposite political parties, perhaps the ideological interest in reversing policies. However, this Administration is obsessed with undoing policy at rates of speed and indifference to law more than prior administrations.
- While questionably legal, many on both sides of the aisle were relieved with the DACA policy because it removed Congressional responsibility for a legislative fix. The Republican-led Senate brokered a deal, only to have President Trump undermine the deal at the last minute.
- Was anyone outside Little Havana in Miami even complaining about the normalization of relations with Cuba? Then why change the policy… because it was done by Obama.
- Climate Change? Obama, so it was “undone” even though it is legally binding under international law. Article 4 of the Paris Accord reiterates the obligations already contained in Article 4 of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which became binding law after US Senate ratification in 1992.
- On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, the Republican-led Senate passed legislation to repeal Trump’s FCC decision by Trump’s appointees.
- President Trump lifted the off-shore drilling ban, even though the coastal governors of both political persuasions lobbied Trump not to reverse the ban.
- And don’t get me started about Bears Ear National Monument…
- Even in the face of North Carolina’s gubernatorial election, Donald Trump’s Administration reversed the interpretation of Title IX regarding transgender bathrooms.
Pettiness at its finest.
II. The Hypocrisy of Selective History and the Selective Application of National-Sovereignty and International Norms
A. The Hypocrisy of Selective History
Again, each incoming presidential administration has the right to make policy changes and reprioritize both domestic and international agendas. Presidents of both political parties have had a history of engaging with rogue states and terrorist organizations. Yet, hypocritically, some presidential candidates and presidents seem to only vilify engagements by presidents of the opposite political party. From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Iran-Contra Deal, from the Reagan-Gorbachev Summits to the USS Stark cover-up, from Bush 41’s official acceptance of the Japanese apology for Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1991, to Bush’s continuation of pro-Iraq policies as NSD 26. And Clinton’s normalization of relations with Vietnam and his negotiations with the PLO in the Middle East as well as the IRA and UDA terrorist organizations in Northern Ireland.
In 2004, President George W. Bush began the process of normalizing relations with Libya. Additionally, the Bush Administration used US funds to create the Sunni Awakening militias by essentially hiring the militiamen away from the Sunni uprising militias that had been attacking the US and Shi’a forces.
The point is this: it is hypocritical and/or ignorant to denounce meeting and negotiation with rogue nations and terrorist organizations. It is a tool of diplomacy that has been used by US Presidents from both political parties. In fact, the current president seems as proud of his impending meeting with Kim Jung Un as he and others were critical of President Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro.
B. The Hypocrisy of Selective National-Sovereignty and International Norms
Again, it is important to remember that the UN Treaty is binding US law based upon Article VI of the US Constitution and the ratification of the UN Treaty by the US Senate in 1945. And Chapter VI of this binding document requires negotiation and arbitration of international disputes, not one-sided ultimatums.
US foreign policy for many decades has been a double standard, to say the least. American rhetoric often refers to the rule of law, yet the American government categorically ignored the decision in USA v. Nicaragua (1986). The more recent American use of drones as extrajudicial execution squads are as illegal internationally and, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki and others, against domestic law as well.
The US government often asserts national sovereignty as a bulwark defense of US policy and unilateral actions yet labels other sovereign states who assert the same supposition as rogue-nations. Either the Americans has the right to impose a unilateral economic blockade against Cuba and Iran has the right to develop nuclear technologies, or Iran does not have the right to develop nuclear technologies and the US does not have the right to unilaterally impose economic sanctions. Both are examples of national sovereignty. Either Iran must comply with international regimes and the US must comply with international regimes as well (again, like USA v. Nicaragua), or international regimes are not compulsory on either nation-state.
If the US government can arbitrarily withdraw from international treaties such as the US Small Weapons Ban, Kyoto Protocol, the Rome Statute, NAFTA, the Paris Accord, the Iran Agreement… If the United States can withdraw from international agreements, then is there any reason for Iran to stay party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons? Iran can hardly be held in violation to an agreement that the government has withdrawn from, right? What is the incentive for Iran to stay a party to the NPT?
Yes, there is a clear, non-partisan, double standard in how the United States government interprets the concepts of national sovereignty and international law. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once said that everyone has a right to their opinion, but not to their own facts. Too often in the past, the American government has interpreted the facts of international law to suit US foreign policy. Now, in the Age of Trumpism, we have ignorance and categorical lies, coupled with American’s tradition of selective history and the selective application of International norms.
III. An Ignorance of History and the Concept of Cultural Diffusion
On May 21, 2018, Mike Pompeo made his first formal comments on Iran since President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the party agreement was negotiated by the P5, the European Union, and Germany with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Seven sovereign nation-states and a non-state actor worked on the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal Framework, and now the United States is taking its proverbial ball and going home. More ignorance of international norms.
The President’s petty Obamaphobia influencing Trump’s understanding of the Iran Agreement, combined with the hypocritical ignorance of historical facts that ignores Reagan’s attempts to negotiate with the Iranian government. In addition, this self-indulgent
Candidate Trump, President-Elect Trump, and President Trump have all repeated ignorant and categorical lies, such as stating that President Obama sent millions in US currency to Iran, without either understanding or articulating that the transfer was a return of Iranian assets frozen since the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The return of those frozen assets (+interest) was part of the negotiated Framework.
President Trump and Neocons, like Bolton, as well as Tea Partiers, like Pompeo, seem to think that negotiation is when everyone else agrees with you. The international community has done that before, it’s called the Treaty of Versailles. And, thanks to the Treaty of Versailles, we got Hitler, Nazism, and World War II. A successful treaty is a negotiated agreement in which each side gets something and, frankly, no one is happy. That’s called diplomacy. Total warfare may work in military combat, but it always fails in international diplomacy.
Let’s go back to Pompeo’s visit to the Heritage Foundation today; in the 16th paragraph of his speech, Pompeo said that, after complying with US demands, Iran will be welcomed back into the “League of Nations.” Yup. He said the League of Nations. And please don’t tell me that it’s an expression, take a look at the text of the speech, League of Nations was capitalized. Who the heck is his speech writer? If it was meant as just an expression, who is the editor? Who released the text of the speech to the public? Did the Secretary read his speech before he arrived at the Heritage Foundation today? Did *he* notice? I dunno, should someone tell, or have told, the top diplomat of the most powerful nation-state on Earth, the United States Secretary of State, …that the League of Nations does not exist anymore? For some reason, I personally feel that he should have known that already.
And these of the people who are in charge of our diplomacy and our reputation throughout the world…
Yes, on May 21, 2018, the top diplomat of the United States of America said that the US will “crush” Iran. Crush. Yes, the new-normal for diplomatic parlance. And, in the same speech, the chief diplomat referred to the League of Nations that has been defunct for 72 years.
Yes, my criticism of Donald Trump’s leadership style is already on record. I do not appreciate the debased new-normal of abusive language in our political rhetoric, as well as the arrogance and, in my opinion, ignorance of the President and his Administration. The President’s has a petty Obamaphobic hang-up and a dangerous and self-indulgent interpretation of historical facts. The President has surrounded himself with washed-out neocons like John Bolton and Tea Partiers like Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, like Rex Tillerson, is highly qualified for many offices like the CIA and the Pentagon. But the leader of the State Department is a Warhawk who promises to “crush” Iran until it rejoins the 72-year defunct League of Nations.
The US policy toward Iran is three comprised of pettiness, ignorance, and arrogance. Apparently, one the one hand, Obama gave the cow away to Iran, but it’s the Art of the Deal to sit down with Kim Jung Un. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. No, no one knows what the future holds for Iran or North Korea, but US negotiations with the PLO and the IRA seem to have gone well. US normalization of relations with Vietnam and Libya seem to have gone fairly well too.
The fact is that the Iranians will have nuclear weapons if they want… maybe not this year, or the next, maybe not in 5 years, but you can’t stop it permanently. It’s called cultural diffusion. The British couldn’t prevent Samuel Slater from bringing the Industrial Revolution to America, nor could America stop the transfer of electronics technologies to East Asia. More to the point, the US and its allies were unable to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Russia, China, India, Pakistan, or North Korea. But few Americas fear waking up to nuclear war with the UK, France, India, or even China or Russia. So, the issue is not nuclear proliferation, its the relationship that the United States has with other nuclear power that matters most. No, the US government cannot permanently prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb forever, but the US can manage the US-Iranian relationship so that in ten years Iran is not an enemy.
Perhaps its time to let go of Zero Sum politics, the hypocritical application of international norms, and Obamaphobia? Perhaps Obama’s engagement and negotiation with the Iranians is as valid as Trump’s engagement and negotiation with the North Koreans?
Just the thoughts of a Babbling Professor…
My name is Tom Keefe, and, remember, Today’s Tomorrow’s Yesterday!
Thanks for Listening!