On the surface, President Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear accord with Iran is a disaster. If Iran considers the accord null and void without U.S. participation and resumes uranium enrichment on a large scale – Tehran for now says it will stick with the deal – we would be on the road to yet another unnecessary war in the Middle East. President Trump was elected to get us out of the wars we are in, not start new ones.
Meanwhile, revived and new U.S. economic sanctions on Iran may put us on a collision course with Europe. Will Europe allow Washington to dictate to European companies and banks whom they can do business with? If not, American sanctions on European businesses may be met with European sanctions on U.S. firms. Europe, China, and Russia have already said they will continue to honor the accord, which leaves the U.S. diplomatically isolated. Couple diplomatic with economic isolation and we will have a problem.
Some supporters of President Trump’s action hope the damage it will bring to Iran’s economy may inspire the Iranian people to revolt and overthrow the clerical regime. That is a possibility, although most peoples rally around the flag in response to outside pressure. But it is possible that, in the face of a widespread revolt, the Iranian state could collapse altogether. That would be a disastrous outcome for all concerned, because it would be a great victory for the Fourth Generation war entities that would fill the vacuum created by yet another American-facilitated state collapse. If Washington had any understanding of 4GW – which it doesn’t – it would realize a collapse of the Iranian state is far a greater danger than that state can ever pose.
But there is another way to read President Trump’s action. Both on North Korea and on some trade issues he has gotten good results by using a standard business technique: going in with maximalist demands, threats, etc., then backing off as part of a deal. In diplomacy, this is known as brinksmanship. You push a situation to the brink of disaster, then pull a rabbit out of the hat in the form of an agreement that leaves everyone satisfied and the situation more stable than it was before.
If that is the game here – I have no way of knowing – then the President’s action was not a disaster. But it is still a high risk. The whole performance may have been coordinated with the Europeans in advance, in which case everyone is just following a script. Again, that could lead to a renewed and improved accord with Iran. But if not and our diplomatic isolation is real, the risks go up. And if Iran responds by tearing up the whole deal and going for the bomb, again, we face another unnecessary war. In that war, all the American troops in Syria and Iraq and perhaps those in Afghanistan as well will become Iranian hostages. What then, Mr. President?
President Trump’s brinksmanship with North Korea appears to have worked well, so far at least. If he comes out of his summit with Kim Jong-Un with an agreement that denuclearizes North Korea, ends the Korean war with a formal peace treaty, allows and helps North Korea to join the world economy and gets U.S. troops out of South Korea, he will indeed deserve, with Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon, the Nobel Peace Prize. Should he be able to build on that by making a similar deal with Tehran, one allowing Iran to improve its economy while reducing its considerable regional military and diplomatic overreach, he would at least be a candidate for sainthood. Has the President or anyone around him thought all this through? God only knows. And I’m not sure He is paying attention.