Two foreign policies 3

The US government has two foreign policies: one is President Trump’s, the other is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s.

In the case of US policy towards Iran, for instance, President Trump abominates the “deal” Obama made with that evil regime and wants to tear it up, while the Secretary of State wants to preserve it.

The “deal” (it is not a treaty, it isn’t even signed by either side) requires the president of the United States to certify, every 90 days, that Iran is complying with it.

Iran is not complying with it.

Against his better judgment, for reasons we have to assume were sound at the time, President Trump has re-certified it twice. He must have done so with great reluctance, such a horrible thing it is, giving the America-hating mullahs the right to start building a nuclear arsenal in a few years from now. Under its cover, Iran isn’t even waiting the few years; it is working constantly towards its nuclear goal.

So President Trump cannot certify for a third time that it is in compliance.

And according to AP, he won’t.

AP reports:

President Donald Trump could announce his secret decision on the future of the Iran nuclear deal next week.

U.S. officials familiar with the president’s planning said Wednesday he is preparing to deliver an Iran policy speech in which he is expected to declare the landmark 2015 agreement contrary to America’s national security interests. …

Trump faces an Oct. 15 deadline to tell Congress if he believes Iran is complying with the seven-nation pact and if it advances US interests.

The president has called the 2015 deal, which forced Iran to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for broad relief from international economic sanctions, one of the nation’s “worst and most one-sided transactions” ever. But many of his top national security aides don’t want to dismantle the deal, and America’s European allies have lobbied the Trump administration heavily not to walk away from the agreement.

Even AP – which cannot conceal which of the two US foreign policies it favors – cannot claim more for the “deal” than that it “forced Iran to scale back its nuclear program”. But it is not scaling it back much, if at all. So much for the “forced”.

“We’re going to give him a couple of options of how to move forward to advance the important policy toward Iran,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Wednesday. He said the Iran deal comprised “only a small part” of the government’s approach to Iran, a traditional US  adversary in the Middle East that Washington considers the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

President Trump’s Secretary of State is going to give him, the president, a couple of options.

Tillerson will preserve the deal, but will do it in such a way that the president doesn’t lose face!

The Iran deal’s future may hinge on a face-saving fix for Trump so he doesn’t have to recertify the Islamic republic’s compliance every 90 days …

Several officials familiar with internal discussions say the periodic deadlines have become such a source of embarrassment for Trump that his aides are trying to find ways for him to stop signing off on the accord without scuttling it entirely.

So having to certify that Iran is in compliance when it isn’t, is only a source of embarrassment to President Trump? Not a lie to America and the world against his own will and principles? Those officials should not be in the White House or the State Department or wherever they are lurking!

Trump has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to certify Iranian compliance again after having done so twice already, declaring last month he even had made his mind up about what he’ll do next. “Decertification” could lead Congress to reintroduce economic sanctions on Iran that were suspended under the deal. If that happens, Iran has threatened to walk away from the arrangement and restart activities that could take it closer to nuclear weapons.

That last sentence is one of many in the report which shows AP’s bias. A warning to the president. “Walk away from the deal?” It is walking away from it. “Closer to nuclear weapons”? It is close to them now.

The UN (along with Europe) is on the side of keeping the deal. Because (like Europe) it is on the side of Iran. Its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently admitted that it cannot verify that Iran is implementing the most important part of the “deal”, Section T – the part that prohibits Iran from developing nuclear weapons for 10 to 15 years from the time the “deal” was agreed.

The plain fact is  that the IAEA is not just useless in keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear power, it is helping it on the excuse that if it asked for the permission of Iran to inspect its  military bases – which according to the stupid “deal” it must – it knows Iran will not give it. And that would confirm President  Trump’s criticism of the deal. “We just don’t want to give them [the US] an excuse” to “bring down the deal”, an IAEA official said.

Since the IAEA cannot inspect the sites, and so cannot say that Iran is not keeping to the “deal”, AP declares that the agency has found Iran in compliance:

Because the UN nuclear watchdog has found Iran in compliance, it’s difficult for the US administration to say otherwise. However, Trump and other officials, including Tillerson, have said Iran is violating the spirit of the agreement because of its testing of ballistic missiles, threats to US allies in the Middle East, and support for US-designated terrorist organizations and Syria’s government.

So Tillerson does at least admit that Iran is “violating the spirit of the agreement”.

But he and US Defense department officials, including the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, still want to keep itSince the IAEA has not certified that Iran is in breach of it, they pretend that means it is not in breach of it.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that Iran “is not in material breach of the agreement”.

Why do they pretend this?  Because –

At the same hearing, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he believed the deal is still in the US national security interest.

For US officials involved in the decision-making process, the focus on finding a way for Trump to avoid anything looking like approval for the accord has become a source of frustration. Various options are in play to resolve the problem, but none are clean solutions, according to officials.

And they will  not consider simply accepting President Trumps wish to scrap the useless “accord”. So all their difficulties are of their own making – finding a way to implement their own policy rather than the president’s, while making the president think that they are implementing his!

The most likely strategy centers on Trump not certifying Iran’s compliance. Below the president, diplomats and officials would then strive to manage any fallout with Tehran and US allies by emphasizing that Washington isn’t leaving the deal or immediately applying new nuclear sanctions on Iran. After that, Trump wouldn’t have to address the certification matter again, officials said.

And as long as the issue doesn’t come before him for his signature, they can merrily proceed with their own plans?

Whether AP is aware of it or not, its report reveals a contempt for President Trump on the part of Tillerson and the generals. It suggests that they regard the president as so naive that he can be hoodwinked by a trick which removes the need for him to certify that Iran is keeping the deal, but yet preserves the deal

Mattis hinted his boss may try to decertify without breaking the deal.

His boss may try? He, Mattis – along with Tillerson – will try.

“You can talk about the conditions under one of those, and not walk away from the other,” he said.

While Mattis described the issues of certification and upholding the deal as “different pieces”, they overlap.

How can Iran’s breaking of the deal – which is what decertifying means – not cancel it? The breaking cannot just be a “different piece” which “overlaps” the deal as a whole. It is the essence of an agreement that it must be kept by both sides or it is invalidated. By a “different piece” they can only mean that the clause calling for certification is not the whole of the agreement. By saying it “overlaps” the clauses, they are tacitly acknowledging that declaring the agreement broken by Iran does affect the whole thing.

They are trying to preserve a broken deal!  Of course it’s a strain even on the skills of an equivocating diplomat to reconcile “broken” with “not so broken we have to discard it”.

Why are they straining to keep it?

In January, Tillerson must waive multiple sets of sanctions on Iran for the US to uphold its part of the deal. The issue of US national security interests is relevant to those decisions.

How “US national interests” are protected or advanced by the “deal” is not explained. It has never been explained.

Obama’s “deal” makes it possible for the belligerent, America-hating theocrats of Iran,  who believe absolutely in Shia Islam and its centuries-long ambition to subdue the world under Shia Muslim rule, to become a nuclear power. How is that in the interests of the United States?

President Trump sees that it is not. As AP itself reports: President Trump “is expected to declare the landmark 2015 agreement contrary to America’s national security interests”. 

May he do so! Then let’s see by what contorted argument the resistance within the administration tries to justify preserving the abominable “deal”.

The dangerous Russian alliance 1

According to the Pentagon:

A ballistic missile launched by Iran on Sunday [March 12, 2017] was North Korean in construction or design. …

This latest test could set Iran on a collision course with the Trump Administration, which has promised to take a hard line on Iran.

Why has President Trump not already torn up the “deal” Obama made with Iran? It really is “the stupidest deal of all time”, as President Trump himself called it.

Is the process of disempowering Iran starting with a warning to Iran’s nuclear-armed ally North Korea?

Reuters reports:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday [March 17, 2017] issued the Trump administration’s starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying that a military response would be “on the table” if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korean and U.S. forces.

Speaking in Seoul after visiting the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean peninsula and some of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, Tillerson said former President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” towards Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs was over.

“We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures. All options are on the table,” Tillerson told a news conference.

He said any North Korean actions that threatened U.S. or South Korean forces would be met with “an appropriate response,” turning up the volume of the tough language that has marked President Donald Trump’s approach to North Korea.

“Certainly, we do not want for things to get to a military conflict,” he said when asked about possible military action, but added: “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table.”

Nuclear co-operation between Iran and nuclear-armed North Korea is hastening the day when there will be a nuclear-armed Iran.

But at present, the alliance between Iran and Russia is even more dangerous. 

This is from an article at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, by Anna Borshchevskaya, dated February 6, 2017:

It is going to be difficult to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran. Too many interests hold them together …

From Moscow’s perspective, the U.S. has been and will continue to be an enemy, no matter how hard any U.S. president tries to improve relations. Putin needs the U.S. as an enemy to justify domestic problems at home and he sees the current geopolitical order, anchored by the U.S., as disadvantaging him. Nothing short of a rearrangement of that order will satisfy Putin. Nobel Prize-winning author and journalist Svetlana Alexievich observed in October 2015 that Russians “are people of war. We don’t have any other history. Either we were preparing for war or we were fighting one. And so all of this militarism has pushed all of our psychological buttons at once.” Putin needs allies who share this worldview.

President Trump expressed two contradictory policies during his campaign: being tough on Iran and improving relations with Russia. These two goals are incompatible because Putin wants a partnership with Trump in Syria, but Syria is where Putin is most closely allied with Iran. In order to push Iran and Russia apart, Trump needs to resolve this contradiction. The recent Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan only brought Russia and Iran closer together, if anything, given their pledge to fight “jointly” against ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Fateh al-Sham [aka the al-Nusra Front]. This development will also make it even more difficult for Trump to ally with Russia on Syria.

So far, Putin has succeeded in balancing Israeli and Sunni interests with its growing relationship with Iran. But it is unclear how long Putin can sustain this policy. Certainly, Putin did not hesitate to discount Israel’s interests when it came to selling S-300 weapons to Iran. Indeed, it is not in Israel’s interest for Putin to continue supporting Bashar al-Assad and thereby expand Iran’s influence in the Middle East. The Trump administration could encourage and support U.S. allies like Israel in order to make it more difficult for Putin to maintain his balance of good relations with all sides. It should also step up security cooperation with its allies to demonstrate that it is still committed to the region.

In the long term, Russia and Iran diverge somewhat on Syria. Iran perceives Syria as within its sphere of influence, which is not very different from how Putin views the former Soviet Union countries that he does not consider real states. Iran is interested in exacerbating sectarian divisions in Syria so that the Assad regime becomes an Iranian client-state with no independent decision-making. Iran is also closer to Assad himself than Putin, who simply wants Assad or someone else like him to ensure his interests in Syria. He cares more about how he can leverage Syria in his relations with the West than Syria itself. At the same time, Putin also increasingly perceives the Middle East as falling within the Russian sphere of influence, albeit differently than Iran. Historically, Moscow always looked for buffer zones out of its sense of insecurity, and this is precisely how it feels now.

The Trump administration could emphasize to Putin that Russian and Iranian interests in Syria are bound to clash in the future, and therefore an alliance with Iran can only go so far. But most of all, the U.S. needs to be present in the region and regain its leadership position. Putin preys on weakness and has perceived the U.S. as weak for years. He stepped into a vacuum in the Middle East, especially in Syria, that was created by America’s absence. By taking an active role in the region, the U.S. would limit Putin’s influence, including his alliance with Iran.

The article ends with a statement that seems to contradict the one with which the quotation opens.

Can the US “limit Putin’s influence, including his alliance with Iran”, or is it “going to be difficult to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran”?

The Russian-Iranian alliance is extremely dangerous for the US and the world. Can President Trump weaken it? Can he disengage Russia from Iran? Can he subdue Russia’s intensifying belligerence? Will he tear up Obama’s “deal” and put an end to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear bombs and the missiles to deliver them to the Middle East, Europe, and America?

Is there a plan to achieve all that, a process starting with the much-needed, long-delayed, serious warning to North Korea?