Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Obama Trumped

The Donald has torn up the Iran nuclear arms agreement. On the basis that it was a rotten deal and shamefully one-sided. He’s probably right on the second point: it has led to Iran dropping its military nuclear programme, but few of the promised economic benefits in the way of foreign investment into Iran have materialised.

But maybe Trump didn’t mean that the deal was one-sided against Iran.

The worry seems to be that Iran has never abandoned a policy of extending its influence throughout the region, by manipulating puppet governments and backing deeply unpleasant groups. In particular, Irans friend Hezbollah has shown itself perfectly ready to take terrorist action or use violence generally to advance its political agenda.

What’s curious, though, is that it’s the states of the region most inclined to use such violence who are leading the charge against the Iran deal.

Saudi Arabia, for instance, seems intent on pummelling Yemen back into the Stone Age, as it uses its military to starve the Yemeni people and leave it victim to disease as well as injuries without the means to fight them. It also regularly kills large numbers of civilians – for instance, at weddings or funerals – always it claims unintentionally, which means the Saudis are either lying and therefore committing war crimes, or telling the truth and therefore so utterly inept that they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a weapon.
Saudi Arabia teaching Yemen to appreciate peace
Israel, too, has long established the principle of a hundred eyes for an eye, reacting to any attack on its people by one tens of times more powerful and more murderous. It also regularly intervenes militarily in Syria, in just the same way as Iran or Russia does, with the same callous indifference to the wellbeing – or even survival – of the citizens or the hopes for peace.

But these two nations proclaim their commitment to ending terrorism as their reason for wanting the nuclear deal with Iran ended.

Meanwhile, in the greatest irony of all, it is the United States itself that has done most to ensure the growing power of Iran across the Middle East. It was Dubya Bush, after all, slavishly supported by Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, who invaded Iraq to bring down Saddam Hussein. Saddam was a deeply unpleasant character and no one deserved to overthrown more than he did, but he was also deeply hostile to Iran. Why, he even fought an eight-year war against his neighbour.

His overthrow left a power-vacuum in Iraq into which flowed the Shia groups who, precisely because they represented the majority of the people, he had always oppressed and prevented holding power. They were enthusiastic supporters of Iran, ruled by fellow Shiites. So in place of Saddam, we now have a puppet-government of Iran’s holding sway over Iraq and its oil.

The West itself set the trap in which it was then caught.

And it looks as though Trump wants to do exactly the same thing again. The Iran nuclear deal was by no means perfect, but it was the only deal we had. Whatever Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel may say, all the evidence points to a huge reduction in Iran’s nuclear programme. In addition, we now have observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency regularly checking Iran’s installations, which we didn’t have before. But just as the UN inspectors were disbelieved when they reported that Saddam didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, before the Iraq invasion whose declared goal was to deprive him of them, so Trump refuses to believe the IAEA inspectors today.

What is certain is that if the agreement fails, Iran will return to preparing and stockpiling nuclear weapons. The reformist government may well fall and be replaced by something far less accommodating. Iran may turn from an uncertain partner in peace into an enemy all the more dangerous for thinking itself threatened.

Like Dubya and Trump before him, but at far greater scale, Trump is creating precisely the monster he claims to be acting against.

An ignorant man turns his own weapons against himself. Sadly, he turns them against the rest of us too. Something for which we have to thank the equally deluded minority of US voters who thought they would somehow benefit from putting him in a position to do the damage.

Just as with Brexit, if your answer is Trump, you’re asking the wrong question.

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