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The withdrawal doctrine of Trump

A better option would be to leave the existing deal take its course while heaping pressure on Iran to stop its terrorist and missile activities

Gulf News

If former US president Barack Obama feels anything other than being peeved at his successor’s systematic smashing of his legacy, I would be very surprised. The Trump administration’s ‘America First’ policies are demolishing each of his ‘triumphs’ or being positioned to do so.

President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass joked that Trump’s foreign policy should be known as “The Withdrawal Doctrine”.

President Donald Trump is doing his utmost to stick to his campaign promises, a rare achievement for a politician and one that is energising his loyal right-wing base while dismaying his critics.

While on the stump, Trump repeatedly blasted the Iran deal (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), which came into effect following seven years of sensitive negotiations, as being the worst ever.

I share his view. It was too narrowly drafted and should have held Tehran to account for its regional aggression, terrorist cells and proxies as well as its nuclear-capable ballistic missile testing that violates UNSC [UN Security Council] Resolution 2231.

For agreeing to place a 15-year moratorium on its nuclear progress, Iran was legitimised, empowered and initially made richer by $150 billion (Dh550.5 billion) allowing Tehran to bolster its weaponry and swell the coffers of Hezbollah — its Lebanese surrogate. Against the advice of his closest advisors and all other partners to the agreement Trump has declined to certify Iran’s compliance even though the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that Iran’s commitments are being fully implemented.

Put in the shredder

He stopped short of pulling the US out to give Congress and America’s allies the opportunity to fix the deal’s “serious flaws” while threatening to void the agreement if the outcome is not to his liking. But there are arguments over whether he has the legal right when the agreement is not bilateral, the United Nations and all other signatories — including Britain, France, Germany, the EU — are highly critical of his decision. Most crucially, the arrangement has been endorsed by a binding UN Security Council Resolution. The world does need to adopt a tougher stance to rein in Iran’s belligerence against Saudi Arabia and Gulf States, but is quashing an existing deal the best route? A better option would be to let the existing agreement take its course while heaping pressure on Iran in terms of sanctions to stop its terrorist and missile activities.

That solution would attract more support from America’s western allies and would not cause harm to the credibility of the US currently engaged in diplomatic talks with North Korea. Many more agreements have been put in the shredder since Trump’s inauguration last January. On his very first day in the Oval Office, the newly minted Commander-in-Chief discarded the “horrible” 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) on which the remaining eleven are working to revise spearheaded by Canada. The North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) is currently in danger of going the same way due to Trump’s insistence on a sunset clause whereby the agreement would automatically expire every five years.

One of the biggest shockers was the president’s pullout of the Paris Accord on climate change championed by Obama, who pledged to cut US greenhouse gases by 28 per cent. The accord has been ratified by 168 countries to date despite the absence of one of the planet’s greatest polluters.

Worse, Obama’s Clean Power Plan is being repealed to revitalise the all-but-dead coal industry, set to benefit from government subsidies.

Trump has ridden roughshod over numerous other pledges made by Obama, among them the latter’s acceptance of 110,000 refugees fleeing the Syrian war, a quota now reduced to 45,000.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) permitting almost 70,000 undocumented migrants (known as Dreamers) who arrived in the US as children to enjoy legal protections from deportation for two years (renewable) will be phased out unless Congress comes up with a plan within a fixed timeframe. The Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) was doomed from the start and although the White House has gone all out to repeal and replace it, Congress has been unable agree on a viable alternative. Frustrated with the impasse, a few days ago, the president decapitated the programme by putting an end to federal reimbursements to insurance companies for reduced rates offered to low-income customers.

The move is aimed at allowing “Obamacare to explode”, Trump says. In the meantime, untold millions of sick Americans could be left uninsured, including many of his economically-challenged supporters in Red States. The US president is clearly no people-pleaser. He is very much his own man. Washington needed a shake-up, which is one of the main reasons an outsider was voted in. Whether his unorthodox methods of achieving his goals will pay-off, only time will tell.

Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.

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