Sunday, August 25, 2019 | ePaper

Trump has to learn international politics is not his business deals: Accidental war is real fear

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The confrontational attitude of the Trump Administration towards Iran in recent days adds much to the heightened tensions in the Gulf Area. It is possible that Mr Trump is just staging a confrontation to force Iran to negotiate a new deal. This week, he said he wanted to talk to Mr Rouhani. But the initial reaction from Iran was underwhelming.

No doubt Iran has observed US interactions with North Korea. Initially Trump was full of fire and fury but as soon as he met Kim Jong-un he declared that the nuclear threat was over. But such statements remove whatever leverage the US might have with Iran as it learns that Trump will not go to war with Iran -- for obvious reasons the US knows that the calculations in terms of US lives lost and dollars spent will be immense -- and there are no guarantees that the war would not be protracted like the Vietnam War, as the terrain of Iran is most suited for insurgency operations. Also the US is quite unlikely to go to war with Iran as it is not a strategic threat to either the US or Israel, a key ally in the region, no matter how badly it wants Iran to stop supporting the Hezbollah and the Houthis.

So removing the US from the JCPOA deal which restricted Iran's ability to make nuclear weapons on the basis that it was done under the Obama Administration and bringing   in hawks like Mike Pompeo has removed the only leverage the US ultimately had with it -- ultimately harming US interests. Meanwhile the crippling US sanctions are hurting the Iran economy -- and that means that the average citizen of Iran is also feeling the pinch. But this is unlikely to cause regime change in Iran -- a prime objective of US policy. And if Iran finally scraps the JCPOA and there is nothing further the US can threaten it with -- then it is entirely possible that Iran will be free to start making bombs.

Similarly the US is engaging in a trade war with China and Mr Trump has already slammed billions of dollars of tariffs in Chinese goods without thinking about who would bear the final burden of the tariff increases. China will have no option but to pass on those cost increases to the US customer -- thus ensuring that the final incidence of the tariff is borne by the US taxpayer, thus hurting US citizens' consumer welfare. These are not goods which can be quickly made by any other country, with the possible exception of textiles, so the US can't shift production elsewhere even if it wants to.

In Venezuela US officials posted a litany of aggressive speeches against the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro as Juan Guaido openly asked the US to intervene militarily, only to back down and send Mike Pompeo to Russia to ensure that the Russians see eye to eye with the US on the need to remove Maduro. But that came to naught as Russia refused to play ball with the US as it stated that the threats which came from US officials regarding Maduro have nothing in common with diplomacy.

To do the most good, the US government should support the constitutionally backed interim presidency of Juan Guaidó, continue to establish relations with his staff, follow the opposition's leader as they navigate the negotiations with Maduro's regime in Oslo, and applaud Guaidó's efforts to lead Venezuelans as they pressure all Venezuelan institutions, including the Venezuelan military, to oust Maduro and hold free and fair elections. But what it must not do is intervene militarily.

All of these actions do not strengthen the ability of the US to deal with other nations -- they weaken it. Mr Trumps transactional notion of achieving foreign policy has made America last, not first, in its ability to get other nations what it wants to do. Playing hawkish with Iran will strengthen the power of the extremists in that nation and weaken the moderates, thus reducing the value of democratic institutions there. Similarly sending the US military to Venezuela while talking tough will give the Venezuelans the idea that their democratic institutions are so weak that with the help of the US every time a dictator tries to stay in power. And the Chinese businesses who will suffer the brunt of the tariff in the trade war will have the last laugh as they know all too well who will bear the brunt of the tariffs in the end.

Apart from the international tensions the US government, under the influence of Bolton, the security adviser, is creating fear everywhere without any clear sighted policy for success that can be regarded political adventurism and dangerous. The America 'First' policy of Trump has reduced US influence internationally and its direct consequence is that defending democracy and human rights worldwide is no longer an important policy issue of the United States. Dictatorship is rising with the help of Russia and China. It has evoked easy for China to splash around cash to help corrupting the government and killing weak democracies. President Trump seems completely unaware of the long term undermining consequences of his unstable policies in international politics and harming the inherent strength of America's greatness for upholding democracy and human rights.

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