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Can Trump be trusted anymore?
On 31st December, 1977, US President Jimmy Carter, during an official visit to Iran, made a speech to toast the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. After describing the country as an “island of stability,” he said, “This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.” These glowing comments were out of touch with the reality that Iran was gripped in turmoil.
At the time, demonstrations against the state’s repression were beginning to destabilise the US-backed monarchy. Two years later, on 16th January, 1979, the Shah was forced into exile. Iran, now the Islamic Republic, never forgave the Carter administration for supporting the oppressive regime. Successive administrations fared no better and relations between the two countries have been hostile ever since. And now they just got even worse.
On Tuesday 8th May, 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the Iran-nuclear deal. The deal, known officially as the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” was agreed upon in 2015 by the US, the UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany, and stipulated that Iran would curtail its uranium enrichment programme and allow access to international inspectors in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
From the evidence thus far, gathered by monitoring and intelligence agencies alike, Iran was holding up their end of the bargain. This, unfortunately, wasn’t enough to dissuade the president from reneging on what he has continually called, “…an embarrassment to the United States… the worst deal in history.” The remaining parties have since signalled their intention to uphold the agreement leaving the United States to stand alone.
Even before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, America’s reputation wasn’t what it used to be. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was essentially a declaration that being the world’s sole superpower meant that they didn’t have to abide by the same rules as everybody else. It’s ironic that a defining accomplishment of the senior Bush’s presidency was the formation of a multi-national coalition, while the junior Bush became infamous for advocating a foreign policy based on his country’s willingness to “go it alone.” Such unilateral action produced a litany of problems that the rest of the world had to clean up. And the last US president, Barak Obama, would end up spending a fair portion of his time in office mending broken fences and restoring America’s image as leader of the free world. All those gains are now being undone.
On the eve of deciding the fate of the Iran-nuclear deal, the US was also in the midst of organising peace talks with North Korea, another long-time enemy. But as last week came to a close, President Trump announced that the summit scheduled for June 12th in Singapore was cancelled. There are a multitude of reasons why things fell apart…and we shouldn’t be surprised if negotiations continue using back-channels. However, from the North Korean perspective, the decision to pull out of the Iran deal now makes any agreement the US enters into subject to suspicion. The word of the United States, and this president especially is no longer to be taken as a guarantee.
In the years following the end of the Second World War and the ensuing Cold War, the trans-Atlantic alliance has been a beacon of stability, not only against the bulwark of Soviet oppression but for emerging democracies around the world. Even when member states didn’t see eye-to-eye, as with the Iraq invasion, both the United States and Europe remained steadfast in their commitment to advancing a shared vision of global order. They haven’t always done right when it came to their involvement with Iran, but at least the European countries are willing to take their diplomatic relations into a new direction. Can the Islamic Republic be trusted? Probably not. But it doesn’t seem that this American President can be trusted either. And judging by his actions thus far…it’s no longer clear whom he counts as an ally or an adversary.
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