When it comes to North Korea, there is a global consensus (whether this consensus is moral or otherwise) which states that Pyongyang should cease testing its weapons and that further more, dialogue between all concerned sides, including China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US, must restart.
In respect of Iran, even among countries which are generally on the different side of major geo-political issues vis-a-vis the Iranian government, there is a concensus that Iran is in full compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement which alleviated western fears (however irrational) about supposed long-term Iranian plans to develop nuclear weapons.
The JCPOA was agreed upon after joint talks between Iran, China, Russia, US, UK, France, Germany and the EU as a whole. Currently, all of the aforementioned parties formally agree that Iran is in full compliance with the agreement. However, Donald Trump has given frequent vocal indications that he is displeased with the JCPOA. He even went so far as to call to JCPOA an “embarrassment” at the United Nations, during the same speech in which he threatened a “destroy” North Korea while insulting the North Korean leader by referring to him as “rocket man”.
During the opening session of the General Assembly just weeks ago, every party to the JCPOA affirmed their commitment to the deal, including the United States. Even more recently, both US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis, have agreed that Iran is complying with the deal.
In spite of this, Donald Trump has continually sought to use speeches and Twitter posts to undermine the deal. However, few people seem to be buying Trump’s reasoning, including members of his own cabinet.
The only other world figure who has perpetually worked to aggressively undermine the JCPOA, is Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. While many world figures including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov used their speech before the United Nations General Assembly to praise the deal, only Trump and Netanyahu took direct aim at the deal, in speeches filled with wildly inaccurate anti-Iranian rhetoric.
Donald Trump recently met with top US military figures, although the only thing Trump publicly disclosed about the meeting was that it represented “the calm before the storm”. Other White House officials have been equally cryptic when asked about the worrisome remark.
There are several explanations for what might be going on
1. Internal White House Chaos
Starting with Michael Flynn and more recently culminating with Steve Bannon, the Trump White House has struggled to keep key foreign policy makers on board. Firings and resignations have plagued a Trump administration that is less than a year old.
Rex Tillerson is currently in the spotlight in what can only be called “resignation watch” after unverified reports that have not been specifically denied by Tillerson, stated that the Secretary of State called Donald Trump a “moron”. By some accounts he used the words “fucking moron” to described the US President after a heated meeting.
Donald Trump has denied such an event’s existence, but what is undeniable, is that Trump and Tillerson have had many open disagreements on US foreign policy. Such disagreement include Tillerson’s statement that the US must quietly pursue dialogue with Pyongyang, something Trump called a waste of time. It also includes Tillerson’s State Department’s support of the JCPOA which Trump clearly wants to scrap and finally, Tillerson has said he favours dialogue and neutrality over the Saudi-Qatar dispute, while Trump openly Tweeted pro-Saudi rhetoric saying that Qatar is a state sponsor of terrorism in line with Saudi accusations.
In this sense. the ongoing row between Trump and Tillerson could be manifesting itself in the form of semi-public test of wills over Iran. In an administration seemingly organised on the petty whims of personal vanity, it is entirely conceivable that Trump and Tillerson’s disagreements over the JCPOA have led to Trump taking an autocratic approach to public policy making. Certainly this would appear to be the case when it comes to the unfounded anti-JCPOA rhetoric which is not shared by any other parties to the agreement.
2. The Israel Lobby versus The World
It is no secret that the US based Israel lobby is the most powerful of the many powerful lobbying bodies in the United States. Israel is unique in its hostility to Iran and is particular hostility to the JCPOA, even by Saudi standards.
What’s more is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, which neither Iran nor its rival Saudi Arabia has.
In spite of this, while Israel has pivoted its foreign policy to be more anti-Iranian than anti-Arab, Israel has yet attack let alone occupy Iran in the way it continues to do in respect of Arab countries.
Having totally failed to manufacture international consensus against Iran, even among Israel’s putative allies, the powerful US Israel lobby has been spewing anti-Iranian rhetoric in an attempt to further taint Iran’s reputation among the American public.
In respect of Donald Trump, who has been on good personal terms with Benjamin Netanyahu even before becoming President, Trump may be simply doing the bidding of the Israel lobby and his self-described “friend” in order to go against the more moderate voices in his own administration which includes both Rex Tillerson and apparently James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
If it really is a matter of Israel ‘wagging the dog’ in respect of Donald Trump, this is proof positive that Trump is not fit to be the US President as he is no longer putting the interests of his own country, nor the collective interests of world peace, before the war mongering desires of the rogue Israeli regime.
3. From Mad Man Theory to “Moron Theory”
Richard Nixon was many things, but he was certainly not a “moron”. He may have been the most intelligent US President of the 20th century. One of Nixon’s ploys was known as the mad man theory. According to this theory, which was often put into practice by the Nixon White House, statements that Nixon had apparently made indicating his willingness to use extreme force, including nuclear weapons, even in the seemingly most mundane situations, were purposefully leaked to foreign powers.
Dovetailing onto the idea of mutually assured destruction, Nixon’s mad man image was said to force other powers to the negotiating table, for fear that anything less would mean a Nixon pressing the nuclear button.
While the mad man theory defies the laws of ethics and of transparency, it is a classic case of extreme brinkmanship that was common during the Cold War and which Nixon mastered so much that he actually managed to achieve both detente with the Soviet Union as well as opening up western diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
Many have proffered the idea that Donald Trump’s public image as a trigger happy leader with no real knowledge of world affairs, is a giant bluff in order to try and bring others to the table. While it is not beyond the realm of the possible that Donald Trump’s objectively idiotic remarks on world affairs, his threatening rhetoric and apparent disorderly administration are in fact contrived measures designed to scare others into some sort of negotiating, this theory, even if true, is highly misguided.
During the Nixon era, it was clear what the United States wanted from the powers which the ‘mad man theory’ was tested upon. In respect of Donald Trump, apart from levying more sanctions on Iran, something that would infuriate America’s EU allies, there is little else that Trump could achieve apart from provoking Iran into war which even many in the Pentagon admit would be a disaster.
In respect of North Korea, brinkmanship has already failed. The more the US threatens Pyongyang with war and the more unilateral sanctions the US passes, the more North Korea retorts with further threats and with further weapons tests. China has already made clear that it will not allow a preemptive US led attack on North Korea and Pyongyang for its part, is always careful to temper its threats with statements indicating that North Korea would never be the first to strike against the US or allied target. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also warned the US that the North Koreans would rather “eat grass” than surrender to the United States. Where the Iraqi army ran away during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, North Korea would likely fight to the death, with every weapon and man at its disposal.
As for America’s proxy wars directly primarily against China but also Russia, there is also little that a “moron theory” could do other than entrench the Sino-Russian alliance more so than it already is.
To put it bluntly, while the “moron theory” may work on certain domestic issues, it is not, has not and almost certainly will not work in foreign affairs.
The Trump administration appears to be compromised by its own disorganisation and personal disputes and like many US administrations, the Trump administration is also apparently torn between moderate voices urging a balance and an extremist Israeli position that far too many in the US are utterly beholden to. When this is combined with Trump’s “take no prisoners” attitude towards negotiation, Trump is going to lose far more than he will win.
He has totally lost the trust of Iran and North Korea, he has lost the respect of China and Russia, he has fully alienated Pakistan, Turkey and perhaps even Saudi Arabia, he has exhausted the patience of America’s traditional EU and East Asian allies and he has seemingly lost control over his own administration and country. The only danger is if Donald Trump is powerful enough to do something truly dangerous to the world, but too weak and ill-informed to actually understand what he is doing.