“Security Council Adopts Resolution on Iran Nuclear Deal” by United Nations Photo is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
By Shawn Rostker
The New York Times reported recently that President Donald Trump sought out options for military engagement with Iran after a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material was reported by international inspectors. Senior advisers persuaded the President not to engage with Iran out of fear that it could escalate quickly into a more wide-scale conflict. The Trump administration has been walking a tight rope with Iran since it withdrew its support from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action) in the earliest days of its tenure. Since that point, Iran has increased its production of low-grade uranium beyond the limits laid out by the landmark nonproliferation agreement and increasingly restricted regulatory commissions’ access to its nuclear facilities and centrifuges.
The Trump administration’s inept foreign policy has backed itself into this corner it now finds itself in; a corner in which the president considers a military strike on an Iranian nuclear compound to be a viable solution to a problem that his administration has been unable to quell. The “maximum pressure” campaign the Trump administration has waged against Iran has been brutish and clumsy, and has failed to achieve any of its preconditions to restarting negotiations. Instead it has inflamed U.S./Iranian relations, corroded diplomatic channels of communication, and brought us to the brink of war on multiple occasions. Additionally, our reneging on the multilateral commitment has emboldened the most hawkish, anti-Western elements within Iran, and politically empowered the factions most fervently opposed to working with us. The outgoing administration’s parochial foreign policy has inflicted lasting damage that will affect U.S./Iranian relations for years to come. The incoming administration will be forced to deal with an Iranian regime increasingly hostile towards U.S. interests and increasingly skeptical of U.S. entanglement. If we are able to escape the final weeks of this current administration without plunging into war with Iran, we will have narrowly avoided catastrophe. Unfortunately however, the damage done will remain, and the United States will face an Iran growing in nuclear-capability and ambition and reshaping regional power in a direction detrimental to United States’ interests in the Middle East.
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, joined by President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan. Courtesy of the White House
By Tenzin Chomphel
Editor in Chief
The single most important bilateral dynamic of the 21st century will be that between the United States and China. This was widely known long before COVID-19 had put the Chinese government in a position of disfavor amongst the international community for accusations of failure to address the outbreak early and aggressively. Now, with this new and enormous challenge weighing down on the already strained context of the US-China relationship, the bilateral cooperation necessary to tackle serious global issues such as climate change has become that much more difficult to synthesize.
Continue reading “OP-ED: How Will COVID-19 Worsen the Ailing US-China Relationship?”
By Larry Silverton*
An abbreviated weekly update on the Administration’s activities to start off the new quarter. Subsequent updates will generally be posted on Saturdays and contain about six items instead of the three discussed here.
On Thursday April 6, Trump ordered US warships to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat Airbase, from which the Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government had launched chemical attacks. Syria’s Armed Forces General Command released a statement that the strike killed six people. Remarks from Pentagon officials indicate that, based on preliminary data, the strike destroyed some Syrian aircraft and related infrastructure. The US military informed the Russian government of the strike beforehand, allowing them to evacuate several Russians present at the base for unknown reasons. It remains unclear how the strike may affect US-Russia relations ahead of a pending visit to Moscow by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Bannon off Security Council
On Wednesday April 5, Trump removed Chief Strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council (NSC) as part of an NSC restructuring that also included promotion of Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Joseph Dunford and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to full seats. In a subsequent statement, Bannon claimed his removal was due to completion of his task to “de-operationalize” the NSC, undoing the “operationalization” of the NSC under President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice. Bannon’s presence on the NSC was controversial due to his lack of foreign policy experience and his strong political leanings as former editor of Breitbart News. Internal reports suggest Bannon’s demotion may be linked to his clashes with Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, who Bannon has allegedly derided as a “globalist” and a “cuck” (short for “cuckold” and popular as a slur among the alt-right). The demotion may also be tied to Trump’s displeasure with the widespread, often humorous idea of “President Bannon” – that is, the widespread perception that Bannon has set the administration’s agenda and holds influence over Trump.
Trump hosted a summit with President Xi Jinping of China last week at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Reports indicate that the talks proceeded cordially, described by Secretary Rex Tillerson as “very frank, very candid, [and] very positive”. The topics discussed with President Xi reportedly include the US-China trade relationship and the need to address the problem of North Korea’s nuclear arms. It is unclear if the talks were at all affected by the Syrian attack, which Trump launched during Xi’s visit; though Xi reportedly received the news positively, or at least neutrally, Chinese state news outlet Xinhua criticized Trump for the attacks and suggested that they were a show of weakness meant to discredit his alleged ties to the Russian government.
Photo by Matt Johnson
*Because of the sensitivity of some of the topics discussed here and the reaction of the Trump administration towards the media, some writers have opted to use pen names when writing about the Trump Presidency. Likewise, some of our staff writers at Prospect Journal of International Affairs will be using pen names when discussing the Trump government.