Advisors warn against aggression, but will Trump listen?
By Linda Pentz Gunter
What do embattled political leaders do to try to build a surge in their popularity? Sometimes, they start a war (Thatcher-Falklands anyone? Bush-Iraq?)
Defeated US president, Donald Trump, perhaps in an effort to create further mayhem as the reins of power are prized from his grasp and handed to Joe Biden, reportedly inquired last week about options to exercise a military strike on Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.
Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, as such, claims it is exercising its right under Article IV to engage in what the treaty misguidedly describes as the “inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”
It’s a problematic clause, shooting itself in its non-proliferation foot by providing the roadmap to nuclear weapons development and encouraging countries to follow it. But Iran, if it stays within uranium enrichment limits, isn’t violating it.
The U.S. meanwhile, also a party to the treaty, IS violating it by not abiding by Article VI which asks signatories “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
There is no cessation of the nuclear arms race “at an early date” or even, recently, at all. A treaty on “complete disarmament” has now arrived in the form of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which the Trump administration has not only refused to sign or ratify but has threatened other countries for doing so.
Trump, who seems to believe that he will remain president, is perhaps seeking to look tough to his blindly obedient followers. He won’t concede the presidential election, because he’s not a “loser”. And he can start a war, because that would be tough and macho, the only likeness of leadership he understands.
Unfortunately, the US has a long history of meddling in Iran with fatal consequences for both countries, actions which have destroyed any chance of stability in the Middle East.
The overthrow of the democratically elected, and actually quite moderate, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, whom the U.S. falsely claimed was dangerously left wing, condemned the Iranian people to unending acts of cruelty under the iron rule of the monarchical Shah, giving direct rise to the Ayatollahs and fundamentalism.
An explosive attack on Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz already happened this past July, with Israel fingered as the likely — but unproven — perpetrator. But why would Israel attack then, and why would Trump launch a copycat assault now?
It all comes down to Trump’s reckless withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement — actually one of the better and more stringent of such policies, which closely monitored and inspected Iran’s uranium enrichment program to ensure it did not progress from civil to military nuclear development.
As Al Jazeera described it in recent reporting, “The landmark nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. The goal was to prevent the country from building a nuclear weapon, something Iran has insisted it does not intend to do.”
Trump’s impulsive and ill thought-out decision to effectively tear up the Iran nuclear deal is leading to precisely what Trump claimed he intended to prevent: Iran appears to be enriching uranium well beyond the needs of a civil nuclear power program.
Naturally, this worries Israel. According to Vox reporter, Alex Ward, “current and former US and Israeli officials as well as experts I spoke to are pretty certain Israel is responsible for the incidents at the military and nuclear sites,” after a series of explosions rocked various facilities in Iran earlier this year, including the July explosions at Natanz.
Precisely why Trump speculated about a military strike on Natanz appears to come down to his latest knee-jerk non-diplomacy reaction, this time to news from the International Atomic Energy Agency that it was seeing a spike in Iran’s stockpile of nuclear materials.
According to an article in Forbes, “IAEA inspectors found that the stockpile of enriched uranium at Iran’s main nuclear site at Natanz was now 12 times bigger than what was permitted under the 2015 deal, adding that Iran had not allowed it access to another suspected site where there had been previous evidence of nuclear activity.”
Iran’s reaction to rumors that Trump might order a strike on the country’s nuclear center was that it would deliver a “crushing response”.
All of this could be bluster from both sides, but it’s dangerous bluster all the same.
For now, it appears that those around Trump at the time he inquired about strike options, endeavored to talk him out of it, pointing out the likely drastic consequences, which could include escalation to all out war.
But, as the New York Times reported, the US defense department and other national security officials have “privately expressed worries that the president might initiate operations, whether overt or secret, against Iran or other adversaries at the end of his term.”
Which begs the question whether Trump is really angered that Iran is possibly escalating its uranium enrichment — while failing to understand it is precisely because he, Trump opened the door for them to do just that — or whether it is part of a scorched earth policy to hand over maximum burden and chaos to an incoming President Biden?
This latter theory was explored by CNN when a White official told the news channel that “their goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out.”
Cooler heads on Iran may have prevailed for now. But as Trump continues to clean house, relying instead on unqualified “yes men” and those who can’t distinguish between a luxury hotel and a garden store, the hotter heads may begin to hold sway.
Biden has pledged to bring the US back inside the JCPOA if Iran will agree to comply with it. But this may be more difficult than it sounds. Either way, not being embroiled in conflict or worse, a full-scale war, can only help in that necessary endeavor.
Headline photo by By Egorov Artem for Shutterstock.