Thursday 10 May 2018

What Has Trump Just Done?

The Rogue President Of A Rogue State: The world cannot allow itself to be dictated to by a single state or a single individual. This is especially so if that single individual and the nation state he speaks for have stepped outside all the recognised boundaries of reasonable international conduct.

WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY morning (9/5/18) has yet to be fully understood by the peoples of the world. Upon learning of President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, the temptation to simply roll one’s eyes and shake one’s head was hard to resist. Many would have recalled Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and assumed his latest move was in a similar vein.

It is not.

Not only has Trump pulled the US out of the Iran Nuclear Deal (known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA) but he has also announced his intention to impose the most stringent sanctions on what he calls “the Iranian regime”. Now, one might assume that this unilateral decision (while serious for those American companies who have, in good faith, recommenced trading with Iran) will leave the rest of the world’s traders unaffected.

It does not.

The world’s trading enterprises, large and small, have been given between 90 and 180 days to extricate themselves from any contracts they may have entered into with Iranian citizens and/or organisations, or face the full wrath of the American government. In other words, the US is telling the rest of the world who it can, and, more importantly, who it cannot, trade with on Planet Earth.

One has to go quite a long way back in history to find a precedent for this sort of behaviour. All the way back, in fact, to Napoleon Bonaparte’s attempt to prevent the imperial and national entities of Europe from trading with Great Britain. It was, to borrow Barack Obama’s phrase, “a serious mistake”. Not only did Napoleon’s “Continental System” fail to inflict serious damage on the British economy, but it also set in motion the diplomatic and military stratagems that, in just a few years, would bring the French Empire – and its Emperor – crashing down.

The rest of the world then – and now – cannot allow itself to be dictated to by a single state or a single individual. This is especially so if that single individual and the nation state he speaks for have stepped outside all the recognised boundaries of reasonable international conduct.

It is important to state clearly and repeatedly that the JCPOA was signed by the United States, the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, Russia, France, the UK) and Germany. The agreement was then endorsed unanimously by the Security Council – giving it the force of international law. Repeated inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have confirmed that Iran is adhering strictly to its undertaking to halt its nuclear programme. President Trump’s unilateral abrogation of the agreement is, therefore, a breach of faith; a breach of trust; and a breach of international law.

Kaiser Wilhelm II is said to have described the 1839 treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium as a mere “scrap of paper”. It was his decision to ignore this “scrap” that pushed the British (and her dominions across the seas) into World War I. By tearing up the JCPOA, Trump has not only spat in the faces of the Russians, the Chinese and his closest allies, but also in the faces of every other member of the United Nations. Like the Kaiser, he is convinced that his contempt for the rest of the world will provoke no response of which he need be afraid. The rest of the world, he has been assured, will not jeopardise its relationship with the United States for the sake of Iran.

Maybe not.

World leaders will look at the people around Trump: Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State; John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Advisor; and Rudi Giuliani, the President’s friend and lawyer; and they will see a neo-conservative cabal which is not only unafraid of unleashing war, but in whose estimation the unleashing of war represents the most expeditious and effective means of “making America great again”.

Trump’s tearing-up of the JCPOA will, therefore, be interpreted by the rest of the world as the first step along the road to bringing about “regime change” in Tehran. The probable sequence is tried and tested. Impose an economic blockade to “make the economy scream”. Launch a bombing campaign to degrade Iran’s vital infrastructure. Organise an “uprising” by internal enemies of the Iranian government. (An uprising not unlike the CIA-MI6-sponsored coup that toppled Iran’s only democratically-elected government in 1953.)

The rest of the world, however, will pay a very high price if it opts to appease the United States and its President. Global capitalism cannot operate in a world where goods and services cannot flow freely across borders. If it allows the US to impose economic sanctions (a power formerly reserved to the UN Security Council) upon any nation state it deems to be an enemy and enforces those sanctions in defiance of international trade agreements (not to mention international law!) then the globalised capitalist economic order will fall apart.

China cannot afford to let that happen. Its economy (and the politically vital prosperity it generates) depends upon a world across which goods, capital and labour are able to move freely. Russia, too, cannot afford to remain inert in the face of an economic blockade and/or a military assault upon its Iranian allies. The governments of Germany, France and the UK will similarly have to weigh up the costs and benefits of permitting the United States to control their trade and overthrow governments at will.

Trump’s announcement that he is tearing up the JCPOA and imposing the most stringent economic sanctions upon Iran will either go down in history (assuming there is anyone left to write it!) as the move which set the US on course to becoming an unabashed global tyrant; or, as the actions which precipitated the creation of a global coalition of nations dedicated to the containment of the United States.

Perhaps America’s erstwhile allies should take a leaf out of Benjamin Netanyahu’s book and produce for Trump’s exclusive viewing a short YouTube video explaining Halford Mackinder’s famous formula for global hegemony: “He who controls Eastern Europe controls the Heartland; he who controls the Heartland controls the World Island; he who controls the World Island controls the World.” It could show, using simple but exciting graphics, exactly how the European Union, the Russian Federation and the Peoples Republic of China, when brought together in a self-defensive alliance with Iran, Iraq and Syria (and quite possibly the nations of Africa and South America) would fulfil completely the components of Mackinder’s geopolitical prescription.

Far from making America great again, Donald Trump’s reckless tearing-up of the Iran Nuclear Deal may actually signal the beginning of the end of the United States’ global supremacy.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 9 May 2018.


peteswriteplace said...

Farewell Donald!

David Stone said...

I;v spent all morning and last night perusing comments on this subject from all over.
This is by far the best overview I have come across.

Patricia said...

Perhaps it is time everybody read Neville Shute’s On The Beach again. His explanation of the end of the World is very graphic. It has stayed in my mind ever since I read it all those years ago.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

You know, the Middle East is famous for its unintended consequences pertaining to interference. And I notice that the theocracy in Saudi Arabia have decided that if this thing falls through and the Iranians start enriching uranium again they're going to start building a bomb. Just what we need. Two more crazy nuclear armed powers in one of the craziest regions of the world.

jh said...

Trump Is Cutting Old Gordian Knots

Jenny said...

No War

What will New Zealand do about this move to war by the US?

Will the Prime Minister become the leader she was born to be, and step onto the world stage to clearly announce, that she has summoned the US ambassador to New Zealand to her Beehive office, for him to pass on to Washington our message, written down in no uncertain terms; That New Zealand does not, and will not, condone or support this move to war.

And further, so that there is no misunderstanding on this matter between Washington and Wellington. - That on the outbreak of hostilities between Iran and its allies and America and its allies; "New Zealand is not and will not give any military or other material or logistical support to this war."

Including not allowing any NZDF personal, any long term leave. If any part of that 'leave' is to be used to 'unofficially' take part in or give support to this war. On pain of court martial.

Will Simon Bridges as leader of the opposition be able to deliver a convincing a screaming skull address in parliament, to match that of John Key's address attacking the government of Prime Minister Clark for not supporting the US war on Iraq and threatening all sorts of dire consequences for our trade if we don't toe the line?

"It is important to state clearly and repeatedly that the JCPOA was signed by the United States, the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, Russia, France, the UK) and Germany. The agreement was then endorsed unanimously by the Security Council – giving it the force of international law. Repeated inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have confirmed that Iran is adhering strictly to its undertaking to halt its nuclear programme. President Trump’s unilateral abrogation of the agreement is, therefore, a breach of faith; a breach of trust; and a breach of international law."

Chris Trotter

All politics is about pressure

Will Prime Minister Ardern publicly condemn this breach of "international law, or will she bow to pressure and keep silent. The Prime Minister may have cause to later regret staying silent as we and the world are inexorably drawn into involvment in this coming war.

Polly said...

Chris, well written;
What the European and British nations will do about this is the next question, Macron and Boris Johnstone have expressed their displeasure, but what will they do?.
Will evidence show up that Iran have been cheating on the nuclear deal?.
Are the majority of Iranians supportive of the religious control of their country?.
How will the US/ Nth Korea talks be influenced by this?.

We must watch at wait in these most serious times.

greywarbler said...

If the PM does not stand against this, as Lange did against nuclear ships then we will just go longer before being spanked in some way. If we have any guts and independent thought left in this country we need to refuse to accede to the brutish behaviour of the USA. This has been their mode for long, this being merely the culmination.

I used to think that the USA was a golden country draped with tinsel when I was young. The gold standard, and the tinsel gone too, the tin up to sell - everything for sale including integrity. We might as well keep ours, we are in for a hiding either way, and at least we can keep our heads up. We can say to all the ghosts of our dead servicemen and women, just honoured - 'We haven't forgotten how you fought for a proud, independent and enterprising country and we have stood up against this latest tyranny.'

Guerilla Surgeon said...

DJS I think it was that British black and white film "The War Game" that scared the crap out of me.

"Trump Is Cutting Old Gordian Knots"

Trump is doing what he does best. Being an arse. He has given fundamentalist Muslims in Iran a stick to beat the moderates with, he's got the nutty theocracy of Saudi Arabia about to build a bomb, he's managed to convince most of the Middle East not to trust the US ever again. He has possibly guaranteed that at the next election in Iran the hardliners will gain power. That's a real boon to the Middle East right? FFS how can anyone be so wrong. How can anyone quote a magazine founded in part by a McCarthyite and a racist prick? But at least we've managed to at least temporarily get you off the subject of Maori on radio New Zealand, and incoherent posts.

Victor said...

"Perhaps America’s erstwhile allies should take a leaf out of Benjamin Netanyahu’s book and produce for Trump’s exclusive viewing a short YouTube video explaining Halford Mackinder’s famous formula for global hegemony"

This would be a good suggestion, Chris, were it not for the fact that the likes of Trump, Bolton and/or Bibi are happiest when posing as the sole champions of their own definitions of truth and virtue, in the face of perceived backsliders,cowards and traitors.

They will not listen;. They cannot listen. The more alone they are, the more convinced they become that they, and only they, are right.

"Roll up that map" etc.

speiro said...

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray also provides a very interesting insight to this from the perspective of world commerce. Namely that an $18 billion (US) deal for Boeing to supply passenger aircraft to Iran has now been scuttled. He also notes that Airbus also currently has a $20 billion deal on the table to supply passenger aircraft to Iran, which if Iran now waves the cancelled Boeing deal under the nose of Airbus - a potentially $38 billion dollar deal for a French company would be pretty hard for the French govt to scuttle in order to support the poodle Macrons new BFF in the white house. Also highly unlikely that China would be bullied into not trading by the U.S. So as Murray points out this could go down as a key moment in history as a marker of the decline of the US as a world power - if other countries refuse to comply with American sanctions that is. A very interesting read:

From a scary perspective however, Murray notes that this act may embolden netanyahu further into doing something crazy like launching a military strike on Iran, from which the scenario of war between the US and Russia that Jenny paints, could so easilly evolve. It'd be great if our PM made the kind of statement Jenny suggests, which could be a catalyst for other leaders to make similar statements. Sadly I cant see that happening

Kiwiwit said...

While I agree with your sentiments, you need to get your facts right. It isn't a 'breach of international law' because the agreement doesn't have the status of international law. That's because Barack Obama avoided making it a treaty and getting it ratified by his country's legislature, which is the minimum requirement for anything to become international law. Obama also ignored the US Constitution in not getting it ratified. This is why Trump is able to discard the agreement so readily, as he was able to do with the TPP, the Paris climate accord and many of the executive orders his predecessor issued. So, a great deal of the blame for this fiasco really rests with the former president.

Nick J said...

Well said Jenny, we are too small to be of consequence, we can however scream loudly. Jacinda recently met Merkel, I think she should watch what Merkel does. I suspect that Merkel will call Trumps bluff.

Nick J said...

Yes indeed Gordian knots. What the hell is Trump up to?

We might ask what is in it for Jerusalem and Riyadh?

I don't think Trump is an idiot so what the hell is he up to?

Ian said...

Anyone in NZ who has worked for an American company (e.g. IBM or Unisys) or has worked for a company that does business in America (such as the ANZ) will have agreed as part of the conditions of employment to learn and implement US trade sanctions against Iran, Syria, North Korea, Libya, Cuba and previously Iraq. America has long used its position as a major trading partner of many countries and its control of the premier currency of international trade and it's higher than average level of control over the WTO, World Bank, IMF and the UN Security Council to make sure US sanctions also have an indirect effect via other countries (and organisations like the ANZ) on the target country. What Donald Trump has announced in that regard is nothing new in the way America uses sanctions.

We have been here before. Various levels of US sanctions against Iran have been in place since 1979. Talk of US engineered regime change in Iran is old hat. Talk of US and/or Israeli military attacks on (or US invasion of) Iran have been commonplace for over 30 years. We came very close in 2003.

Back in the early 1990s when the US managed to get the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iraq for imaginary WMDs, it was clear to me that the countries that had voted alongside the US had made a diplomatic blunder. The resolution didn't have an expiry date. It took no more than 8 votes and no vetos to implement the resolution but once it became clear that the UNSC had been lied to even if 14 out of 15 countries tried to vote the sanctions away the US veto could keep them in place. And it did. It would have been wiser if Russia, China and 10 non-P5 countries had insisted on an expiry date in the resolution so that the US would have had to get the UNSC to vote on extending the sanctions every few years. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in the 1990s because of those sanctions (Madeleine Albright's acceptable price). A fatal diplomatic blunder.

Given how controversial the idea of any sort of deal between the US and Iran has been in America and Israel for over 30 years, the risk of the US reneging on any such deal after a change in presidency must surely have been apparent to the diplomats who negotiated such the JCPOA. How to write the document to try and prevent and/or cope with that sitation mush surely have been on the minds of the non-American diplomats as much as tring to prevent Iran for reneging. Unfortunately, given the nature of the deal it would be difficult for it to include any comeback against the US for reneging (apart from Iran developing a nuclear weapon).

bob said...

Here we go again.

Andrew Nichols said...

I'm pessimistic. The Euros will whinge and then roll over given the way they have done so on the equally orchestrated "Get Russia" campaign. WW3 just got closer.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I don't think Trump is an idiot so what the hell is he up to?"

Then you'd be wrong. Trump is the guy who managed to lose money running casinos. Trump is the guy who went bankrupt five times. Trump is the guy who can't read more than a couple of pages of background from his qualified advisors. Trump is the guy who won't read more than a couple of pages of background from his advisors unless it has his name on it multiple times. Trump is the guy who makes foreign policy from watching Fox News. I beg to differ, Trump is an idiot. The only thing he's good at is self-promotion and ripping off the American government. And let's face it, in his position that ain't rocket surgery.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Leaving aside the sheer arrogance of the US determining who or who does not trade with Iran, isn't this somehow against WTO rules or any of those other international trade agreements? I notice the Germans are muttering about "protecting" their firms from American retaliation. God knows what that will lead to and it should put the lid firmly on the idea that Trump knows what he's doing. Trade war anyone? Again?

Victor said...


And the chances of Obama getting this treaty ratified by the Republican-dominated congress were how great?

greywarbler said...

The ranting pollies will not listen, they will not think, they will not view the problem in the round, in subtlety, only in stark colours or black, white and grey.

Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will

Wayne Mapp said...

The main outcome, which you refer in in the last few paragraphs, will be the strengthening of China. The Chinese government will not accept secondary sanctions. If the US tries to apply them against Chinese companies, China will retaliate, with trade barriers and the like. Boeing won't be selling any aircraft to China!

At a more strategic level China will try and make the Renimbi a reserve currency. That won't be easy, but there is a strong imperative for China to do so. It fits with China being an alternate centre of power.

In contrast the Euro countries will blink. They won't trade with Iran and they will fail to establish the euro as a reserve currency.

Are the times more dangerous as a result. Probably yes, because it sharpens the China/US rivalry. Will it result in war, no. At least not at a global scale. But if the Iranian Revolutionary Guard keeps firing rockets against Israel, the retaliation won't just be against their bases in Syria. At some point the Israel will attack the IRG bases in Iran itself. Those will be large scale attacks, not just pinpricks. I think Iran will not risk that, so it will restrain itself.

Geoff Fischer said...

A "global coalition of states" devoted to preserving international law and the rights of nations may be too much to hope for in the present era, and in any case the Realm of New Zealand is already part of a global coalition of states which is dedicated to violating international law, thwarting the independence of nations and trampling on the dignity of peoples both at home and abroad.
That "Five Eyes" alliance joins the geo-political ambitions of the United States to the imperial interests of the United Kingdom and the monarchist regimes which it imposed in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
So now the United States of America has decided to wage an economic war against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US will be supported by the State of Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and other despotic nominally Sunni Arab states, including the Arab Republic of Egypt. The United Kingdom and the European Union will hesitate and the Realm of New Zealand will temporize while waiting for a lead from the United Kingdom and its other two partners in the Five Eyes.
Those New Zealanders who subscribe to the rule of law will be waiting on "their" Prime Minister and Cabinet, who will be waiting on the British government, who in turn will be waiting to see how strongly the United States insists that all other nations should abandon international law and compromise their own national interests by submitting to and joining in with the US blockade on Iran.
If the Five Eyes states do submit to the US demands, the US and Israel will be emboldened to follow up the economic blockade with military strikes against Iran.
So what can New Zealanders do? They can hope and pray that the regime which they serve, the Realm of New Zealand, will overnight turn away from its institutionalized policy of compliance with the demands of imperial overlords or they can assert their right to live as a free, independent and sovereign people.
Only one of those options make sense. A colonial state will pursue colonialist policies. If New Zealanders truly want an independent foreign policy, they will have disown colonialism and constitute an independent and genuinely democratic state of Aotearoa.

Nick J said...

Totally agree Wayne, it's dangerous times.

One commentator pointed out another threat to the U.S. $ as world reserve currency. Trumps action effectively halted any immediate repatriation of Iranian assets seized by the Carter administration, by some reports over $100 billion. Under Iranian law that must be converted to anything but US dollars. Interesting times, follow the money

greywarbler said...

Geoff Fischer
Thanks for that pocket summary of international present politics. I don't notice a zeitgeist amongst thinking people here for having an independent, continuing foothold on the free country of NZ, listening, watching, thinking for itself and prepared to give a lead to tension-busting policy that eases us away from the standoff. The world is nose to nose, glaring at each other. If only we would mildly step forward - give a hongi and a handshake, then all sit down and eye-to-eye talk ourselves to a better place.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that Wayne Mapp isn't a dedicated follower of Donald Trump whose just Hoover, Harding and Cooleridge, ninety years out of time a ostrich like, view that capitalism, cures all even Communists, Warmongering Nationalist, Hitlerites the bouncing balls of Putin, Xi and Jong. In many respects Waynes view reflect the general National Party view and prejudice the old backcountry view that Science cures all, you know if only the flat earthers, greenies and yours truly had not misled the misguided, innocents and librarians - if hard core cookies like HC 1 and HC 2 were ever going to be led by the likes of me. To the Nats Science ie Nuclear Power, Medicine, Number subjects ( Physics, Chemistry and Calculus are unmentionable as 98% of their voters could neither do them or tolerate them) Irrigataion. NZ productivity ( of the average farmer) are the great truths as told by your average talkbacker- but really only the cargo cults which the average incapable and incompetent Nationla voter will solve his and their useless offspirngs problems and bury there enemies. And why havent the USA built a nuclear power station or cruiser since about 1982 and its it a great victory for medicine that the average supermarket mall and car park is an obstacle course of wheelchairs, trollies, nurses, 90 year old drivers or that like in 1952 the average GP and council has closed every bar and cafe by 6pm where even under the fearsome Clark and Shippley PC bars they were open all night like everything else.
I would have though anyone listening to the news any day over the last decade would have realised that the Russian and Chinese regimes are jsut what they always military dictatorship and spy and police states and Jong is playing his usual NK role as there self appointed interference and advance man- giving them space to manoever and built more static aircraft carriers in the South China Sea.
The esential reading Wayne is the Rand Corp Reports on the Collins and Astute subs and Australian shipbuilding and the USN own reports into the loss of the Scorpion and the events of 1963 and the Warren Commission and try reading the Belich histories of NZ, Lowell George on Von Luckner and Pugsley, C on the Confrontation 1963-1966 the whole Royal Navy had to be deployed for about 4 years to protect us the USN was not available.

jh said...

Immigration and the election of Donald Trump: Why the sociology of migration left us
unprepared…and why we shouldn’t have been surprised

Spells it out. Liberals assume they can open borders: greater liberalism = less democracy etc.

Unknown said...

There are all sorts of ways major nations and those with strategic resources can apply pressure on China. China has mainly brought, stolen or copied its major defence high technogy. As Wayne must know the battles over Chinese violations of patent and copyright particularly in terms of US and particularly Russian in commercial and defence technology. In terms of Boeing say their P8 Poseidon or new USAF tanker, the Chinese doing.all they can to buy or steal the relevant technology from if not Boeing from some other country. I mean who knows the perfectly accurate GPS and inertial navigation systems on the Sepcat Jaguar were probably included in the package sold to India and might quickly made its way across the Warsaw Pact and East. When HMNZS Otago visited Timaru in 1974 Lt.Jackson told my whole 7th form that in terms of the risk of defence technology, even the then new Leander F421 hmnzs Canterbury was fairly new,.'it was fairly agricultural ',given that the UK Mod had sold the Leander design to India,'the Russians'knew everything.That year in the hours between Wilson transferred No10 to Edward Heath, by prior arrangement in direct violation of UN sanctions the Chilean Navy took possessionof its two new Exocet fitted Leander. Dennis.Healy treasury needed the 30 million and in Britain assumed the Chilean navy.could be sold the highest tech as it was the least likely on earth to go to war. Really. Plenty of Chileans would disagree and quite a lot of Argentines. However serious nations sometimes decide to to.STP this seive of open defence tech transfers. That's how Thatcher and Reagan won the cold war.It isn't Wayne Mapp who.will.decide or pressure whether the US or China goes to war. When the US cut off oil to Japan in 1940 and a few months later Zurkov stopped the Japanese Army invasion of.Manchuria and Siberia, it became inevitable that Japan would declare war on the US. If say the US and Australia decided to massively restrict student and tourist visas and a massive effort started to stop the Chinese rather than the Russian theft of patents then.combined with a Chilean ban on exports of strategic minerals.Xi might really start to Fester..Recently MFAT and.Wayne have been wrong about everything.