At a crucial moment, Donald Trump is forcing the world to confront core questions it really shouldn't have to ask: Can he be trusted? And, more saliently, can America be trusted? His threats to jettison the Iran nuclear deal are undermining America's ...and more »
Such a reckless choice on the Iran deal would also free Iran to resume unfettered nuclear activities and constitute a slap in the face to major powers — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — that worked with the United States and Iran for two years to negotiate and implement the deal. Those nations are now feverishly trying to persuade Mr. Trump to stick with America’s commitment.
It would be one thing if Iran had violated the agreement, but the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors the nuclear program 24/7, has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance. Mr. Trump didn’t even bother to try to make a case against Iran when he lashed out at it during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week.
One unanswered question is whether the United States would be violating international law if it reimposed sanctions on Iran without cause or otherwise undermined the agreement. In the United States, most legally binding international agreements take the form of treaties, which require approval by two-thirds of the Senate, and executive agreements, which are entered into by the executive branch and don’t require Senate action. The Iran deal is a political commitment that is not legally binding, though some experts believe that the United States has an obligation to comply since the deal was codified in a United Nations Security Council resolution.
While Mr. Trump’s Republican and Democratic predecessors often pursued significantly different domestic policies, on the whole their foreign policies did not radically diverge from administration to administration. And for good reason: America and its leaders, whatever their failings, have largely taken their international responsibilities seriously and found value and security in adhering to laws, legal obligations and political commitments that reassure allies, constrain enemies, advance stability and promote democracy and human rights. If he shrugs off previous commitments without clear cause, Mr. Trump may find that world leaders will start to wonder if his successors will treat his deals as indifferently as he is treating his predecessors’.
The issue is not that presidents don’t sometimes renege on predecessors’ agreements. In 2002, President George W. Bush abandoned the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. While that was an unwise move that stoked Russian suspicions about the West, Mr. Bush was not acting capriciously. He relied upon the treaty’s agreed-upon withdrawal clause and had a strategy for improving relations with Russia going forward.
President Ronald Reagan called the SALT II arms control treaty “fatally flawed,” yet he found a way to live with it as part of a strategy that used an arms buildup to pressure the Soviets.
A bellicose stance toward Iran is just one part of the incoherent and inconsistent foreign policy that Mr. Trump described to the United Nations General Assembly. He elevated “sovereignty” as his guiding principle for international relations and used it as a rationale for threatening Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, then gave kid glove treatment to Russia — which has not only seized territory from Ukraine but has also sought to undermine America’s own sovereignty — and China, which has expanded its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Given the standard that Mr. Trump is setting for foreign policy reversals, his own decisions could eventually be overturned by his successor. But the damage to America’s standing as a trusted, reliable partner won’t be so easily repaired.
United States International Relations,Trump Donald J,Iran,United Nations