Thursday, September 21, 2017

Business Recorder editorial Sept 21, 2017

Trump’s bluster In his first address to the UN General Assembly, US President Donald Trump resorted to threats and bluster at a forum dedicated to peace and reconciling conflicts. Striking a belligerent and jarring tone that upset the world’s UN delegations gathered there, Trump threatened to totally destroy the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and hinted at rescinding the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group that includes the US. It should be remembered that the Iran nuclear deal is a model of engagement in exchange for assurances of restraint to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. International inspectors and the other P5+1 member states, the UN and the rest of the world are satisfied that Iran is keeping up its end of the bargain. But this does not seem to satisfy Mr Trump. Amongst criticisms that fly in the face of these facts, Trump adds on that the deal has failed to rein in Tehran’s ‘subversive’ role in the Middle East. In the first place, this was never part of the nuclear deal nor any other ‘deal’, so Trump’s expectation is totally misplaced. Secondly, what has Iran’s so-called subversive role been in the Middle East? It has been on the side of regimes in Iraq and Syria that are defending themselves against terrorist movements and their backers in the US and the west. If anyone has played a subversive role in the region, it is the US-led west and its regional satraps such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Iran therefore is on the right side of history and justice in these conflicts. As far as the DPRK is concerned, Trump’s extreme bluster is guaranteed to harden Pyongyang’s resolve to defend itself against the threat of annihilation of a country of 26 million souls or, at the very least, US-desired regime change, and will probably lead to greater acceleration of its nuclear weapons and delivery systems programme. It is the siege mentality engendered in the DPRK by the continuing presence of US troops in South Korea 64 years after the Korean war ended and the aggressive regional US-led coalition that includes Japan that has produced and continues to reproduce the DPRK’s reliance on nuclear and missile deterrence against these real and palpable threats. To those like Trump who assert that ‘Rocket man’ Kim Jong-un is on a suicide mission, it is enough to remind him that the US did engage with the DPRK under the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s, which produced a deal along similar lines as the one with Iran: nuclear restraint in exchange for easing sanctions and other concessions. Washington reneged on that agreement, solidifying suspicions in Pyongyang that the US wishes it no good. Calls for engagement with the DPRK as the only feasible solution to the ratcheting up of nuclear tensions in the Korean peninsula came in response to Trump’s aggressive speech from almost all the major powers and the UN. Similarly, the run of international opinion on the Iran deal is that it would be a blunder to rescind it. Trump in his hallucinatory vision wants to return the US to global pre-eminence in all respects through threats and bluster. This is of a piece with his misleading election campaign rhetoric that queered the pitch of the US presidential election and brought him an unlikely victory. But that was not to be the worst of it. The sanguine view, based on past experience, that presidential candidates soon after assuming office are compelled to tone down the angularities in their campaign rhetoric in the light of domestic and global realities, turned out to be wishing for the moon. This turn towards realism and maturity was not for the likes of our Don Quixote of the 21st century. He wants to wave his magic wand (more like wielding a big stick) to ‘fix’ everything in today’s world in Washington’s favour. A more simplistic, or more dangerous project in the hands of the most powerful man on Earth is hard to imagine.

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