Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Granted that the JCPOA agreement with Iran was flawed. Recognizing that in 10-15 years Iran would be a position to quickly restart its nuclear program. Acknowledging that regime change is not likely in Iran. If one makes all the assumptions that one wants about the defects in the agreement or that it did not resolve, it remains unclear how abrogating this agreement at this time makes the world safer. Similarly, it is totally unclear how rejecting the agreement does anything positive for U.S. relations with any of the other signators to the Agreement.
Aside from beating up on actions and decisions made by the Obama Administration and others before him, does President Trump actually believe his actions will move the U.S. and the world into a safer place than maintaining the agreement would have done? If one suggests that the American people did not really support the JCPOA, based on what public opinion survey or study does the White House know that the American public now prefer Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian understanding?
For America’s Sunni friends in the region any effort by the West to beat up on their Shiite brothers is acceptable; but the West needs to remember that their friendship and cooperation with, for example Saudi Arabia, will never be as strong as the blood relationship among members of the Arab family. The West need only recall that from 1980-1988 Iran and Iraq fought each other. The 8 ½ year conflict produced over 300,000 dead and hundreds of thousands wounded or refugees. It changed nothing.
Saudi Arabia permitted the U.S. to build a coalition on its soil to oust Iraq from Kuwait. When the Desert Storm campaign was approaching 100 hours, General Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell informed President Bush that their forces were rolling on Baghdad. They said that within another 100 hours Saddam Hussein would be ousted and the Iraqi Republican Guard routed. The Saudi’s informed Bush that enough damage had been done against Iraq and the West should stand down and withdraw. The Arabs march to a different drummer than the West. Trump’s decision now only stirs up the pot in the Arab world which will likely redound eventually against the West. If there will be regime change in Iran, providing the Ayatollah and Rouhani with a chance to blame America for the plight of their people, will not accomplish it.
For Israel, the agreement which Netanyahu fought so hard to end is moving his country close to war. Israel has the best military machine in the region. The U.S. is unlikely to put any forces in play to stop Iranian aggression toward Israel. The Trump Administration will support an Israeli effort to defend itself and repel any Iranian, or Iranian supported Syrian or ISIS aggression against Israel. It might well provide Israel naval shelling and support services; but Israel alone will bear the casualties and destruction which even a quick and aggressive war will inevitably produce. The potential for Israel to also engage Russian advisers or forces sets up an even higher threshold of danger; recently reported understandings with Putin notwithstanding.
This decision only lends further credence to the policies that Trump has articulated; to withdraw America from the world. Isolationism is the guiding theme that underlies Trump’s entire foreign actions. Our Allies know it. The Congress understands it but the internationalist wing of his own Party is afraid to confront him. Only a Republican Senator dying of cancer has the strength and love of country to stand up to the President.