Trump aims at Iran, hits the U.S.

Amir Handjani writes: The U.S. and Europe brought Iran to the negotiating table after 10 years of coordinated and painstaking sanctions that targeted all aspects of Iran’s economy, including banking, energy and trade. Over two administrations (those of George W. Bush and Obama), Washington, in close cooperation with the EU effectively cut Tehran off from the global economy.

This was a remarkable act by the Europeans. Tehran, despite the 1979 Islamic Revolution, had robust commercial relationships with Europe. Iranians could travel with relative ease to Europe and, despite being isolated from the U.S., were getting essential goods and services such as medicine and technology from the EU.

With Brussels and Washington united, a good cop-bad cop routine was successful in extracting meaningful concessions from Iran which led to the nuclear deal.

In the two years since the deal was signed, Europe has slowly regained its access to the Iranian market. Iran’s economy is rebounding. EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini has called the nuclear deal vital to international peace and security. French President Emmanuel Macron and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May have gone on record saying the deal is doing what it was intended to do, prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. While neither are opposed to starting discussions on other troubling aspects of Iran’s behavior, so long as IAEA maintains that Iran is living up to its obligations, the EU does not want the nuclear pact abrogated.

Trump’s actions, and any new sanctions from Congress, will drive a wedge between Washington and Europe on Iran. It would be virtually impossible to reconstitute that sanctions regime that was in place before the nuclear deal came into effect. Trump’s decision will be viewed as callous disregard for multilateral negotiations and norms. It will reinforce the image that Iran often portrays the U.S. as being a bully on the world stage that does what it wants with reckless abandon — alliances and commitments notwithstanding. It’s an image that Trump embraces in both style and substance.

The implications for Europe go well beyond the Iran deal. With Trump’s precedent of shunning the global security architecture that the U.S. has led for 75 years now in question, Europeans will be left wondering if the U.S. would really live up to its security commitments if, say, Russia became more aggressive in the Baltic states or Eastern Europe.

On top of that, as if one nuclear crisis wasn’t enough, the message Trump is sending to North Korea couldn’t be worse. [Continue reading…]

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