Dead in the Water: Trump Middle East Peace Plan and Pompeo’s Iran Plan B
Trump’s new motto should be: if at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again. And since he has no sense of pride about these matters, he’ll repeatedly state the same nonsense ad nauseam, even though no one believes him; and he’ll repeatedly put forward the same policy notions which he’s tried and failed to implement in the past. Exhibits A and B are what I would call Trump’s folie à deux: his much-vaunted Israel-Palestine “peace plan” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s expected Plan B regarding Iran.
The AP’s Matt Lee reports that the peace plan will be unveiled in mid-to late-June. It’s main provision seems to be punishing the Palestinians for refusing to participate. The U.S. has virtually turned off the spigot on hundreds of millions worth of humanitarian aid. What’s going to ‘do the trick’ apparently, and bring the Palestinians round to the negotiating table is twisting their arms even more severely than previously. Trump will look for scattered crumbs on the floor the Palestinians may’ve scooped up without our noticing and sweep them away as well. Yessiree, nothing like punishment to bring your negotiating partner back to the table.
It reminds me of the parent who’s angry at their child’s behavior and decides that withholding food is what’s necessary to get his attention. This may instill fear or hate or grudging acquiescence, but certainly not respect or cooperation.
It hasn’t worked so far for Trump either. He turned off the tap to Palestine since the beginning of his presidency. What’s changed that will make this policy miraculously work? Ah yes, he’s now threatening to close the Palestinian mission in Washington. That’s the mission whose charge d’affaires Mahmoud Abbas has already withdrawn in protest. So closing down a diplomatic office which has no meaningful staffing is going to make the Palestinian leader snap-to-it…
My peace plan prediction: DOA.
Trump’s Iran Plan B
Apparently, Donald Trump feels some sense of urgency after unceremoniously giving the JCPOA nuclear deal a swift kick in the rear. Not mention that Mike Pompeo, the new secretary of state, seeks to make his mark by staking out a new approach to Iran. That’s why he’s unveiling his new initiative at the Heritage Foundation tomorrow morning.
Here it is in a nutshell:
“We need a new framework that’s going to address the totality of Iran’s threats,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning told reporters Friday. “This involves a range of things around its nuclear program – missiles, proliferating missiles and missile technology, its support for terrorists, and its aggressive and violent activities that fuel civil wars in Syria and Yemen.”
This reminds me of the boy who sits on Santa’s lap and tells him everything he wants for Christmas. Then when the big Day comes around, he only finds two or three of those gifts under the tree. So he gets angry, instead of focussing on the gifts he did receive. In other words, the U.S. can want Iran to produce world peace. Just because we want it doesn’t mean it will or even should happen. To expect otherwise is either a sign of bad faith or pathology.
The new initiative seems built on many leaky premises. The most suspect one is that implementing crushing economic sanctions will bring the Iranian regime to its knees and compel it to say the Farsi equivalent of “Uncle.” The GOP and neocons have the entirely mistaken notion that such sanctions were what brought Iran to the negotiating table for the talks with eventually ended with the P5+1 deal. The thinking is that if some sanctions worked before, then tons more sanctions will work even better this time.
Everybody and their brother seems to know that this isn’t how international negotiations work: you spend months arguing among the parties, you work out a middle ground compromise all can accept, you sign it and go on your way. You don’t come back and say: whoops, we forgot something; or whoops, turns out we didn’t like that provision. That’s the way 8 year-olds act when they trade baseball cards and one kid thinks he got a raw deal after shaking on it. But not the way grown men and women conduct international affairs.
As the CNN report notes, the not-so-underlying-goal is regime change. The thinking: if we make things miserable enough, the Iranian people will rise up and overthrow the regime. Then the west can swoop in and direct the appointment of a new government that is malleable to western interests. CIA dirty ops guy, Kermit Roosevelt tried that in 1953 with then-prime minister Mossadegh. That led to the return of the Shah and his eventual overthrow in 1979. Now we have a clerical regime whose hostility toward the U.S. is fueled by lots of U.S. bad faith over the past thirty-five years, mixed with anger at our messing around historically in their own internal affairs now. So I guess Plan B consists of returning to the errors of past with the assumption that those mistakes will miraculously become successes the second time around. That seems like a sure winner.
A few nagging questions may be in order: how will we enact the type of suffocating sanctions Trump-Pompeo is advocating if none of the other four allies who signed the JCPOA will go along? How will we get them to honor our sanctions regime? Will we try to punish all of them as well? Turn off their access to our markets and financial institutions? Are we going to turn them into pariah states just like Iran?
What would make the people of Iran, facing the enormous hostility of the U.S. toward its government, decide that the regime, but not the U.S. is at fault for their woes? Even if economic conditions become desperate, why would they decide that overthrowing the ayatollahs was the answer?
In their monumental hubris, Trump and his GOP allies are missing something critical: Plan B is a recipe for isolating our country, not Iran. The rest of the world will rally around Iran and saving the nuclear deal. Iran will look pretty good in comparison to our preening and posturing. We are the one who will be left high and dry in the international community.
The CNN article raises the important underlying question: is Bolton-Pompeo presenting such an unrealistic laundry list of demands, a sign that our intent is that Iran not fulfill them so that we can take further aggressive action: a massive attack on Iran’s nuclear-military facilities; or even an invasion to overthrow the regime? If so, they’ve truly taken leave of their senses. Such action will take not just the region, but the world into the maelström. Think about the catastrophe that Bush-Cheney perpetrated in Iraq, then multiply by 10 or 100. Add Israel into the mix and increase by another factor or 10. That’s how bad it could get.
My plan B prediction: DOA
14 thoughts on “Dead in the Water: Trump Middle East Peace Plan and Pompeo’s Iran Plan B – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Trump threatens China with sanctions, and now, China and the United States have begun negotiating the trade deficit.
Trump threatened North Korea last summer, and now he’s scheduled to meet Kim Jong face to face.
It’s called the ‘carrot and stick’ approach.
@ Elena: Trump is the worst negotiator of any president in recent, or perhaps any memory. He gives away everything (viz. what he did with the Israelis) & asks for, and gets nothing in return. He talks a tough game and folds easily. Like a classic blustering bully who in his heart is really a coward. The same will hold true with China & North Korea. The N. Korea summit is endangered and may be (likely will be) cancelled.
Trump is more like a wilted carrot and a broken stick approach.
Trump is confronting China, global economic superpower, North Korea, a rogue nuclear nation, and Iran, a hyper- aggressive, regional superpower.
How’s that cowardly?
He’s bullying China, North Korea and Iran?
@ Elena: Trump isn’t “confronting” anyone. He’s beating his chest like a silverback gorilla. Then when he thinks no one is looking he rolls over on his back and asks his adversary to scratch his tummy & otherwise flatter him. You clearly don’t understand Trump or much of anything else.
Iran is certainly a far less “hyper-aggressive regional superpower” than Israel or the U.S.
You are done in this thread.
I have no idea what Trump’s plan is, but I have long advocated a solution to be imposed on BOTH sides. There are hints that this is what Trump has in mind.
If the major powers and moderate Arab countries got together and IMPOSED a 2 state solution with defined borders and sharing Jerusalem, most Israelis (including every right wing person I know) would support it. It would have to involve repatriating Palestinian refugees in their host countries or in the newly formed Palestine.
This would have to be shoved down their throats, understanding that this is the end of the road. Either sides would be subject to severe sanctions if they are the one to reject the plan.
[comment deleted: the comment threads are not a grandstand or cheering gallery. We don’t score or count points for our side or the other.]
@ DrS: Frankly, no one cares what you advocate. But if we want to impose a settlement it will look like this:
This will not have to be shoved down the Palestinian throats. But it will have to be shoved down the throats of Israel rejectionists.
Any solution that offers no return to any Palestinian expellees will never be acceptable to any Palestinian. No Palestinian will care what sanctions you offer. They will reject it and refuse to participate.
Having just returned from a conference in Iran, I can tell you that Iran doesn’t need the US. It can turn East toward Russia and China and is doing so already.It’s the US that is the idiotic bullyboy, thinking we can impose a ‘settlement on Iran” and… oh… yes… impose another one on the Palestinians who are being incrementally massacred by the genocidal state of Israel.
The reasons for the sanctions on Iran are exactly the same as those on Iraq.
The US wants to weaken Iran to the point that they are Defenseless and then the US will attack Iran.
The US’s problem is that times have changed.
Iran is Not Iraq and will be able to fight back if attacked. With Nukes (after development) if the US progresses it’s Sanctions.
I wouldn’t want to be an American Soldier or Sailor anywhere in the Middle East within 3 years of the US imposing it’s planned sanctions. The US is too arrogant to realise the trap it is making for itself.
” Frankly, no one cares what you advocate”
Can I say the same for your ideas?
I’m expressing an opinion, which is exactly what you do
As far Iran-
Even with globalization, the US still carries tremendous economic weight, not only by virtue of its size, but its domination of the global financial system. This means that if it actually does inact draconian sanctions, Chinese, Russian and European companies will face the simple choice– do business with Iran or with the US.
Think of it as BDS on steroids backed by the most powerful country in the world.
Its pretty obvious what they’ll choose.
I don’t see what the European countries can do to “protect” themselves from American sanctions, given how divided and weak the EU is.
No you can’t, because hundreds of thousands of readers come to this site because they DO care about my ideas.
As for Iran, you vastly overestimate the power of the current U.S. administration to determine what will happen to Iran. As for our financial power, the world will quickly figure out ways to circumvent whatever controls we have over these financial matters.
Nor is this in any way related to BDS as Iran, even with it’s less than stellar record, is s model student compared to Israel. In fact, one might say that Iran is learning at the feet of the master how to work and extend its power in the region.
Trump will fail in his endeavor subdue Iran. It may not happen immediately (or it might). But fail he will, as have all his previous foreign policy endeavors.
What do you think about this
The thrust of his comments are correct, including about Bibi’s cowardice. But I draw your attention to
“I appreciate the Gazans’ sense of injustice. Why should they pay with their ancestral homes for Jewish refugees who lost theirs in Germany or Iraq? The only answer is that history is full of such injustices and of refugees who have reconciled with them and moved on — not passed on their refugee status to their kids and their kids’ kids. It’s why so few Arabs, so few Europeans, so few anybody, rose to Hamas’s defense. People are fed up with it.”
(By your yardstick lots more people care about what Tom Friedman has to say)
@ DrS: Do try to read enough of this blog to understand what I think of someone before you proffer it as the Holy Grail of Mideast analysis. Tom Terrific Friedman is a fool and blowhard who likes to hear himself talk and hasn’t had a real original idea in decades.
The passage you offer is equally tone deaf and irrelevant. It’s not for Tom Terrific living in his $6 million Bethesda mansion, married to a scion of a billion-dollar real estate fortune to tell Palestinians that they should give up on their patrimony. Let Tom offer his mansion as collateral on Palestinian aspirations and then perhaps he can talk. Till then, he’s a mouth, and that’s all he is.