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 That’s the mission whose charge d’affaires Mahmoud Abbas has already withdrawn in protest.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
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.