Finally, America witnessed the first presidential debate. In it, Donald Trump claimed—as usual—that the Iran Deal was a major American failure.
Trump’s campaign promise to rip up the Iran Deal shows he is in over his head on foreign policy. Impulsiveness like this would necessarily be disastrous for America’s foreign political and national security interests.
His opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in contrast, was a key figure in President Obama’s foreign policy team that largely succeeded in steering America away from new foreign wars while fostering international diplomacy on issues such as Iranian sanctions—which required broad, savvy coalition-building throughout the European Union as well as with America’s biggest geopolitical rivals.
On no subject is the steady hand of the Obama Doctrine of foreign policy more apparent than Iran, with which Clinton helped orchestrate the application of truly global economic sanctions to cripple its economy and convince the rogue nation to come to the table regarding a nuclear deal (Stuxnet helped send the message as well). The Obama Administration even got Russia and China to commit to the American-led diplomacy. When was the last time that happened?
It may even be the beginning of a diplomatic understanding between the United States, the European Union, China and Russia that they—as regional world powers—have a responsibility to strive for global stability. Isn’t that a pleasant idea? Meanwhile, Donald Trump wants to break up with Europe after America’s seven decade ride-or-die NATO commitment, he wants to wage a trade war against China, and he is currently suspected of having deep economic ties to Russian oligarchs. Donald Trump threatens to be the antithesis to the Obama Doctrine of calm and farsighted global shepherding.
But it’s not just Trump who has been a toxic influence when it comes to the Iran Deal. The deal was a major success for dialogue, but one that Republicans, in general, hated. Ted Cruz accused Obama of sponsoring state terrorism, and Tom Cotton mutinously sent Iran a threatening letter that earned a political scolding from Iran in reply. Other Republicans claimed that it was time to bomb Iran. Can we all take a moment and reflect on the fact that if Obama was not reelected, America might currently be in the middle of a disastrous and unnecessary occupation of Iran right now?
Instead, Obama successfully signed a ten-year deal to halt Iran’s uranium enrichment without any war or bombing at all. If Republicans had gotten their way in isolating Iran even further, Iranians very well may have just said “Fuck you” in Persian and gone on enriching uranium to have nukes in the next decade.
How do I suspect this with such certainty? Because that is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED WITH NORTH KOREA. Oh, how history is repetitive: America was crippling North Korea’s economy with strict economic sanctions, but George W. Bush’s neoconservative administration refused any diplomatic efforts toward North Korea and began to describe the creepily isolated nation as a charter member of the so-called “Axis of Evil.” So North Korea said “Fuck you” in Korean, turned even more creepily isolationist, and went on enriching uranium to have nukes a decade later. They detonated a somewhat definitively successful test two weeks ago.
America could do the same thing with Iran, except that Obama is a thoughtful, responsible world leader. Remember back in 2012 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Iran was only six months away from having a bomb? And remember when Congressional Republicans later committed a big faux pas by inviting Netanyahu without bipartisan approval to speak in Congress to try and manipulate America’s politics against the Iran Deal? Well, the deal got signed, and now Iran’s nuclear ambition is contained for a decade. Considering the fact that conservative war hawks promised Iran would have had a bomb by now—three and half years ago, in fact—a nuclear-free Iran for another ten years isn’t so bad, is it? What a victory for engagement!
So Iran Deal…who won that one? That’s right: America. Donald Trump doesn’t have a clue about foreign policy. Obama has been a dedicated maestro of foreign politics, and Hillary Clinton is as good a continuation of the sober Obama Administration as we can get in Election 2016 given that Obama constitutionally can’t be president anymore.
So don’t let Trump get elected to rip up the Iran Deal on his first day, or push Iran into following the rogue state footsteps of North Korea! Engagement and nuclear nonproliferation are more important and successful than Donald Trump understands.