Published on News24: 11 May 2018
US President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Agreement has shown the world that he’s on a mission to fulfil his election promises … no matter how much global chaos they cause.
Over and above the withdrawal, Trump reimposed the highest level of economic sanctions on Iran. This included the signing of an executive order threatening sanctions on any foreign company that continues to do business with Iran – the revenue of which Trump claims will help Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons.
This follows in the wake of President Trump’s other contentious decisions including: withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal; recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocating the US Embassy there; and imposing stiff trade tariffs on a number of the US’s major international trading partners.
Trump has long referred to the landmark Iran Nuclear Agreement as ‘deeply flawed’, an ‘embarrassment’ and a ‘bad deal’. But his blatant violation of the agreement, together with its corresponding UN security council resolution, was particularly astonishing as it disregarded the advice and intelligence of his most senior officials.
Not only did Trump’s Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis state on record that the Iran Agreement was working in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attested to the fact that Iran is adhering to its commitments under the deal.
Not to mention that Trump’s decision flouted numerous frantic appeals from the other five co-signatory states including his close European allies, Britain, France and Germany.
One can only deduce that key drivers behind Trump’s decision were his outspoken hatred of Iran and former US president Barak Obama, his ego, and his insatiable desire for reality TV-style drama and fanfare. It’s no wonder Obama referred to Trump’s decision as ‘misguided’ and a ‘serious mistake’.
Pot calling the kettle black…
During Tuesday’s announcement, President Trump referred to Iran as a ‘leading state sponsor of terror’ and ‘a murderous regime’ – ironic, considering the world is just eight weeks away from observing the 20th anniversary of the US’s brazen shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655, which claimed the lives of 290 people, 254 of whom were Iranian citizens (read the shocking story here).
But, irony aside, Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Agreement would have done one key thing … strengthen North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s resolve to play hardball at the upcoming North Korea - United States summit.
North Korea won’t be a push-over
Core to Trump’s ideology is ‘American exceptionalism’ and no-one appreciates this more than Kim Jong-un who will no doubt take this into account while considering his options.
Kim Jong-un will, justifiably, be hesitant to enter into any new agreement with the United States – especially one that is more onerous than the Iran Nuclear Agreement, and also one that the United States won’t necessarily honour irrespective of compliance by North Korea.
Taking this into account, he will likely look to one specific agreement that the United States holds sacrosanct, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Despite the NPT being ‘deeply flawed’ in its omission of a deadline for the eight recognised nuclear-armed nations to achieve comprehensive nuclear disarmament, being an ‘embarrassment’ with respect to its overt discrimination, and being a ‘bad deal’ for the rest of the world that is held ransom by the indefinite threat of nuclear war; it may be the only realistic avenue for the North Korean leader to explore.
North Korea’s ultimatum for the US
In seeking the moral high ground, Kim Jong-un might well give the United States an ultimatum: North Korea’s comprehensive denuclearisation via the Article IV disarmament provision within the NPT, or via the recently sealed UN Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.
In the case of the NPT, North Korea would have to be recognised and included in the NPT as the world’s ninth nuclear-armed state prior to abiding by Article IV of the treaty. In the case of the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, North Korea would sign if and when the United States signs.
Although Trump would likely baulk at this proposal, it would highlight the Achilles’ heel of the NPT … that the legitimised possession of nuclear weapons is reserved only for select ‘elite’ nations.
Spectre of exceptionalism
At the summit, Kim should call out the untenable exceptionalism of the other eight nuclear-armed states. He should say that it would be much easier to convince nations like Iran not to seek nuclear weapons if no-one else – particularly its neighbours in the Middle East – possessed them.
If the principle of mutually assured destruction truly applies, like the United States swears it does, then either all countries should be allowed to possess nuclear weapons … or none at all.
In this turbulent and unpredictable world of ours, the case for the mutual denuclearisation of all nuclear-armed nations has never been stronger.
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