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Highpoint of prevailing trajectory of Trump’s foreign policy

Friday, October 05, 2018
By Ranajoy Sen

The UN General Assembly saw and heard Donald Trump speak. The US President laid out a view of the world, of sorts. In it, his particular target was Iran’s government. Trump expressed rage at what he perceived as intransigence of Iranian authorities toward American urges. What were those? As per Trump, it entails the “corrupt dictatorship” that is allegedly plundering its people to pay for aggression abroad. He has threatened more sanctions against Iran in future. Furthermore, he has again stated that the United States was not keen to continue to shoulder unfair expenses on behalf of other countries.

The animosity between US and Iran stretches back nearly four decades. It commenced in the spring of 1979. That year, the America-supported Shah of Iran, who had ruled the country till then, was toppled by a massive revolt. The Shah fled from Iran. Iran, thereafter, began to be ruled by the current regime. It is, from then onwards, ruled by a cabal of leaders, led by a supreme leader. From 1979 till 1988, Iran was ruled by Ayatollah Khomeini. He was the supreme ruler of Iran. However, it was to his credit that he did usher in a measure of stability to Iran. The somewhat credibly alleged ruthless economic exploitation by the Shah of Iran was replaced by a semblance of economic relief through welfare measures and of personal self-respect.

Iran-Iraq conflict from 1980 to 1988
Iran became a somewhat cloistered country, which chose to live largely by itself. But, the Americans, already humiliated by the violent overthrow of their ally - the Shah of Iran - the siege of the American Embassy at Tehran and its subsequent closing down, were not content to let the Iranian dispensation to be at peace. Next door to Iran was and is Iraq. That country was then ruled by Saddam Hussein. He was very secular and yet despotic, mercurial, and if not, a somewhat maniacal dictator. Through American cajoling and coaxing, and to a large extent by his own very abrasive bent of mind and approach, Saddam got carried away to drive Iraq to a war with Iran. It was a mutually internecine conflict, which lasted for nearly eight years: from 1980 till 1988. It caused untold misery, deaths and destruction to both countries.

At the end of the war, Iran emerged unscathed and even more resolved to stay united in national harmony, strength and pride. Iraq was nearly bankrupt. Saddam’s request to western powers for bank rolling was ignored. His response: invading Kuwait in 1990. He was roundly condemned and subsequently driven out from Kuwait by America-led forces. Thereafter, he turned an implacable foe of the United States for the rest of his rule and life. His acrimony with the US lasted till the direct US invasion of Iraq in 2003. In between, Hussein had committed mass killings and tortures, and indulged in appalling nepotism. His two sons’ allegedly wayward ways had become apparently very glaring for Iraqis.

However, Iran went steady all along. It had its priorities cut out. It was not going to succumb to American high-handedness. It was not going to interfere unduly into the political process of other countries in the region. There would be stability and genuine peace within its society. But, Iran was going to be very particular about its national security. It would brook no interference from any outside power as regards the details of its defence programmes. However, in this, it ran into some rough weather with the outside world. The concerned dilemma was mainly surrounding the Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

The Iranian leadership set forth a clear set of rules for its nuclear weapons programme. It was in principle and ethically very much opposed to it. But, there was always the lurking risk of an outside superpower destabilising it. For that reason, its leaders argued, Iran had to develop nuclear weapons as a hopeful deterrent. That drew the attention of the world squarely upon Iran. Led by the US, there was no let up in accusing Iran and warning it of dire consequences of not subjecting its weapons programme under the purview and inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Iran Nuclear Accord
After a tortuous process of negotiations and dialogues, with Iran on one side of the table, the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China sat on the other side of the table. Together, they all signed the Iran Nuclear Accord in July, 2015. It essentially stated that Iran would subject its nuclear activities to international supervision, while it  would have all economic sanctions lifted, henceforth.

Ever since Trump took charge of the American Presidency, things have altered somewhat. Trump is not prepared to continue the accord in its present form. He alleges that it is too lenient on Iran. It runs the risk of enabling Iran to resume nuclear weapons manufacturing process on any pretext. But, all other powers are not receptive to it. They do not see any reason why this accord should be negated. Iran has done nothing to earn the displeasure of other nations as regards the accord.

Trump’s viewpoints might have some merit. But, they cannot cast the Iranian dispensation as irremediably evil. The days ahead require level-headed, thoughtful and careful proceeding by all concerned regarding certain aspects of Trump’s foreign policy and of US-Iran relations.

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