Donald Trump finally put Bush’s Axis of Evil speech in context: Iran and North Korea are working together on nuclear weapons. This is why there is no agreement possible.
Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel.They are also working with North Korea.Not much of an agreement we have!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
These are the most important 140 characters Donald Trump has written in the past two years. It underscores and puts paid why he is so dead set on pushing the situation with North Korea and Iran to its crisis point.
Readers of this blog know that myself and Halsey English have been saying for months that Iran and North Korea divided up their nuclear weapons ambitions between them. This way they could adhere to the letter of their international agreements while violating the spirit of them.
This is why North Korea continues to poke at the U.S. with test firing after test firing. It’s why Iran is saying that they will continue to test ballistic missiles while also saying with a straight face they do not have a nuclear weapons program.
They don’t. North Korea does and the two share the information their respective programs produce.
I’ve always believed Trump when he said nuclear weapons proliferation is the biggest problem of our age.
I believe Vladimir Putin when he says he wants to sit down with the U.S. and work out a new arms reduction deal. I also believe Putin is correct when he says that the North Koreans would “rather eat dirt” than give up their nuclear program.
I believe Iranian President Rouhani when he says that Iran desires peace in the region.
I believe Israeli Prime Minister when he says that he is scared of Iran having nuclear weapons.
The question is who is and who is not capable of living up to their agreements and whose ‘beliefs’ are what sets policy at the margin.
Trump has made a big show about how the JCPOA is a ‘bad deal.’ This tweet tells you why.
But, so what? Until we show some willingness to define American interests less broadly and honor our agreements, why should anyone negotiate? Why should Iran and North Korea not pursue their interests which is obtaining a nuclear arsenal to deter the U.S. from violent regime change?
Not Agreement Capable
I keep coming back to this point. The U.S. is not a trustworthy partner in international diplomacy. Putin has called them ‘not agreement capable’ and the Russian phrase he used carries the connotation that the person will not honor any deal he makes, not that he’s incapable of making a decision.
The U.S. has been nothing but duplicitous in its treatment of Russia, Iran, China and others in foreign policy for decades, certainly since we unilaterally pulled out of the ABM Treaty in December 2001. Israel never signed this treaty.
One month later President Bush the Lesser gave his ‘Axis of Evil’ speech in the 2002 State of the Union address. And since then the U.S. has been at war.
Trump has yet to prove to Putin or anyone else that he can or will alter the U.S.’s behavior when it comes to international agreements. He has repeatedly gone back on his word in dealing with Russia in Syria.
So, why should North Korea, Iran, Russia or China listen to a thing Trump says?
If Trump is willing to abide by his deals, he has shown zero ability to control those underneath him in the chain of command.
The recent attack by Jabhat al-Nusra in Idlib is a perfect example of this.
If Trump signed off on a massive attack on Russian military police patrolling the ‘de-escalation zone’ in Idlib on Tuesday then he’s a fraud in Putin’s eyes.
If he didn’t then he’s a figurehead.
Either way, he is not someone you come to the negotiating table with hoping for a stable outcome over time. The only agreements the U.S. Deep State will put on the table are unacceptable to everyone not leading the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia.
This means that Russia and China will not agree to any demands made by the U.S. on this issue or any other that doesn’t first involve a reduction in U.S. presence in the four major hot spots today — Ukraine, Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan.
The odds of that in the short term are roughly zero.
The U.S. foreign policy establishment is currently fighting wars on at least four fronts trying to distract and spread thin Russia’s ability to defend them. China has not committed anything militarily.
It’s not working.
The Limit of Trump’s Art
Trump is a master persuader, as Scott Adams puts it. I wholeheartedly agree with Scott’s assessment. But, there is a limit to his using that gift to pursue his “Art of the Deal.”
His insulting North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un is classic persuasion. It keeps his base mollified with visions of Trump as the strong leader in charge of the situation while he betrays literally everything he campaigned on.
Now, I’m no dyed-in-the-wool idealist. I always laid short odds on Trump’s ability to ‘drain the swamp.’ And it’s obvious the moves he’s making are constrained by the real vulnerabilities to the U.S.’s ability to project power internationally.
So, when I watch him finally let the cat out of the bag and tie North Korea to Iran in a tweet while continuing to insult his adversary personally, I realize we are reaching the end-game of this stand-off with North Korea.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently commented that Mutually Assured Destruction is still in play and will ultimately determine the outcome of this situation.
“Americans won’t strike [North] Korea, because not only do they suspect, but know for sure that Pyongyang has nuclear weapons,” Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with NTV channel.
“Regarding this issue, President [Vladimir] Putin has repeatedly said it was impossible to imagine that the US or someone else has 100 percent information on all of the [nuclear] objects,” he added, as cited by TASS.
“I’m not defending North Korea, I’m just saying that virtually everybody agrees with such analysis,” said the minister, adding that if the US hasn’t considered this assessment yet, then “the situation could spiral out of control, so that thousands, dozens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands innocent people will suffer in South Korea, as well as in the North, certainly in Japan, with Russia and China nearby too,” Lavrov noted.
Is this statement by Lavrov a bluff like Trump’s sabre-rattling at the UN was a bluff?
It’s possible. But Lavrov is one of the shrewdest men working diplomatic circles today. His words matter. He is also a master persuader.
Trump pulled out the last card he could play with the American people and the world to persuade them to come to his side.
The Noose Tightens
We are approaching the end of the policy begun with Bush’s Axis of Evil speech. But, the war of attrition fought against the U.S. has succeeded.
More than fifteen years later, North Korea and Iran have achieved their goals of girding their defenses against a United States that has betrayed its agreements in pursuit of regime change to protect the petrodollar and its world standing.
You either go through with the threat or you negotiate. That’s the problem with ultimatums. If Lavrov is right and I suspect he is, then negotiating is what comes next.
The final result, as long as Trump doesn’t morph into Dr. Strangelove in the next few weeks, will be a systemic backing down by the U.S.
The bargaining table, for the first time in a generation, will truly be open for business.
And that will be your sign that the U.S. has lost the war for the Eurasian landmass. It will be the end of the Brzezinski Doctrine and will pave the way for what comes next — China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Trump will label China and Russia irresponsible for allowing this to happen. But, again, so what?
Our leadership could have chosen a different path, working with a resurgent Russia versus trying to colonize it.
But, we didn’t. The question is will the Swamp allow him to make the right deal for everyone or will they continue to act like spoiled children?
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