When Ayatollah Khomeini was the barbarous supreme tyrant of Iran and Kim Jong-il the brutal supreme despot of North Korea, Barack Obama stated his commitment to alienate America’s friends and embolden America’s enemies. Before Obama’s inauguration as America’s president, he told a crowd of cheering supporters: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” Obama’s fundamental transformation did not end at America’s shores.
In 2009, Obama launched his radical foreign policy initiatives in Cairo that soon thereafter got aflame with anti-American protests. He offered the Muslim world “a new beginning.” By this, he meant not a Muslim new beginning but an American change of heart. He surrendered Iraq, in whose cause so many young Americans died, to America’s enemy, Iran. In the 2009 Iranian presidential elections protests, he squandered an opportunity to undermine the government established by Ayatollah Khomeini three decades before. Obama resisted pressure to side with opposition to the regime of the mullahs as mass protests continued in Iran over the disputed presidential poll.
From the beginning of his administration, Obama stated his willingness to talk to Iran “without preconditions.” He ignored US property claims against Iran, and Iran’s funding, providing equipment, weapons, training and giving sanctuary to terrorists. He offered Iran economic inducements and a promise not to seek “regime change.” The preconditions are not whimsical excuses to avoid talk with Iran. They are unanimous resolutions of the UN Security Council, agreed upon after the IAEA reported that Iran was in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Obama used the cover of multilateralism and moral equivalence consistently to communicate American weakness: “No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.” He orchestrated the 2015 agreement of Iran with China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States, plus Germany and the European Union, on Iran’s nuclear program. It ended the international sanctions regime against Iran, and permits Iran to develop advanced centrifuges.
Iran’s goal is the destruction of America, yet Obama’s solution was to appease Iran by letting Iran increase its destructive might, get nuclear weapons capability and get the ayatollahs $150 billion. To get the Iran deal, the Obama administration undermined its own restrictions on facilitating Iranian banking and commerce, and approached banks around the world to help Iran convert its released embargoed funds into US Dollars. This subversion of the American financial system was probably illegal.
Much of the support for the Iran deal draws on the same school of thought that believed the 1979 revolution would usher in the onset of liberal democracy in Iran; that the Oslo Accords were the harbingers of a peaceful, prosperous “New Middle East;” and that the Arab Spring would herald an era of individual liberty across the Arab world.
In May 2018, while former secretary of state John Kerry kept meeting with Iranian leaders overseas to sabotage his country’s policies, President Donald Trump announced that America would withdraw from the Iran deal. On the eve of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu televised captured Iranian documents that confirmed Iran never had any intention of stopping its nuclear bomb-making program.
When Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, American elites went berserk. They intimated nullification would hasten Iranian proliferation and provoke more Iranian belligerence. Whereas, Iran is stuck with Trump till the end of his presidency. If Iran tries to hijack another American vessel or launches another missile near an American carrier, Trump will not react like Obama did. As the Iranians know, Trump would take military steps to terminate Iran’s ability to replicate such aggression.
American and Israeli leaders often put the burden to prove good intentions on themselves, rather than their opponents. Obama praised Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a moderate. Likewise, Israeli leaders praised Arafat as a man of courage and Abbas as a moderate. The praises justified making concessions to their counterparts without requiring reciprocal concessions. In 2000, then-prime minister Ehud Barak was desperate to convince Arafat to accept a peace deal with Israel. Barak remained in talks with Arafat after Arafat rejected his offer, collapsed the Camp David summit, and launched the worst terror war ever against Israel.
Trump made the case that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had to prove his good intentions to him as a precondition for negotiations. After North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in July 2017, Trump called Kim “Little Rocket Man” and a “madman.” Trump polarized Kim and blamed him for the growing danger to US national security. Kim released three American hostages and blew up his nuclear test site. Kim had to prove his credibility. Not Trump.
During their administrations, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all begged the Chinese to rein in the North Koreans. China demanded and received various US concessions to curb North Korea, often inadequately. Whereas, Trump intimidated and threatened China. He linked US-China trade deals to Chinese assistance in curtailing North Korean threats and agreeing to the denuclearizing of North Korea. Trump proved his seriousness by firing 58 missiles at Syrian targets in retaliation for Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons, while he was entertaining Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida. Xi cut off North Korean coal exports to China and limited fuel shipments from China to North Korea. Soon after, Kim announced he wanted to meet the South Korean president.
Trump made it easy for the Americans to abandon negotiations and difficult for the North Koreans to do likewise. Trump effected the largest increase in US defense spending in decades. He and Defense Secretary James Mattis threatened to destroy North Korea. Trump stated often that he has no idea whether talks with Kim will lead to an agreement, but it was worth an attempt. He even canceled the summit after Kim insulted National Security Adviser John Bolton. Trump’s cancellation taught Kim the price of failure and showed Kim, that unlike his predecessors, Trump does not fear walking away. For Kim to negotiate with Trump, he must respect Trump’s choices.
The elites criticized Trump’s summitry with Kim and the summit agreement filled with platitudes. The objective was not to reach a serious agreement at this stage. The objective was to sign a piece of paper that had “Agreement” on it.
By Kim signing the piece of paper, Trump has put all the time pressure on Kim alone. The Americans have their deal and Kim signed it at a ceremony with a global audience. The Trump administration has all the time it needs to get Kim to give up all his nukes. Whereas, time is working against Kim. After the summit, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the economic sanctions on North Korea will remain in place until after North Korea has denuclearized in a verifiable manner. If Kim cares about his survival and his nation’s economy, Kim would reach a deal and implement it as quickly as possible.
Obama’s legacy in the Middle East rests on the Iran deal. When Trump terminated the deal, Obama’s Middle East legacy collapsed. Trump renewed America’s alliances with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel, reducing Iranian power in the region. Essentially, Israel now has a free hand to take preemptive action against Iranian arsenal in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere that could strike Israel. Besides, Trump’s deal could denuclearize North Korea, and curtail the transfer of Chinese and North Korean nuclear technology to Iran.
Unlike Obama, Trump knows how to make favorable deals. Since Ronald Reagan went to Reykjavik to meet Gorbachev, Trump is the first US president who knew how to negotiate with America’s enemies. Trump is prepared to walk away from negotiations with North Korea. He knows North Korea could cheat, and he would not separate its promises to denuclearize from its ballistic missiles or terrorist behavior. Moreover, Trump would focus on its patron. Without China’s help, there could be no North Korea bomb.
Trump is dealing with a nuclear armed North Korea because Clinton, Bush, Obama, and other US elites, enabled its nuclear armament through incompetent diplomacy. Trump is only trying a new approach because their old approach gave Kim the capability to threaten America with nuclear weapons. Now that Trump is negotiating, what they fear is not that he will fail like they did. They fear that he will succeed, like only he could. Trump will beat these people again. The Trump Way could succeed.
Dr. Sheyin-Stevens is a Registered Patent Attorney based in Florida, USA. He earned his Doctorate in Law from the University of Miami.