War threats in the White House

By Dan Drollette Jr, October 30, 2017

In the depths of the Cold War, many Westerners spent a good bit of their time trying to decipher what was going on inside the walls of the Kremlin—a field known as Kremlin-watching.

Now, they spend an equal amount of time laboring to figure out what’s going on inside the White House—especially when it comes to Iran and North Korea—a field that could be called Trump-watching.

In the October 23 New Yorker‘s “Talk of the Town” section, which the front cover headlined as War threats in the White House,  Evan Osnos tries to piece together what is going on in the White House when it comes to international diplomacy, and goes into the perils of Trump’s hostility to the Iran Agreement.

Osnos—who has spent some time observing Trump’s career (see his prescient article of September 26, 2016, titled President Trump: What would he do?) and lately did some fine first-person reporting from North Korea—points out that “Even fierce critics of Tehran, including US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister, have held the agreement to be vital to international security. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, and Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign-affairs chief, were widely mentioned as contenders for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.”

But despite all this, when President Trump found out that both Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson (and other national security officials) wanted to preserve the agreement, “he threw a fit” reported the Washington Post

Osnos outlines a scenario that describes how, after Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal, a chain of events could easily occur in Iran that leads to a military conflict between the US and Iran—at a time when we’re already face to face with North Korea in a nuclear standoff—leading to a two-front war, in a spectacular act of self-sabotage.

In the New Yorker piece, retired US ambassador Thomas Graham Jr—who worked in a high-level capacity on every major American arms-control and disarmament negotiation over 25 years—had this to say of Trump’s statements about the Iran deal: “I’ve never seen anything remotely like this. There isn’t any reason in my opinion to decertify it, except for narrow political advantage, or if you really want to have a war. Historically, there was certainly opposition to some arms-control agreement, but this just seems like we’re reading Kafka.”


Publication Name: The New Yorker
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