Out of all of President Donald Trump’s numerous blunders on foreign policy issues, probably the most incendiary one is the decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran, and the ensuing violation of the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Trump has has unilaterally broken an agreement reached in 2015 after 12 years of negotiations, and whose complexity I am personally familiar with since I was tasked with getting the talks started as the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union. This agreement is a guarantee of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, and it was backed by a unanimous resolution at the United Nations Security Council.
But Trump seems largely unconcerned about both the content and form of the deal; nor does he appear to consider the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency has been certifying Iran’s compliance with the program.
What Trump cares about the most is the fact that the JCPOA was signed during the Obama era. Trump’s attitude was exactly the same with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Paris agreement on climate change, his predecessor’s two other major achievements. And in this case, the reaction by all other parties involved must be the same as in the earlier cases: preserve the agreement, regardless of the United States’ ups and downs.
We must celebrate the fact that Europe, Iran, China and Russia have manifested their desire to advance along these lines. In this regard, the European Union has a tremendous responsibility on its shoulders. There is no doubt that trans-Atlantic relations must remain a priority, but so must protecting existing mechanisms of multilateral cooperation. And even more so when the threat is coming not so much from an “America First” attitude, but from a “Trump First” one instead.
Simultaneously, the European Union must help de-escalate the tension in the Middle East. The region has become the stage for a tough confrontation between Iran – whose outside actions are not violating the JCPOA but continue to represent a problem – and two disproportionately influential allies of the United States: Israel and Saudi Arabia. The new flare-up of hostilities is having a direct effect on third countries such as Syria and Yemen, which are mired in terrible humanitarian crises of their own. Greater European involvement in resolving these conflicts is key in order to slow down the deterioration of stability in the region.
Yesterday, while Trump was announcing his withdrawal from the JCPOA, there was movement on another nuclear front: US State Secretary Mike Pompeo was on his way to North Korea to prepare a summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un. In light of America’s absurd new blow to its own credibility and diplomatic consistency, all that is left for us to do is to wish him luck. He is going to need it, and so is the rest of the world.
Javier Solana has served as Spanish foreign affairs minister, NATO secretary general and EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy.
English version by Susana Urra.