Donald Trump

  • Iran Plays ‘Who’s the Rogue Now’ at the United Nations

    For a country that has so often been isolated in multinational forums, Iran is wrapping itself in international legitimacy and approbation not only from much of the United Nations General Assembly but four of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus the European Union.

    The night before US President Donald Trump excoriated the Islamic Republic as “brutal,” “corrupt” and “dictatorial” in a heavily nationalistic and bombastic speech at the General Assembly, the P4+1—Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and Germany—affirmed their support for the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran and promised a special payment mechanism to allow foreign companies to circumvent sanctions re-instated by the Trump administration.

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  • The Books the Trump Administration Should Read to Understand Iran

    When US President Donald Trump delivered his Iran strategy speech in October 2017, rather than focus on the important points that were being made, most Iranians zeroed in on him referring to the Persian Gulf as the “Arabian Gulf.” It was seen as a major insult by many Iranians who proudly view the body of water as part of thousands of years of their history and national identity.

    Months later in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered his “Supporting Iranian Voices” speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in California. The speech didn’t offer much nuance or shift in US policy on Iran from its almost four-decade trajectory. If anything, as Ambassador John Limbert—a hostage during the 444-day Iran hostage crisis—...

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  • Iran’s Political Debate Over Negotiating With the Trump Administration

    President Donald Trump’s offer to “meet with the Iranian president without preconditions if they wanted to meet” has been roundly rejected by Iran’s hardline establishment but has sparked a lively debate over the wisdom and efficacy of such a move in alleviating pressure on Iran’s economy.

    During a recent meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet members, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to emphatically rule out any negotiations, asking, “What negotiations can we have with the current disrespectful and brazen US officials who are making no secret of their hostility toward Iranians? Therefore, no talks will take place with...

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  • Iran Can Only Blame Its Woes on the Trump Administration for So Long

    The Iranian regime has successfully navigated difficulties over the past four decades, such as domestic infighting after the 1979 revolution, the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, the ensuing economic difficulties, and the controversy over its nuclear program during the mid-2000s. Many analysts believe that these tests immunized the regime to threats. Recent months, however, have proved that might not always be the case.

    It’s well known that the Iranian regime’s already shaky domestic popularity has plummeted to an unprecedented degree, especially among the working class and poor. The recent demonstrations—which broke out in more than eighty provincial towns and cities across Iran—highlight a massive decline in the regime’s support among its loyal rural base. The Iranian people are now publicly denouncing the regime in the streets, with protesters openly condemning Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali...

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  • Sixty-Five Years On: Iran Regime Change Advocates Haven’t Learned from Coup

    The Trump administration’s policy toward Iran aims for regime change. Possibly US President Donald Trump dreams of reaching some bold deal with the current leadership of Iran, but he has not laid out any feasible route to one. The administration’s dominant hope instead seems to be that stepped-up economic pressure will somehow lead disaffected Iranians to rise up against their rulers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s most recent speech on Iran was essentially a call to do just that. 

    Earlier this year, Pompeo enumerated a list of demands on Iran so sweeping that they seem designed—like the demands that Austria-Hungary placed on Serbia in 1914—to be rejected. Sixty-five years ago this month occurred the one instance in which the United States was involved in a change of regime in Iran: the ouster in August 1953 of Prime...

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  • Trump's Iran Sanctions Are Back: Will They Work?

    On Monday, US President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order detailing the framework for re-imposing sanctions on Iran, which were lifted under the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) nuclear deal, with the goal of getting Iran back to the table to negotiate a deal covering not just Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but also Tehran’s other malign activity. Immediately after issuing the order, Trump tweeted that these were the most biting sanctions ever and would be ratcheted up to another level in November.  This is, of course, not true. 

    The sanctions the administration is re-imposing in two waves (August and November) on Iran are effectively the same sanctions that were in place in 2013 and led to the JCPOA negotiations.  Unlike 2013, the Trump administration does not have the full support of the international community and is not bolstered by several United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran to generate maximum...

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  • Which New US Sanctions on Russia Are Likely?

    The US Congress has prepared numerous bills proposing new sanctions on Russia. Congress reacted sharply against President Donald Trump’s desire to ease existing sanctions. On July 28, 2017, the Senate voted 98-2 for the Combating America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which Trump quietly signed into law. CAATSA legislated already adopted sanctions on Russia, so that Trump could not cancel them by executive order. It tightened some sanctions and offered the administration various options to further tighten sanctions. Many members of Congress complain that the administration has done too little, calling for a tougher sanctions law. Trump’s press conference with Putin in Helsinki on July 16 convinced most that a new Russia sanctions law is needed.

    Congress is focused on primarily four bills. All of them deal with Russia alone.

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  • The Lose-Lose Rut of US-Iran Hostility

    The Islamic Republic of Iran has relied on enmity with the United States for its own legitimacy throughout its existence, using it – and the threat of US allies such as Israel and the Persian Gulf littoral sheikdoms -- to excuse violence against its own citizens and intervention in regional conflicts. Similarly, the US government and its allies have used Iran as a bogeyman to justify the large US military presence in the area, and huge military spending by its allies.

    This is a win-win situation for politicians and arms merchants; and a lose-lose situation for ordinary people, particularly Iranians, and all peace lovers who would rather see their resources spent on economic development.

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  • Trump and Iran: Nostalgia for Better Bumblers

    It’s a truism that every president makes us nostalgic for his predecessor. In the case of Iran, US President Donald Trump and his men are outdoing the bumbles and fumbles of Reagan, the two Bushes, Clinton, and Obama, while making those earlier presidents appear as far-seeing statesmen.

    Earlier presidents at least knew Iran was a trap. They saw how Iran had destroyed Jimmy Carter’s presidency and almost did the same to Ronald Reagan’s. Although it proved impossible, their preference—at least until Barack Obama—was to ignore Iran.

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  • Why Trump’s Zig-Zag Diplomacy Towards Iran Will Fail

    President Donald Trump’s foreign policy – like his other policies – has seemed more about self-gratification than national interest.  He quit the Iran nuclear deal, undoing years of diplomacy, largely to erase part of the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Assisted by his administration, the current president poses as a hero forcing the Iranian establishment to succumb to his will. Trump says Iran must renegotiate the landmark deal that Iran, the US and five other world powers agreed to and the UN Security Council endorsed or there will be “severe consequences.”

    Trump’s subsequent offer to meet with his Iranian counterpart “without preconditions” produced an understandable feeling of whiplash, a week after he appeared to threaten Iran with destruction. During his campaign, Trump promised an “unpredictable” foreign policy. It is not clear whether he knew at the time about the...

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