Tuesday, May 8, 2018


President Trump announced America's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. After a number of waivers and timelines, US sanctions will be resumed. His presentation was the usual mix of lies, petty settling of scores and signals to the "base". He referred to Netanyahu's recent TV performance wherein the former spoke out against the deal, referring to data more than a decade old.  Speaking of buddies in arms and lies!

Obviously the agreement which took years to negotiate in Muscat, New York, Geneva and Vienna was, like other similar exercises, a difficult and an often unpleasant affair. The outcome also suffered  from many unanswered question marks. Besides, it is never easy to come to terms with a partner like Iran, suffering from the original sin, stuck in some existential denial of Israel's right to exist. Therefore it was decided to define the negotiation into strict parameters and to avoid other important competing issues. All parties agreed to limit themselves to convergent choices. Russia and China played the game with France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the EU versus Iran. John Kerry and Javad Zarif were able to establish a sort of dialogue particulier wherein, no doubt, all issues were discussed. Under a Clinton administration this fragile reconnaissance might have been continued.

In diplomacy there is such a thing as a cornerstone, Grotius' preposition that Pacta sunt servanda  (Agreements need to be respected). Trump chose to burn the house rather than to bring the fire under control. He alienated the United States from the other parties to the agreement and chose yet again to portray this Trump America as a nefarious, uneducated, nasty player. While he is busy chastising Iran for every type of sin under the sun, he speaks about Korea with measure, avoiding any reference to regime change (so dear to John Bolton), human rights, rule of law, or freedom of the press (not a popular theme in this White House).

Trump violated most norms. He could have managed the same outcome with consideration of agreed rules. He could have taken into consideration the constructive alternatives suggested by allies. He might have suggested a larger arc of non- proliferation for the region as a whole (Israel included). He should have recognized the imaginative skills of the Obama administration which, instead, he only wants to throw under the bus.

It is too early to foresee a follow up. There is time, after all, and there is no need for Armageddon, nor for Pollyanna. The EU needs to open this diplomatic window before the Chinese or/and the Russians steal the next chapter. One thing is sure, Montesquieu's Les lettres persanes were not on Trump's reading list. Pompeo in State, Bolton in the NSC are the perfect spokespersons for this president's "prose". Verse is for the future. Oscar Wilde said it so well:  "We are all in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars."

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