U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, President Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton at the NATO Foreign Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium on July 12, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Exercising the prerogative of the chairman, Mr. Trump plans to focus on Iran and its malign activity around the Middle East. European diplomats said they fear that this will only underscore the disunity of the West, given the unpopularity of Mr. Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.
Already, the president’s choice of subject has drawn objections from Russia, which said the focus of the meeting should be entirely on the nuclear deal and Mr. Trump’s exit from it, and Iran, which accused Mr. Trump of abusing his leadership of the council to vilify a single country.
The resistance is not limited to foreigners. At the State Department, the National Security Council and the American mission to the United Nations, there are privately voiced qualms about Mr. Trump leading a discussion on a complex, divisive subject with foreign leaders who were fiercely opposed to his handling of the nuclear deal.
The meeting on Iran will be a waste of time at best, and it is more likely to be a high-profile embarrassment for the U.S. The Trump administration has managed to choose a subject that reminds everyone that the U.S. can’t be trusted to honor its commitments and that this president in particular has no respect for international agreements. It gives Iran and the other parties to the JCPOA a perfect opportunity to criticize U.S. actions before the entire world. Trump is always boasting about how respected the U.S. is now that he is president, and this meeting is going to drive home to everyone watching that the exact opposite is true. It is more likely than not that Trump will make outrageous and threatening remarks against one or more of the other Security Council members, and U.S. relations with many of them are likely to suffer as a result. The Iran obsession poisons and distorts U.S. foreign policy, and we are going to get a clear demonstration of that in a few weeks.
The administration’s justification for pulling this stunt is hard to take seriously. The report quotes Haley’s explanation:
“President Trump is very adamant that we have to start making sure that Iran is falling in line with international order,” Ms. Haley added.
Trump’s critics in the foreign policy establishment often accuse the president of undermining or attacking the “international order,” but he and his officials are just as willing to employ the same rhetoric opportunistically to suit their purposes. As far as the nuclear deal is concerned, Iran is fully in line with international order, and it is the U.S. that has chosen for no good reason to trample on it. When it respecting international law and upholding international order, the U.S. is often more arsonist than firefighter. It is the U.S. that is illegitimately using sanctions to inflict collective punishment on the Iranian people in a vain effort to compel sweeping changes in Iranian regime behavior that are tantamount to regime change. It is the U.S. that maintains an illegal military presence in Syria. It is the U.S. that has twice violated the U.N. Charter with attacks on the Syrian government. It is the U.S. that aids and abets war criminal regimes in the Saudi coalition’s destruction and starvation of Yemen, where more innocent lives are at risk from man-made causes than anywhere else in the world. The point is that the Trump administration has absolutely no credibility to chide any other government about lack of respect for international order when it has made a habit of running roughshod over it.