On Iran and North Korea, all eyes should be on regional players, not Trump 

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 9:32am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 10:30pm

The US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement is a worrying sign for America and its ever-changing international relations.

Tensions are mounting between Iran and Israel: the two have exchanged missiles, though an open war is not foreseen yet. An open war with Israel is not in Iran’s best interest, given that the Europeans, China and Russia have affirmed their commitment to the agreement they signed with Iran.

Countries around the world are wondering whether to trust the US moving forward. Of note: North Korea, which may or may not begin negotiations with Trump on June 12 in Singapore on its nuclear programme, is asking: How can we trust Mr Trump, who says one thing and does another?

There is, however, a difference between Iran’s situation and North Korea’s.

Iran’s train has already left the station: Iran will not negotiate a new agreement with the US. Further, Iran has lived under US sanctions for the past four decades; reimposing sanctions will make no difference. In this instance, sanctions aren’t a policy but a tool, and a broken one at that. Further, regarding Iran, consider (a) regional dynamics and (b) regional players. 

Sadly, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Israel and United Arab Emirates aren’t interested in finding a peaceful solution. 

With North Korea, the contrary applies: China and South Korea (also Japan, to a degree) are supporting a peaceful outcome. 

China tells Trump to stay calm over North Korea threat to cancel nuclear summit

Beijing and Seoul are facilitating the dialogue between the US and North Korea while working behind the scenes to ensure its positive outcome. Even so, those who think North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons, and thereby become vulnerable, are mistaken. Look no further than what happened to Ukraine when it gave up its nuclear weapons following the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1991.

The world has many dire possibilities to contemplate following Trump’s decision to withdraw unilaterally from Iran’s nuclear agreement. The US cannot simply call the tune and expect the world to dance. For decades to come, Trump’s sad songs will lead the Middle East to call their own tunes, with accompaniment from Russia and China that will be far from music to America’s ears.

Dr David Oualaalou, founder, Global Perspective Consulting, Dallas