To provide some context for William Hartung’s critique of Donald Trump’s bombastic U.N. address, we wanted to first reprint a couple of paragraphs from a truly incredible piece about Qasem Soleimani, published back in 2013 by The New Yorker:
The coöperation between the two countries lasted through the initial phase of the war. At one point, the lead negotiator handed Crocker a map detailing the disposition of Taliban forces. “Here’s our advice: hit them here first, and then hit them over here. And here’s the logic.” Stunned, Crocker asked, “Can I take notes?” The negotiator replied, “You can keep the map.” The flow of information went both ways. On one occasion, Crocker said, he gave his counterparts the location of an Al Qaeda facilitator living in the eastern city of Mashhad. The Iranians detained him and brought him to Afghanistan’s new leaders, who, Crocker believes, turned him over to the U.S. The negotiator told Crocker, “Haji Qassem is very pleased with our coöperation.”
The good will didn’t last. In January, 2002, Crocker, who was by then the deputy chief of the American Embassy in Kabul, was awakened one night by aides, who told him that President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union Address, had named Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil.” Like many senior diplomats, Crocker was caught off guard. He saw the negotiator the next day at the U.N. compound in Kabul, and he was furious. “You completely damaged me,” Crocker recalled him saying. “Suleimani is in a tearing rage. He feels compromised.” The negotiator told Crocker that, at great political risk, Suleimani had been contemplating a complete reëvaluation of the United States, saying, “Maybe it’s time to rethink our relationship with the Americans.” The Axis of Evil speech brought the meetings to an end. Reformers inside the government, who had advocated a rapprochement with the United States, were put on the defensive. Recalling that time, Crocker shook his head. “We were just that close,” he said. “One word in one speech changed history.”
Read on to understand how that tale is relevant to the events that unfolded yesterday and today…
Excerpted from a longer post by William D. Hartung for The Hill
When U.S. presidents blame all the world’s troubles on a handful of “rogue” regimes, bad things happen. Such was the case when George W. Bush decried the “axis of evil” — Iraq, Iran and North Korea — in his 2002 State of the Union speech. Bush’s rhetoric and the worldview it represented helped set the stage for the invasion of Iraq, one of the most ill-conceived, disastrous wars in U.S. history.
It was a given that Trump would excoriate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and there is plenty to criticize. But when he pledged to “totally destroy North Korea” in defense of the U.S. or its allies, he severely undercut the prospects for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, making war that much more likely.
The truth of the matter is that diplomacy is the only thing that has ever worked to slow North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Under the agreed framework negotiated by the Clinton administration in 1994, North Korea stopped producing plutonium — the quickest route to large numbers of nuclear warheads — for nearly a decade. It was only when the United States stopped talking during the Bush years that Pyongyang’s nuclear program accelerated.
Trump’s attack on the Iran nuclear deal is if anything even more ill-conceived. Far from being a “bad deal” that was somehow inflicted on the United States by Tehran’s negotiators, it is a solid agreement that has already led to the dismantling of major elements of Iran’s nuclear program while putting it under a strict inspections regime. And it is a six-party arrangement, painstakingly negotiated among the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, China and Russia.
The Iran agreement is an example of precisely the kind of effective multilateral diplomacy that Donald Trump’s go it alone, America First approach removes from our foreign policy tool box at a time when we need it more than ever to work out cooperative solutions to pressing problems like climate change, disease control, and global poverty.
Trump set up his attack on the Iran deal with a scathing rant about Iran’s role in the Middle East in which he called the it an “economically depleted rogue state whose exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”
Iran has plenty to answer for, not least of which is its support for the Assad regime in Syria, but it is far from the only purveyor of violence in the region. One need look no further than Trump’s fast friends in the Saudi Royal family, who are pursuing a devastating war in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and pushed the country to the brink of famine.