Home/Daniel Larison/The Iran Obsession and Our Reckless Clients

The Iran Obsession and Our Reckless Clients

President Donald Trump poses for photos with ceremonial swordsmen on his arrival to Murabba Palace, as the guest of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Saturday evening, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Andrew Bacevich comments on Trump’s decision to renege on the nuclear deal:

Trump’s abrogation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the so-called Iran deal, easily qualifies as the most consequential decision of his administration. For once bluster is matched by action. Trump appears intent on making his mark after all.

In reaching this decision, Trump ignored the advice – make that, pleas – of traditional U.S. allies such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Instead, the president chose to heed the counsel of his new friends Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Viewed from this perspective, May 8, 2018 marks the inauguration of a Saudi-American-Israeli axis and a major realignment of U.S. strategic relationships.

The shift that Bacevich identifies means that the U.S. is siding with its reckless clients in the Middle East at the expense of its genuine treaty allies in the West. This is similar to the Bush administration’s denigration of major European allies ahead of the invasion of Iraq, but it is more pronounced because there is no European support for Trump’s decision. Meanwhile, the Israelis and Saudis are among a mere handful of governments that reject the JCPOA.

The main and perhaps only thing holding this bloc together is hostility to Iran. Since Iran hawks in all three countries despise the nuclear deal because it deprived them of a pretext for war, it was just a matter of time before the Iran obsession won out and the U.S. reneged on its commitments. The U.S. continues to distort its regional policies to serve the interests two of its biggest liabilities, and in the process it is damaging relations with real allies that have contributed something to U.S. security. Trump is catering to the wishes of client states that do nothing but cause the U.S. headaches and drag us into unnecessary wars, and he is practically guaranteeing that the U.S. will be drawn more deeply into the region’s conflicts by aligning the U.S. so closely with two of its most destabilizing states.

Conventional wisdom in Washington in the closing years of Obama’s presidency held that Obama had “snubbed” the Israelis and Saudis and had not done enough for them. This was a dishonest way to describe a president who showered both with more weapons than any of his predecessors, but this is how Obama’s policies were portrayed by his hawkish critics. Trump made a point of reversing everything Obama did that the Israelis and Saudis didn’t like while continuing and expanding the worst Obama policies that indulged these reckless clients. Reneging on the nuclear deal is just the latest in a series of bad decisions that Trump has made that give the Israeli and Saudi governments whatever they want no matter the consequences for U.S. interests.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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