Walter Russell Mead describes why European allies are angry about Trump’s reneging on the nuclear deal, but he can’t grasp that they are right to be angry:
To the Europeans, Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal and impose sanctions on European companies that trade with Iran is a profound betrayal. As they see it, the U.S. made a solemn commitment to observe the deal after European countries entered into it in good faith. Harming European commerce with Iran to serve American interests is the act of a bully and an overlord, not of an ally and friend.
Mead predictably misses the point that European allies mostly resent the presumption that the U.S. should dictate their foreign policy choices to them. Commerce between Europe and Iran is greater than it is between the U.S. and Iran, but it is trivial when compared to their larger commercial interests. Contrary to the nonsense spouted by Mead and other WSJ columnists, European governments are not feuding with the Trump administration for the sake of commercial opportunities in Iran but rather as a way of asserting their right to conduct their own foreign policy free of American dictates. For that reason, Pompeo’s preposterous Iran speech has gone over very poorly in Europe, and our allies aren’t going to offer support to the administration’s hare-brained scheme. Trump and Pompeo have been spitting in the faces of our allies, and it is no wonder that they object to it in the strongest terms.
The issue for our allies is that Washington is trying to force them to do something against their will for no good reason, and they naturally oppose attempts to penalize them for adhering to agreement that the U.S. encouraged them to support just a few years ago. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. has betrayed several of its genuine treaty allies for the sake of placating bad clients that wish to ratchet up tensions with Iran. It is a bad trade-off for the U.S. and the region, and a competent analyst would be able to explain that to his readers. Unfortunately, Mead can’t or won’t do that.
The French ambassador to the U.S. effectively dismisses Mead’s argument in a short statement:
The primary tension in transatlantic relations today is the expectation of our American allies that Europe should see the world the way they do….. https://t.co/wOMSZJhxUH
— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) May 21, 2018
In case Mead doesn’t understand this message, it was the U.S. that arbitrarily changed its position on the nuclear deal and started threatening its allies with punitive measures if they refused to go along with it. Our allies have remained committed to the agreement that they negotiated alongside our government, and the contrast between their conduct and the behavior of this administration is embarrassing for the U.S.