Diplomacy: Trump style

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Rashid A Mughal
SO Trump did it again. Not listening to allies and world leaders, ignoring their advice, not realizing the ground realities and adopting a “who cares” attitude with little regard for humanity, peaceful co-existence and unaware of repercussions, his actions may cause in de-stabilizing the already fragile global equilibrium. He had made his intentions very clear by walking out of Iranian nuclear deal signed by President Obama and adopting a different policy for North Korean nuclear arsenal and for Iran’s nuclear programme. According to International Atomic Energy, Iran was fully complying with the guidelines and restrictions imposed by IAEA for enrichment of Uranium. Yet Trump withdrew from the accord much against the advice of allies in Europe and other world leaders. He preferred currying favour with Israel, arch enemy of Arabs, openly and set his own rule of engagement for dealing with sensitive and potential flash points around the globe.
What is more surprising is that whatever he is doing is completely opposite to what he stated would be his policy on the Middle East and wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya at the time of his election. According to many independent scholars, his arm-twisting policy is clearly and visibly biased towards Muslims and heavily tilted towards enemies of Muslims (Israel and India for instance). According to European Council for Foreign Relations, on 17 October 2019, a reliably chaotic White House press conference produced a revelation – a moment of clear-eyed self-reflection that may be unique in the history of the Trump Administration. Asked about the President’s ill-fated proposal to hold the G-7 summit at Trump National Doral Miami, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted: “that’s not the craziest idea we ever heard”. In August, President Donald Trump announced a bold idea to help the US win the race for the Arctic. The region increasingly draws the attention of global powers such as China and Russia, which seek access to strategically important sea lanes and natural resources beneath its melting ice sheets. Trump, who knows prime real estate when he sees it, decided to take a direct approach to strengthen the US presence there – he tried to buy Greenland. When US officials in late August tried to stop a tanker of Iranian oil from delivering its cargo, he tried to pay off the ship’s captain. Unfortunately, the captain did not respond to this kind of offer. The fact is that money can’t always buy you geopolitical love. Ideology, loyalty and even morality matter in the world.
The European Council for Foreign Relations goes on further to state that on 3 October, the Trump Presidency was already swept up in an impeachment inquiry. The probe stemmed from an alleged effort to use US foreign aid to force the government of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, former Vice President and candidate for 2020 elections. But, as Trump knows, the best offence is more offence — and so he had an idea. He marched out to the White House lawn and told the assembled fake news horde there that, beyond Ukraine, China should also investigate Biden. Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican, noted that “asking China to look into Biden was weird. Nobody believes that China would be fair to Biden, Trump, me or you, or anybody. Bad idea.” On 9 October, Trump had a problem. In a phone call a few days earlier, he may have inadvertently given President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey the impression that the US wouldn’t mind if Turkey invaded northern Syria and wiped out the US-allied Kurdish forces there. Trump decided to write to Erdogan. But, surprisingly, the letter didn’t go down so well. Erdogan ignored it, invaded, Syria anyway, and promised not to forget the insult. When the White House released the letter a week later, the fake news people were so incredulous that it was real that the White House had to verify its authenticity. Even Hillary Clinton is mocking it on social media.
On 18 October, Trump seemed to realise that not everyone was sold on the strategic genius of his decision to abruptly withdraw US forces from Syria – which left America’s Kurdish allies there to fend for themselves. Apparently convinced that the haters were concerned about US energy security, the President had an idea. He reassured the press that there was no cause for concern because “we’ve taken control of the oil in the Middle East … the oil that everybody was worried about”. Gliding over the confusion his comments created among even White House officials, Trump reasserted the claim this month. All told, since the summer, Trump has set a pretty high bar for innovative but crazy foreign policy ideas. The increase in the pace of Trump-crazy no doubt reflects the fact that the bulk of his most competent and least sycophantic advisers have now left the Administration. Recent weeks have witnessed Trump, unleashed. As the domestic pressure from impeachment increases, we should expect more such crazy foreign policy ideas. Hold on tight.
It is now a matter of record that Trump has admitted publicly and candidly in a TV interview that the Middle East war is for oil. He has assured his supporters that his policy decisions have secured the ME oil. Two weeks back he took an abrupt and shocking decision of killing ai Iranian General, Qasem Solemanie who was on an official visit to Iraq. The backlash was colossal and brought the world almost very close to another war in the Middle East. But at the same time it united the Iranian people who were agitating against their government two months back. Iraqi parliamentarians even passed a resolution in the House for ouster of US forces from their country. Diplomacy is an art and demands that all disputes be solved through negotiations and bi-lateral or multi-lateral talks. Using force to solve an issue results in perpetual state of hostility and mistrust. At the same time taking hasty and ill-conceived decision is bad diplomacy and must be avoided at all costs. One can only hope that better sense prevails in Trumps diplomacy.
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.

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