Foreign Policy

Countering the EU, UN, and Iran

Trump's clear-minded focus on the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program has been remarkable.

National Security Desk · Oct. 1, 2018

President Donald Trump turned in a mixed performance at last week’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Occasionally lapsing into language more appropriate for a campaign rally, his speech to the General Assembly was a missed opportunity to make the United States’s case against the globalists who dream of the UN becoming a true world government. In his opening speech at the Security Council meeting on Wednesday, he declared, “Kim Jong-un, a man I have gotten to know and like, wants peace and prosperity for North Korea.” That’s a dismaying gaffe when referring to North Korea’s brutal dictator — a bloody despot ruling a rogue nation. It’s true he has a purpose with such flattery, but all things considered, it was a less-than-stellar performance from the leader of the free world.

But when it came to the president’s remarks on Iran and the challenge that nation’s nuclear program poses to the world, Trump delivered a message worthy of Ronald Reagan. Pulling no punches and sparing no feelings among friend and foe alike, the president made clear his determination to keep the pressure on Iran and his willingness to punish anyone trying to side with Tehran:

In the years since the [nuclear] deal was signed, Iran’s aggression only increased. The regime used new funds from the deal to support terrorism, build nuclear-capable missiles, and foment chaos. Following America’s withdrawal, the United States began re-imposing nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. All U.S. nuclear-related sanctions will be in full force by early November. They will be in full force. After that, the United States will pursue additional sanctions, tougher than ever before, to counter the entire range of Iran’s malign conduct. Any individual or entity who fails to comply with these sanctions will face severe consequences.

The president’s blunt threat to anyone attempting to circumvent U.S. sanctions and do business with Iran should give pause to the European nations that have been making noise about doing just that. The European Union’s Federica Mogherini announced last week that the EU would attempt to form a special non-cash trade mechanism between Iran and EU nations specifically in order to avoid banking-related sanctions. Nothing could make clearer the craven mindset of the EU than a willingness to side with Iran in this way. The Europeans are more reliant than ever on foreign oil and natural gas as they pursue a utopian vision of domestic green-energy production. They have become more and more pacifist since the Soviet Union went bust, while cynically relying on the United States to be the world’s policeman. And they continue to delude themselves about the Iranian regime, thinking they can convert Iran into a responsible nation using only carrots and no stick.

But the Europeans must know that running afoul of U.S. sanctions will be financially ruinous at a time when many EU nations already face difficult economic conditions. The United Kingdom is bumbling its way toward a hard Brexit. Italy faces a full-fledged debt crisis. Germany, supposedly the economic powerhouse of Europe, recently saw its economic outlook lowered to a meager 1.7% annual growth. The recent tsunami of Middle East and North African migration continues to stress EU nations’ social systems. And the EU as a whole is expected to remain below 2% growth for the foreseeable future. Not exactly a good time for the EU to take on the additional burden of U.S. sanctions.

As for Iran, it is more vulnerable to sanctions than at any time since the 1990s. Its economy, which consists of little more than oil and pistachios, has been cratering, leading to protests throughout the nation in which ordinary Iranians have made clear they have no affinity for spending Iranian money on propping up Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The Saudis, who view Iran as a mortal enemy, have signaled their willingness to increase oil production to offset lost Iranian oil exports when sanctions kick in. The United States itself has leaped nearly to the top of the list of major oil exporters, exceeding three million barrels a day, second only to Saudi Arabia and Iraq. And as we have mentioned before, the Islamic Revolution in Iran has grown old and tired over the last 25 years — to the point that the mullahs must coerce rather than convince the Iranian people of their “right” to rule.

President Trump has had his ups and downs since taking office, but his clear-minded focus on Iran and the threat posed by its nuclear program has been remarkable. The presence of John Bolton on the president’s national-security team should help maintain that clear-mindedness going forward, and we wholeheartedly support the president’s challenge to our notional European allies that they cannot support a pariah nation without consequences.

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