Abandoning the Iran Deal Is Just One Example of Irrational U.S. Diplomacy

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani takes part in a news conference near the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Pressing for a so-called "better" nuclear deal reflects the lack of realism that has plagued overall U.S. foreign policy in recent decades.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations have pursued a similar futile, uncompromising stance toward Russia. The recent sanctions legislation that Congress overwhelmingly passed and that the president signed into law epitomizes that rigid, unproductive attitude. Among other provisions, the measure cited Moscow’s alleged interference in America’s 2016 election as a justification for imposing tighter sanctions. But the legislation offers no hint of how Russia could atone for that offense and get the sanctions lifted. Would a written pledge never to engage in such conduct in future elections be sufficient? Would something additional be necessary? There is no way to tell.

In addition, the sanctions law codifies the previous White House demands during the Obama and Trump administrations that the Kremlin cease supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine and return the Crimea Peninsula to Kiev’s control. Russia’s compliance with the former demand is unlikely, especially given the Russian government’s well-founded fears that the United States intends to turn Ukraine into a Western client state with membership in both the European Union and NATO. Brazen Western meddling in Ukraine’s political affairs to help demonstrators unseat the democratically elected, pro-Russian president in 2014 certainly does not incline Moscow to soften its policy toward its neighbor.

Demanding that Moscow relinquish control of Crimea is even more of a diplomatic nonstarter. The Kremlin will abandon that acquisition at about the same time that Israel rescinds its annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights or Turkey repudiates its puppet Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and returns that occupied territory to the Republic of Cyprus. That is to say, a Russian capitulation on the Crimea issue likely will never take place.

Such examples underscore that Washington’s overall diplomacy is dangerously unrealistic on multiple fronts. More restrained and modest strategies are badly needed. A good place to start is to refrain from torpedoing the constructive and beneficial JCPOA. There is no “better agreement” in the offing, and the consequences of pursuing such a mirage could be very unpleasant—not only for the Middle East, but the United States as well.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of ten books, the contributing editor of ten books, and the author of more than 650 articles on international affairs.

Image: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani takes part in a news conference near the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo​

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