In many previous articles, my fellow writers and analysts have reminded me that the United States is not governed by the president alone, especially when it comes to matters of national security.
Other authorities and political forces come into play, among them the leadership of the opposition party and the giant businesses and financial interests.
My colleagues are missing the mark when they consider that US President Donald Trump’s policies towards Iran, North Korea, China and NATO are diametrically opposed to those of his predecessor and former rival Barack Obama. In reality, both presidents were executing what has been decided behind closed doors.
My colleagues are also daydreaming if they think Trump’s decisions regarding China are spontaneous, improvised or even purely commercial designed to bring the US Treasury a few billion dollars.
My colleagues deny these decisions were politically motivated while, in reality, they were. Trump’s America wants to return China to “most favoured nation” (MFN) status only when the latter carries out fully its role in reining in Kim Jong-un in North Korea and making him finish what is required of him.
For those who don’t know it, trade relations between the United States and China come under the provisions of MFN statutes in effect since 1980. By granting China this status, the United States wanted to ensure that trade relations between the two giants don’t suffer when political conflicts in other matters erupt.
In case China becomes reluctant to carry out its North Korean mission, it stands to lose its MFN status and Trump will make sure its products become less competitive in US markets. China, therefore, stands to lose thousands of American investments and manufacturing plants and we are talking here about international giants like General Dynamic, Boeing, General Motors, General Electric, Microsoft, Apple, UPS, AT&T, Amazon, Target, Walmart and many others.
Now, regarding the Trump administration’s policies towards Iran, one can say that they flow from the same source related to defending US interests abroad. The major lines of this policy centre on containing America’s big headaches — Russia and China — and relieving America’s small headaches — North Korea and Iran.
Everybody in China and the United States agrees that the nail-biting episode between both countries will not last long and will soon know a happy ending. Iranian officials, however, have a problem understanding these details. They ignore what is expected of them and, worse, they can’t quite make out the inevitable nature of things.
Trump announced his readiness to meet with the Iranians without any preconditions. So, what did Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, do? He gave this answer: “Mister Trump, Iran is not North Korea to accept your invitation to a meeting.”
The Iranian major-general told the US president that a meeting between Iranian officials and the United States will never happen because the Iranian people will never allow their leaders to meet or negotiate with the Great Satan and even the presidents who will come after Trump will never see that day.
Yes, Iran is not North Korea but that is very unfortunate for the Iranian regime. The differences between the two regimes are many. Kim used whatever was left of his brain cells to understand that a policy of belligerence and defiance does not, in the end, feed his people or strengthen his regime. The Iranian regime, on the other hand, lives in its own world of overbearing pride and childish delusion.
When he defied America, Kim was counting on his country’s nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles. What the Iranians have are, by comparison, useless smuggled scraps of the same North Korean technology and weaponry.
North Korea was under the wing of a mighty power, China, which was ready to bear the cost of protecting it from the United States and its allies. What about the Iranian regime? Well, its only guardian angel was Russian President Vladimir Putin and even he did not hesitate to sell the Iranian regime down the river at the first opportunity.
The fourth difference between the North Korean regime and the Iranian regime is internal. In North Korea, Kim rules with an iron fist, no partners and no opposition. The Iranian regime is drowning in popular unrest, rampant corruption and ethnic, religious, sectarian and regional strife. In a first of its kind, protesters in Iran and Iraq are clamouring for regime change without hesitation or fear.
Let’s not also forget the disastrous downfall of the Iranian currency, which is bound to worsen when new American sanctions against Iran come into effect.
It is amazing how, despite all of these raging fires, the Iranian regime continues to play dumb. We heard through the official Iranian news agency that Ali Motahari, second deputy of the Iranian parliament, declared that “it would be humiliating to negotiate with the Americans.”
Strange how these words sound familiar. They were Saddam Hussein’s words before he was squashed by the American war machine and hanged with Iranian ropes.
Ibrahim al-Zoubeidi is an Iraqi writer.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.