Analysis: Dismissal of Defense Secretary and Potential New Sanctions Against Iran Raises Trump Concerns About Vindictive President Impact
The sudden firing of US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and reports of plans to impose multiple levels of new sanctions on Iran made it clear that the last 10 weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency could still prove to be a very bumpy ride for the rest of the world.
Trump refuses to admit defeat to Joe Biden, and while he launches a quiver of unfounded legal objections to the results, he also tries to demonstrate that he remains in charge of foreign and defense policy, fueling fears about the impact of a vengeful president. could affect the role of the United States on the world stage in the next 10 weeks of the transition period.
On Monday, it was unclear if Esper’s firing via tweet was simply an act of settling scores with the outgoing defense secretary who openly disagreed with the president, or if it was intended to clear the way for Esper’s actions in the internal or external sphere. blocked.
On the same day Esper departed, Axios news site, citing Israeli sources, reported that the US, Israel and their Gulf allies were discussing a plan to add more bricks to the sanctions wall they had built around Iran, potentially with a new raft of punishers. … measured one week before Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
The Trump administration’s strategy in recent months has been to increase pressure on Iran to provoke a Tehran response that would make it difficult for the incoming administration to save the 2015 nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA).
So far, Tehran has remained broadly within the JCPOA, while ignoring some of the restrictions it has placed on its nuclear activities as a calibrated response to US sanctions. But the Trump administration has clearly not abandoned its attempts to nudge Iranians into more irreversible actions.
“Given that Donald Trump chronically defies norms and customs, I would be very worried about the hijacking that he and his administration may commit during this transition period, which is dangerous even in normal times, and even more so today, given the domestic and international crises facing the United States, ”said Rebecca Lissner, co-author of the book on US foreign policy Open World: How America Can Win the Competition for 21st Century Order.
Trump could announce a formal withdrawal from the new start treaty with Russia, which limits the nuclear arsenals of both states and which expires in February, or try to “repeal” the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the United States signed, but which remains unratified. By the Senate.
These moves could be reversed by the incoming Biden administration, but the whip effect will add confusion to Washington’s stance and undermine global confidence that the US will stick to the agreements it signs.
The promulgated new sanctions against Iran show that Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have not abandoned their attempts to destroy the JCPOA, which stumbled, wounded but alive, despite the US withdrawal in 2018, the US imposition of oil and the financial embargo on Iran and the Tehran response.
Biden’s team intends to negotiate the return of both countries to the JCPOA, but new sanctions will spoil the mood. Trump administration envoy to Iran Elliot Abrams was in Israel on Sunday and Monday to negotiate new measures with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials, and was expected to fly to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.
New sanctions were expected to be imposed on Iran’s ballistic missile program, its alleged links to terrorism and its gruesome human rights violations, rather than its nuclear program, potentially making them politically more difficult for the new Biden administration to address.
“The intent seems to be to maximize the pressure in the short term and create procedural and political obstacles that the Biden administration will tackle if it takes action to free Tehran from sanctions after January,” said Naisan Rafati, an expert on Iran. International Crisis Group. He called the coming 10 weeks “less lame duck period and more adrenaline mallard.”
“Taking power of a huge US federal government on January 20 is an extremely difficult task under any circumstances,” said Lissner, a research fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University.
“The point is, much of the intelligence exchange that usually occurs during the transition period is left to the discretion of the president. Therefore, during this period, the president-elect usually learns about current or planned secret or military operations that may be in the near future, but there is no law that would require President Trump to share this information. ”
New national security officials, entering their offices for the first time in January, may arrive completely unaware of what the US is doing around the world, equivalent to changing the drivers of a huge truck at full speed on a busy highway.
The Trump administration may well fail to get its successor to follow his directives on critical issues, but it is showing all signs that it has inherited a legacy of chaos.