President Trump lacks coherent foreign policy for rogue nations

President Trump lacks coherent foreign policy for rogue nations
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This week marked a substantial intensification in tensions between the United States and the rogue nations of Iran and North Korea. A satellite image which shows activity at a previously dismantled North Korean testing site was released. Concerningly, this image indicates the rogue nation might be preparing to resume testing engines used to power satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, even though President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE had previously claimed the site was closed after his Singapore summit with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnTired of worrying about the pandemic? There's always Pyongyang Overnight Defense: Pentagon orders bases to stop reporting coronavirus numbers | Hospital ship arrives in NY | Marines pause sending new recruits to boot camp | Defense bill work delayed North Korea: 'Reckless remarks' by Pompeo show US doesn't want nuclear talks MORE. In Iran, following a wave of protests that erupted last month and have been the subject of international scrutiny, a senior Pentagon official said there are clear indications that Iran will carry out aggressive actions in the future.

Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft held a press conference discussing the implications of these respective new developments in Iran and North Korea. “The eyes of the world will be on the council as we go into our 75th year,” Craft said of the United Nations Security Council, adding that it is at an unprecedented crossroads. Further, beyond the protests in Iran, during which more than 1,000 citizens may have been killed, the United States recently learned that Iran has been hiding an arsenal of short range ballistic missiles in Iraq, and the American Navy found a “significant cache” of Iranian missile parts destined for Yemen.

To be clear, the mounting geopolitical strife with Iran and North Korea is deeply troubling, and the country needs leadership. However, Trump has been disturbingly inconsistent in his messaging regarding the American approach to conflicts with rogue nations. For instance, Trump originally told reporters at the NATO summit last week that the United States did not support the Iranian protesters, only to later contradict his position and say that the United States had in fact supported them from the beginning.


The Wall Street Journal also reported that the United States may send 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East to counter the threat in Iran. Days later, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called the report “flat out wrong.” The disarray in American foreign policy is disheartening, as we lack a cohesive strategy for how our nation is going to deal with future disruptions from Iran. Further, there is a growing sense among nations in the Middle East that the United States does not have the power and solidity needed to confront terrorism, radical Islam, and rogue nations.

Indeed, just days ago, the North Korean ambassador to the United States wrote a letter to the administration calling on it to not proceed with a United Nations Security Council meeting on its human rights situation. Specifically, the letter said that any meeting on human rights would be an “act of conniving at and siding” with the “hostile policy” of the United States, “which will lead to undermining rather than helping reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and resolution of the nuclear issue.”

Concerningly, an official decision has not yet been made on whether the meeting on the humanitarian situation in North Korea will take place, despite the undeniable atrocities committed by the regime. One area of unity and coherence among all 15 members of the United Nations Security Council is the concern about ballistic missile launches by North Korea. “Each of us are very concerned about the series of 13 missile attacks, the ballistic missile launches,” Craft declared during the press conference. “That is something that we all agree upon and we are very focused upon.”

This statement follows calls by Kim Jong Un for more flexibility from the administration by the end of the year in the prolonged denuclearization talks, which the United States hopes will result in the dismantling of the North Korean nuclear and missile programs. All Americans, regardless of their political beliefs, should be rooting for a successful outcome as the administration attempts diplomacy with North Korea and likely mounts a maximum pressure strategy with Iran. But many Americans, including myself, remain unconvinced that the president and his administration can successfully navigate rising tensions with these rogue nations, given the unpredictability of his leadership, particularly in terms of foreign policy.

Even when his administration lays out a coherent foreign policy strategy, and his top aides pursue a strategic vision that makes sense, they are continuously undermined by their commander in chief, often by his own public statements. It is now abundantly clear, almost four years into this presidency, that every day is unpredictable. But as tensions escalate with Iran and North Korea, the volatility of Trump puts every American at risk.

Douglas Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) is adviser to President Bill Clinton and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”