The 'Trump doctrine' being born

Watching President Donald J. Trump’s televised remarks on Wednesday, Jan. 8, I saw the “Trump doctrine” being born.

As an Arab Muslim living in Casablanca, I feared for the future of the Middle East. A significant war loomed. Hours earlier, more than a dozen Iranian missiles had rained down on two U.S. military bases in Iraq

When the president arrived in the Grand Foyer of the White House, it seemed another escalation would be announced. Perhaps even all-out war.

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Earlier this week, the president had threatened to bomb 52 sites in Iran — one for each of the U.S. hostages held in Iran from November 1979 to January 1981.

As I listened, I was surprised. The president had taken the full measure of Iran’s response and noticed that is missiles generally landed in evacuated portions of the U.S. military outposts.

He said he interpreted Iran’s actions as “standing down” and that the United States is “is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.”

This pattern has surprised many observers, who would regularly opine that harsh words and aggressive actions are no way to win peace or concessions. 

Even more important than the pattern, is Trump’s vision. His offer to Iran is similar to the video he showed North Korean strongman Kim Jong-unKim Jong UnPentagon official: 'We don't fully know the reasons' North Korea didn't fire 'Christmas gift' Activity seen at North Korean missile research center: report South Korea and the billion mustache MORE, featuring bullet trains, gleaning towers, and plates piled high with food.

It is also similar to the plan that Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerKushner says Palestinians will 'screw up' if they reject peace deal Trump offers two-state peace plan for Israeli-Palestinian conflict amid skepticism Trump to release Israeli-Palestinian peace plan on Tuesday MORE presented to the Palestinians and Gulf Arabs: peace with Israel, followed by prosperity. Indeed, that plan puts jobs and hope ahead of a final set of boundaries.

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Many have speculated on Trump's political motives in ordering the assassination of Suleimani.

Some have suggested that the purpose of the action was to divert attention from the ongoing impeachment proceedings. Others have suggested the goal was to create a "rally around the flag" effect in which Trump and the Republicans could describe as unpatriotic. 

Or perhaps the aim was to distinguish the Trump administration from the Obama administration. Trump, it seems, will do everything he can to do everything Obama did not do — for better or for worse.

Either way, Democrats should not be caught flat-footed or stunned. While the deal with Iran is over, we must insist on renegotiating with Iran and curb its nuclear program, keeping all options on the table.

Democrats should build on the rubble of the previous deal, offering sanctions relief in exchange for tangible commitments to refrain from enriching uranium and dismantling facilities that could be used to build a nuclear weapon.

Such a deal is unlikely until after the next presidential elections. Trump's fantasy of a one-on-one meeting like Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnPentagon official: 'We don't fully know the reasons' North Korea didn't fire 'Christmas gift' Activity seen at North Korean missile research center: report South Korea and the billion mustache MORE with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is now impossible — forever. 

And the irony that two of the P5 + 1 countries which backed the original deal are two of Trump's authoritarian favorites ( Russia and China ) should not be lost on those looking to bring Iran back from the nuclear precipice.

However, Europe is and will remain a reliable partner and a staunch ally of the USA, whose leaders must be involved in crafting any lasting solution.

Trump is now looking for a new deal with Iran. Perhaps negotiated through NATO, in which Iran would be able to sell its oil, gas, and farm products to the West, enjoy access to international banking and provide prosperity to its people in exchange for ending its proxy wars in Syria and Yemen, cutting off its support for terrorists in Lebanon and elsewhere, and shutting down its efforts to build nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. 

Imagine, for a moment, that Tehran took Trump’s terms. The wars in Syria and Yemen would all but the end. The terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Iraq would lessen or stop. Refugees could return.

And the most significant change would be inside Iran itself. Instead of suffering under severe sanctions, high inflation, fuel shortages, and unemployment, the creative and hard-working people of Iran could recover from nearly a half-century of civil war and sanctions.

The vision is as beautiful as it is unlikely. Yet the appeal of the Trump doctrine is that it does offer a positive concept, unlike its alternatives.

The most likely outcome is a modest improvement in Iran’s behavior. Tehran and its proxies may halt their attacks on the U.S. and her allies while beginning a long period of negotiation with Western diplomats. Those talks may be fruitless for quite a while. Still, talk is better than war.

Ahmed Charai is a Moroccan publisher. He is on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council and an international counselor of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.