Trump's simple worldview is good for his enemies and bad for his allies


Posted: May 16, 2018 12:44 PM
Updated: May 16, 2018 12:44 PM

Since the US exited the Iran nuclear deal last week, both allies and enemies of President Trump have suffered whiplash from his failure to fully engage in the complexities of the world.

Pulling out of the global climate change agreement resulted in international scorn for the President and his administration. Today, the stakes are much higher.

Unilaterally exiting the multinational Iran nuclear deal is denying him international partners -- just when he could benefit from their help.

Opening the US Embassy in Jerusalem this week is just one other example.

Absent a peace plan -- or concessions to Palestinians -- America's ability to be part of the solution is now seriously diminished.

No major European diplomats sat alongside the US and Israeli dignitaries at the unveiling ceremonies. Europeans saw the event as ill-advised and better left to the end of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

Deadly Palestinian protests in Gaza the same day added to the US-European estrangement, leaving the US straying dangerously far from mainstream global thinking.

French President Emmanuel Macron -- Trump's partner in "Le bromance" -- condemned "the "violence of Israeli forces against protesters." He stood in contrast with the White House spokesperson, who blamed the Palestinian group Hamas -- a US-designated terror group -- for organizing the protest.

Events in the Middle East are playing out fast -- and in some cases with irreversible consequences.

Anyone who thinks a Trumpian U-Turn could be on the cards is mistaken.

As the US Embassy opening and deadly protest drew global attention Monday, so Israel's arch-nemesis Iran was exploiting Trump's exit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name for the nuclear deal.

Foreign Minister Javaid Zarif flew from Tehran to Beijing to Moscow to Brussels to exploit Trump's upending of traditional diplomatic caution.

Iran is wearing US withdrawal as a badge of honor, demanding other co-signatories UK, France and Germany do the near impossible, and within 60 days show the deal can work.

Officials in Tehran said "If they cannot do that, we are ready to take our nuclear program to a level stronger than before JCPOA."

Trump does want America's old allies, but only on his terms.

But in the new Trumpian world order, it is not past friends who are benefiting from his poorly thought-through policies, but nimble adversaries.

Take the deadly Palestinian protests in Gaza on Monday.

Hamas's relatively new political leader, Yahya Sinwar, is trying out a new political tool. His tactics are dividing US and European opinion.

Sinwar spent decades in Israeli jails.

The Israel Defense Forces, who will have had ample time to study him, describe him as outside the old Hamas leadership mold of careful, considered action. They say he has no strategic vision, takes quick action and calculates his next move based on his last.

Yet his new tactics of calculated, strategic sacrifice of Palestinian youth are testing both Trump and Israel.

Rather than churning out suicide bombers, a tactic that failed for previous Hamas leaders, Sinwar has engaged Gaza's youth in a more complex deadly plot.

They are willing to die doing precisely what Israeli officials warn could be lethal: protesting in close proximity to Gaza's border fence where Israeli soldiers are armed with live ammunition.

Hamas knows precisely what it is doing -- as do those who die.

Palestinians say life in Gaza was so bad they had nothing to live for anyway, that their sacrifice -- or martyrdom, as they call it -- benefits the whole community.

Anywhere else, these tactics would be unlikely to work. But Hamas' cynical human protest conveyer, ferrying youngsters to their graves, is achieving its objective: isolating Trump and turning global opinion against him and Israel.

Resisting Sinwar's moral blackmail would be easier for the White House if Trump hadn't eroded European confidence in his judgment.

At the same time, Trump's staunch ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is also undermining the same relationships -- milking the US Embassy move for domestic political capital.

At its opening on Monday, Netanyahu laid out his negotiating demands for control of the whole of Jerusalem: "God bless the United States of America and God bless Jerusalem, the eternal, undivided capital of Israel," he told the crowd.

But an undivided capital is not the Trump's Administration's official position.

At the embassy opening Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan rejected Netanyahu's land grab saying that "the precise contours of the border of Jerusalem, the pursuit of a two-state solution to the security problems presented here are still very much in play."

Trump's willingness to oversimplify his foreign policy choices is backfiring.

The past seven days are proving to be the most pernicious in recent US-European relations. Previously unshakable bonds have corroded, and the Middle East is wobbling way off kilter.

None of this is normal. And none of it is going back to the way it was any time soon.

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