Donald Trump recently became the first acting U.S. president to cross the Demilitarized Zone separating North Korea from the South for a photo op with Kim Jong Un. North Korea’s leader had previously been lambasted by Trump for his nuclear ambitions. North Korea’s attempts at nuclear capabilities in the past — nascent or otherwise — do not appear to have impeded the commendable attempts by the two sides to seek a rapprochement, which could potentially lead to peace in peninsular Korea. What is disheartening is how Trump’s reckless foreign policy misadventures elsewhere appear to contrast starkly with his conciliatory gestures towards North Korea.
The Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which had imposed restrictions on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, while removing sanctions against the country, thus allowing meaningful economic recovery to take place there. Since assuming office, the Trump administration has attempted to ban Iranian nationals from setting foot on U.S. soil, even with the appropriate immigration documents. It has imposed economic sanctions on the Iranian economy, which have caused untold damage to the lives and economic well-being of Iranian citizens, many of whom overtly and covertly disagree with the regime’s policies. Worse, it has tried to pressure other nations, including U.S. allies, to stop purchasing Iranian oil. This has caused secondary damage to both Iran and other nations trading with it. Such action has the characteristics of bullying on a near global scale.
More recently, the Trump administration has even gone as far as threatening military action against Iran in response to the country’s downing of a U.S. drone that had been provocatively patrolling in the vicinity of Iranian territory. Although unmanned, drones should not be considered anything other than menacing when sent into the airspace of other sovereign countries. In Pakistan and Yemen, for instance, the U.S. has frequently used drones as method for attacking individuals and groups suspected of being terrorists. As early as 2012, a joint study commissioned by Stanford and New York University titled ‘’Living Under Drones’’ concluded that the proportion of civilian deaths during Obama-era drone killing programs was staggeringly high, as much as 98%. In this light, the possibility that nations like Iran will consider such unwanted drone patrols by the U.S. military to be threatening is not at all far-fetched.
One wonders at the seeming incongruity of U.S. policies towards its adversaries. North Korea, which by some measures is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons, is rewarded with photo ops, while Iran, which consented to stringent checks of its nuclear program is subjected to draconian sanctions targeting its population more than the ruling clique. One need not even be a critic of the controversial Trump administration to point out that such double standards are neither ethical nor consistent with U.S. values and interests.