The success of Trump’s negotiating strategy takes time, because it depends on building the confidence that has been completely lost with North Korea

A PASSERBY watches a broadcast on the Hanoi summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump, in Seoul, South Korea, on February 28. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A PASSERBY watches a broadcast on the Hanoi summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump, in Seoul, South Korea, on February 28.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Ittihad, UAE, March 15
International relations have what political scientists call “gray zones.” These are areas of no conflicting interests but no clear agreements either. Then there are “white zones,” which symbolize close relations and full partnership between actors. Finally, there are “black zones” that represent war and fighting. So long as the white and gray zones continue to grow, we are told, the world is moving toward becoming safer and more stable.
The US-North Korean summit in Hanoi ended abruptly last month. The prevailing impression in most political and media circles is that the summit failed. But this is an imprecise conclusion, which is linked to a narrow view that limits international relations to a “white” and “black” dichotomy. According to this view, if the summit did not end up with clear, specific results, it was nothing short of a failure. This is how pundits described the Hanoi summit, after the two leaders, US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un, left without releasing a statement or document of any kind.
But this is not necessarily true. The summit seemed to have failed because the US president insisted on Pyongyang’s commitment to destroy its nuclear capabilities and set precise technical standards to ensure there were no loopholes that would allow it to circumvent the agreement when the negotiations came to an end. What undoubtedly guided Trump in his negotiations was the previous American experience with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which left too many loopholes for Iran. Trump therefore decided to withdraw from negotiations and reimpose the sanctions that the Obama administration had lifted. Trump realized that Pyongyang was looking for an agreement that was essentially the same as what he had rejected with Iran.
Kim went to Hanoi with a proposal to lift the US sanctions in exchange for the closure of a section of the huge Yongbyon complex, which houses uranium enrichment facilities – a phased agreement that would lead to continued negotiations at a later stage. But Trump’s acceptance of such a formula would mean the willingness to risk repeating the experience of negotiations with Iran. If we look at this formula, it clearly defines what Pyongyang will get, the lifting of sanctions, and then its integration into the international community, even while there is still room for ambiguity about the United States’ ability to ensure that North Korea complies with the agreement.
Trump and his team in Hanoi wanted a clearly worded deal that would ensure North Korea would not become a nuclear state 10 years from now, unlike the agreement with Iran. But the success of Trump’s negotiating strategy takes time, because it depends on building the confidence that has been completely lost with North Korea, and has only started to lay its foundation less than a year ago. Thus, the future of negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang depends on continued progress in building confidence, leading to a level of relations that would avoid the flaws of the negotiations that resulted in the JCPOA between the P5+1 group and Iran. – Waheed Abd al-Majeed
Al-Chourouk, Tunisia, March 16
When people seek revenge, they usually do so in a state of anger and confusion. But this wasn’t the case in the New Zealand massacre that took place last week. There, in a sacred place of worship, a cold-blooded terrorist killed dozens of Muslims during their Friday prayers, while live-streaming footage of the attack and playing music. The attacker acted with confidence and conviction, as though he were carrying out a sacred national duty. He carefully documented the moment of descent from his car, the loading of the weapons, and the shooting at innocent worshipers. In short, this far-right Australian justified his murder as retaliation against what he called the invaders, the immigrants, and in response to terrorist attacks by members of Muslim communities in Europe in recent years. The statements left behind by the terrorist, both on paper and on social media, leave no doubt about the fact that this heinous attack was the result of a carefully thought-out process of deep reflection.
What can we understand from this? We understand that terrorism really has no religion. Often, when we make this statement out loud, explaining that Muslims are as much victims of Islamic terrorism as non-Muslims, we are accused of manipulating the truth and lying. European elites often rush to place the blame back on us Muslims as a whole. But reality has clearly shown this week that terrorism really has no religion. What we can understand from this is that terrorism must be studied, understood and fought from outside the lens of religions. This is a much deeper problem in our societies. New Zealand is one of the most developed countries in the world. It has a great education system, economic freedom and lack of corruption. Yet all of this did not prevent a massacre from happening.
The term “terrorism” must be decoupled from the term “Islam.” Politicians must stop defaming our religion and spreading Islamophobia around the world. They are dehumanizing ordinary people. They are creating false representations. Above all, they are providing ammunition for extreme right-wing parties, which have launched a war on Muslim immigrants and portrayed them as barbarians.
Strangely, this dehumanizing rhetoric is flourishing throughout Europe, the so-called cradle of modernity and human rights. After clamping down on immigrants and after turning a blind eye to the rhetoric of right-wing parties, which openly incite hatred against Muslims and minority communities, the Western world managed to produce terrorists of its own. – Amal Moussa
Al Jazeera, Qatar, March 16
With the rise of the extreme Right in America, which saw a renewed glimmer of hope in the ascendance of President Donald Trump to the White House, it became rather convenient for us to overlook the other side of the political map: the Left. While it is easy, and perhaps even trendy, to criticize right-wing political commentators, some left-leaning research centers and media outlets abandoned the notion of objectivity and committed themselves to spreading nothing more than left-wing liberal propaganda.
Yes, right-wing conservative anchors, like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, have had their fair share of notable on-air remarks. But left-wing commentators are not free of guilt either. Following the American withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, some liberal anchors went as far as aligning with the regime in Tehran and promoting anti-American rhetoric.
An American friend of mine tried to convince me that America has always been this way. He claims that this is part of the American system of checks and balances that limits the executive power of the president and generates healthy debate. But I beg to differ. I believe that the Left’s hatred of Trump created new and dangerous norms. There used to be redlines and clear boundaries that would not be crossed. Above all, Americans, regardless of their political views, would stand united behind their flag. But today, partisan divisions and ideological differences have become so pervasive that the rhetoric used by both left- and right-wing pundits has become more toxic than ever. – Ahmad al-Farraj
Asharq al-Awsat, Saudi Arabia, March 14
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Baghdad for the first time since he took office six years ago comes with heavy pressure on Iraq, which Tehran is hoping to use to evade US sanctions. But Iraq is not a platform for Iranian redemption. It is a large country that has long-standing historical and religious relations with others and is nestled in the heart of the Middle East.
With these pressures and threats, do we have to worry about Iraq becoming the next Iranian proxy?
Iran succeeded in entering the Iraqi arena after the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein. What Tehran wants today is to create another banana republic, like Lebanon, as a source of recruitment for fighters around the world, as the Iranians do today in Syria under Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran wants Iraq to become its chief financier, providing billions of dollars to Hezbollah and Assad.
Iraq, however, has interests and aspirations that are incompatible with those of the extremist religious regime in Tehran. Iran is a besieged country. Iraq is open to the world. Today, Iraq is enjoying its best relations since the 1990s and is finally entering a development stage that will make it one of the richest countries in the region. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is well aware of his options and understands what Iran is trying to do and how his country fits into this master plan. Why should Iraqis pay for Tehran’s extremist policy?
Tehran is besieged today more than ever before. Its tankers are abandoned in the middle of the ocean; it is deprived of selling its carpets, pistachios and vegetables in markets around the world. It is even abandoned by China and Russia, two countries that have been supportive of it in the past in its battle with the Americans. Iran is not forced to fight these battles, but its regime chose to play the role of villain in the region.
The Iraqis must realize that this is an international battle, and that they will lose all they have achieved if they fall into the hands of Iran. Rouhani, Zarif, Soleimani and all the senior Iranian officials who have passed through Baghdad want Iraq to turn into a dependent – not independent – state. Lebanon has been a sad case study of what happens to governments that collaborate with Iran. Iraq will not be much different, unless it imposes strict boundaries to Iran’s meddling in its internal affairs. - Abdulrahman al-Rashed