By Javad Heirannia

U.S. is increasingly isolated: ex-White House official

December 23, 2017

TEHRAN - A former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology says “The significance of diplomacy has declined during the Trump Administration and the U.S. is increasingly isolated and looked at more as a problem than for its leadership as a result.” 

“I don’t think our military is looking for more wars but not respecting diplomacy and views of other nations does increase the danger of war,” Frank N. von Hippel tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: New US security strategy announced by Trump is based on 4 principals: protecting the country, improving public wealth, displaying peace resorting to the US power and influence. To what extent in this new strategy the soft security aspects have been considered?

A: There are two sections in the National Security Strategy that discuss soft power: “Diplomacy and Statecraft” and “Advance American Influence.” The visions laid out there are traditional for the United States.  Unfortunately, in practice, the President has shown little respect for diplomacy.  His administration has cut the budget of the State Department while boosting that for the military, forced out some of America’s best diplomats, and not filled key vacant positions. The President also has not supported unconditional talks with North Korea nor has he respected the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a great achievement of diplomacy with Iran after decades of the United States and Iran not talking with each other.

Q: Some criticize the new strategy and believe trump’s new strategy excludes some issues like human rights and climate changes. Considering this approach, will Trump’s new strategy result in security and stable peace?

A: Human rights are there but efforts to protect the climate that supports the wonderful diversity of nature and humanity within it is mentioned only briefly in a very confused section titled, absurdly, “Embrace Energy Dominance.”  Obviously, in the writing of that section, there was a lot of pushing and pulling between the promoters of coal, oil and gas extraction and those who view protecting the climate as a high priority.

Q: The new strategy allocates more money to the US army. Does this mean that the US foreign policy will become more militarized and the significance of the diplomacy will decline?

A: The significance of diplomacy has declined during the Trump Administration and the U.S. is increasingly isolated and looked at more as a problem than for its leadership as a result.  I don’t think our military is looking for more wars but not respecting diplomacy and views of other nations does increase the danger of war.

Q: Considering the significance of the US army in the new strategy, is there possibility for more US military interventions in different parts of the world?

A: It is true that an active General chairs the U.S. National Security Council but I don’t think that increases the danger of military interventions. Wise generals understand the costs of war. I worry more about ideologues than generals.

Q: Trump calls Russia and China in his new strategy as rivals not enemies that the US has to try to make economic relation with them. What is the reason for his positive approach toward these two countries?

A: I think that this is a reasonable approach. We share one world.  We need to live peacefully and constructively together in it.

Q: Trump defended his stance toward Iran and North Korea. As he hasn’t certified the JCPOA, how do you see the fate of the JCPOA?

A: I am worried. Congress has not accepted the President’s invitation of October 13 to try to unilaterally revise the JCPOA.  The President threatened, that, if Congress did not do so, he would terminate it.  In January, to keep the U.S. in compliance with the JCPOA, he will have to waive the nuclear-related sanctions on financial dealings with Iran for another 120 days.  If he does not, he will be taking the U.S. out of the JCPOA. I don’t think that the Congress would support that but, in the U.S., the JCPOA is an executive agreement. President Obama signed it and President Trump can unsign it. I believe that would be foolish and many of us would campaign against it but we could reverse this action only after electing a new president in 2020.  I hope that our partners in the JCPOA would keep it alive until the next president takes office in January 2021 – unless impeachment brings us a new president earlier.

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