Trump’s ‘Paper Tiger Doctrine’

As a result of pressure exerted on Donald Trump by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the U.S. to withdraw from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, and the European Union on international controls over Iran’s nuclear program and the appointment of neo-con war hawk John Bolton as U.S. national security adviser, the Trump administration has imposed a set of new economic sanctions on Iran.

In an early morning tweet on August 7, Trump threatened the entire world with U.S. “secondary sanctions” to be imposed in November on Iran’s trading partners. Trump wrote: “These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”

With Trump’s Orwellian rhetoric, “world peace” actually means “world war.” Bolton and other neo-cons he has hired at the National Security Council are busily making preparations for a war with Iran. Trump recently called for an “Arab NATO,” consisting of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, Egypt, and Jordan to militarily confront Iran. Most Arab countries yawned at the idea. Trump and his threats are now viewed by many major and even minor powers in the world as the mumbling of a “paper tiger.” In a 1956 interview, Mao Zedong described the United States: “In appearance it is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of; it is a paper tiger. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. I believe that it is nothing but a paper tiger.” And Trump is the quintessential paper tiger.

When confronted by other world leaders, Trump folds like a wet piece of paper. Trump is only able to carry out his threats on Twitter and in telephone interviews with a few giddy chuckleheads on “Fox & Friends.” U.S. state governors, states’ attorneys general, federal judges, U.S. senators, dozens of women who have been groped by Trump, high school survivors of mass shootings, actors, late-night TV comedians, professional sports figures, mayors, and world leaders have stood up to Trump on a number of issues. All Trump can do is retreat into his alternate reality, pound out a few insults in Twitter, and rage at his television, which he watches on an average of eight hours a day.

When Trump once threatened North Korea with a U.S. aircraft carrier task force, the naval flotilla never even approached North Korea but participated in military exercises off the west coast of Australia. Eventually, Trump hurried to Singapore to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, heaping praise upon the leader he called “little rocket man.” The leaders of Britain, France, Germany and the EU, in a joint statement issued on August 7, after Trump’s sanctions were imposed, declared, “We deeply regret the reimposition of sanctions by the U.S.” The EU countries are continuing to trade with Iran, while abiding by the terms of the JCPOA.

Trump’s recent threats to impose U.S. trade sanctions on countries that continue to trade with Iran after November 4, 2018, a Sunday, will spell a disaster for the world stock market as exchanges and bourses open first in Asia and then in Europe and the United States on Monday, November 5. When U.S. polls open on Tuesday, November 6, mid-term election day, the news that the United States has imposed “snapback” sanctions on nations continuing to trade with Iran, regardless of Trump’s paper tiger threats, will trigger a massive decline in stock prices and commodities futures as Americans head to the polls.

Only Trump’s most diehard fans, who don’t know the stock market from a supermarket, will be unfazed by the disastrous financial news. The U.S. farm belt, which has already borne the brunt of Trump’s tariff war, will receive another kick in the groin. Republicans could face an electoral drubbing worse than what they received in 1974 after Richard Nixon’s resignation from office.

As U.S. secondary sanctions are imposed on Iran’s trading partners on the eve of the November election, the EU has unveiled what is known as a “blocking statute.” The United Kingdom’s Minister of State for the Middle East stated, “If a company fears legal action taken against it and enforcement action taken against it by an entity in response to American sanctions, then that company can be protected as far as EU legislation is concerned.” That means, more EU sanctions, in addition to retaliatory tariffs already in effect on American products, will be imposed on the United States and its imposition of extra-territorial sanctions on EU nations trading with Iran.

One nation that will not have to worry about U.S. snapback sanctions is Israel. Even though it was behind the U.S. pullout from the JCPOA and the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran, it will continue to conduct its brisk trade with Iran. Iranian oil piped through Turkey is refined in Haifa and every pistachio nut sold in Tel Aviv’s markets comes from Iran. In Israel, the business motto is, “do as we say, not as we do.”

If the French car maker Renault, which does business in Iran, is sanctioned by the Trump administration, there will be retaliatory sanctions imposed on U.S. automobile manufacturers in the 28 nations of the EU. That will be the major news in Detroit and Dearborn as Michiganders head to the polls on November 6. How many Republicans will survive the election in the state won just barely by Trump in 2016? Not many.

The Eurasian Economic Union recently negotiated a free trade deal with Iran. Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia will not comply with U.S. secondary sanctions against Iran and there is little Trump can do to stop overland trade with Iran.

Neocons like Bolton have threatened to halt Iranian oil exports to China, India, and South Korea after the November 4 secondary sanctions with a U.S. naval blockade of Iran. Any attempt to interfere with shipping through the Strait of Hormuz will, as Iran has threatened, result in the closure of the strait by Iran, a move that will also affect outbound shipping from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Gulf countries. Not only will a major economic downturn dominate the news on election morning on November 6, but so will talk of a major war in the Middle East potentially involving a naval showdown between the U.S. Navy and the navies of Iran, China, Russia, and India.

Trump’s turn to the neocons may result in something that would have been inconceivable a few years ago: the death of the Republican Party. Its political demise will not come a moment too soon.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2018

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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