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EXCLUSIVE: Donald Trump's Middle East policy is erratic and disruptive, says former French diplomat Marc Finaud

Marc Finaud, also an arms control expert based in Geneva, feels that the Iran deal that Trump dumped last year faces a huge challenge of survival. He feels Europe will need the support of Russia and China to ensure that the deal is a success.
Donald Trump (Getty Images)
Donald Trump (Getty Images)

The United States has seen volatile days in its foreign policy realm under President Donald Trump. He has cared little about conventional beliefs and strategies while conducting his country's external affairs and has remained defiant in the face of mounting criticism.

Trump and his supporters have felt that his foreign policy does America's interests good by protecting its own men and resources abroad.

Critics, even from his own party, meanwhile feel that he has essentially done harm to Washington's own interests abroad. From pulling out of the crucial nuclear deal with Iran last year to withdrawing troops from northern Syria recently, Trump has continued to rattle experts while pleasing his political base at home.
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) spoke to Dr. Marc Finaud, a former French diplomat and an expert on international arms trade and nuclear weapons, on various current issues related to world peace.

Finaud has served in several bilateral postings and multilateral missions around the world during his 36-year-long career as a diplomat (1977-2013).

He is currently the senior adviser, head of arms proliferation, Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and trains diplomats and military officers in international and human security besides conducting research in those fields.

A former first secretary at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finaud was also a senior resident fellow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) between 2013 and 2015. He is also a Swiss citizen now. He holds master's degrees in International Law and Political Science.

Turkish soldiers prepare armored vehicles to cross the border into Syria on October 09, 2019 in Akcakale, Turkey. The military action is part of a campaign to extend Turkish control of more of northern Syria, a large swath of which is currently held by Syrian Kurds, whom Turkey regards as a threat. U.S. President Donald Trump granted tacit American approval to this campaign, withdrawing his country's troops from several Syrian outposts near the Turkish border. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

The US' sudden retreat from Syria, do you think that this has a serious implication for Middle East peace or was it always coming under the Trump presidency? 

The Middle East policy of the Trump administration, in particular regarding Syria, has been erratic and disruptive, as is the whole foreign policy. It hesitates between isolationist retreat and unconditional support for Saudi and Israeli interests.

The abandonment of Kurdish allies favors Turkey's influence but also Russia's and may lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State. None of those factors are likely to ensure a peaceful solution to the current conflicts in the region.

On the Iran nuclear deal, could the situation turn for the better in the absence of the US? If Iran starts disregarding the deal, how does it harm the regional peace? 

The whole Iran nuclear deal or JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) was based on reciprocity. In response to the United States' violating the agreement by re-imposing sanctions, Iran reacted by reducing the implementation of its own commitments.

However, those measures are easily reversible and in no way make Iran closer to a nuclear military capability. They are meant to put pressure on the remaining partners to shield Iran from US sanctions.

The current French mediation efforts aiming at a resumption of negotiations between the US and Iran have a slight chance to succeed.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a memorandum that reinstates sanctions on Iran after he announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room at the White House May 8, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

Can Europe alone save the Iran deal?
This is what they are trying to do. But they would also need the support of Russia and China to ensure full implementation of the JCPOA and mitigate or compensate the impact of US sanctions, in particular by facilitating Iranian oil exports.

In the end, European companies may still hesitate to invest in Iran and sacrifice their interests in the US, whereas Russian, Chinese, or Indian companies with less stakes in the US would benefit from such sanctions.
Often the issue of disarmament is stressed on world peace but on the ground, nations are becoming more assertive militarily. With the US in a mode of retreating, isn't the universal arms race a bigger possibility than a successful disarmament movement?

The current trend is certainly more toward an arms race between all the big powers than toward disarmament.

With the lack of entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the US withdrawal from the ABM and INF Treaties, its un-signing of the Arms Trade Treaty, the suspension by Russia of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, and the uncertainty about the extension of the New START Treaty, the whole arms control framework put into place during and after the Cold War is in danger of collapse.

With the development of new weapons such as so-called "low-yield" nuclear missiles, nuclear underwater drones, hypersonic missiles, lethal autonomous weapon systems in conjunction with potential cyber-attacks on command-and-control systems, the threshold of nuclear war is being dangerously lowered.

This is aggravated by regional conflicts such as the one between India and Pakistan that threaten each other of nuclear war.

In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, South Korea's Hyunmu-2 ballistic missile is fired during an exercise aimed to counter North Korea's nuclear test on September 4, 2017, in East Coast, South Korea. South Korea's military said Monday it conducted a combined live-fire exercise in response to North Korea's sixth nuclear test a day earlier. Arms race has become a serious concern in the Korean Peninsula. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)

How do you treat Trump's foreign policy generally? Can it really end America's "endless" wars abroad and bring peace?
As said above, this policy has no clear consistency. Affirmation of retreat is contradicted by continued or even increased military involvement in conflict areas. It included the destruction of a major achievement to stabilize the Middle East — the Iran nuclear deal.

By reneging on support to allies such as the Kurds, it ruined any credibility for future agreements. By conducting "photo-op diplomacy" with North Korea instead of patient negotiations toward reciprocal commitments, it reduced to nothing the chances of a denuclearization accord.

That being said, if there is a second term for the Trump administration, it may follow the precedents of previous Republican administrations (Reagan, George W Bush) that evolved from unilateralism or isolationism toward more bilateral and multilateral engagement.