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Europe bracing for ‘major disruption’ in ties with Trump’s US after Iran decision

Leaders of the G7 and some African countries wait for the arrival of US President Donald Trump for a family photo on the second day of the G7 summit of Heads of State and of Government, in Taormina, Sicily, on May 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump’s decision to “decertify” Iranian compliance with an international deal breached the trust of Europe, which has since that decision been bracing for “major disruptions” in ties with Trump’s America.

Trump on October 13 ignored personal appeals from the leaders of Germany, the United Kingdom, and France by refusing to certify Iranian compliance with the multilateral deal.

Those three countries are parties to the deal with Iran and had been insisting that the deal not be undermined by a “decertification.”

Trump did it anyway, and that has “changed the calculus in Europe,” Reuters said in a report, citing various European officials and analysts.

‘Trump doesn’t know’

Until Trump’s decision on Iran, the report said, European officials had some degree of confidence that they could “muddle through three more years of Trump without fear of major, and possibly lasting, disruptions to the relationship” between Europe and America.

That is no more the case, according to the report.

Since the decision on Iran, European officials no longer have “faith that Trump, when the stakes are high, will listen to what his advisers and partners tell him.”

Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to Washington and chairman of the Munich Security Conference, said Germany was effectively frustrated.

“There is a sense of desperation in Berlin, a sense that Trump does not know what is at stake, that he doesn’t understand the historical factors that are at play here,” Ischinger said. “The transatlantic relationship is all about trust. In that sense, the Iran decision takes us to a new level. It is a breach of trust.”

Immediately after Trump’s announcement of his Iran decision, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and French President Emmanuel Macron put out a statement reaffirming their commitment to the Iran deal.

Hearing the ‘bark,’ bracing for the ‘bite’

Merkel had seen the troubles with the US coming. As early as January this year, days before Trump had even taken office, she had said there was no “eternal guarantee” for close cooperation between Europe and America.

US President Donald Trump leaves after a greeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prior to the start of the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Trump has turned down the Europeans on several other occasions, too. He has decided to pull America out of another painstakingly-negotiated agreement, the Paris climate accord.

The Reuters report said European officials, while avoiding speaking about Trump publicly, “privately” believe that his “decertification” can be “a harbinger of other disruptive salvos from Washington.”

“One senior European diplomat said the next conflict would likely be over trade, describing Trump’s attempt to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — and his threats to abandon it — as a ‘litmus test,’” it said.

Europe is also concerned that Trump may go ahead and implement a campaign promise of imposing very high tariffs on imports of steel from Europe as well as China, which along with Russia is another party to the Iran deal.

“So far, there has been a lot of bark and no bite from Trump on trade, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way,” said the European diplomat. “We have to be prepared for real protectionist measures. Any steps that penalize European firms directly or indirectly would create a downward spiral.”

European officials are also apprehensive of Trump’s rhetoric on North Korea, which could draw Europe into a military conflict they are not willing to enter into.

‘The loss of a symbol’

Given Trump’s disregard for so many of Europe’s concerns, the Old Continent may be seriously rethinking its status on America.

“I can no longer tell my children that they are part of this alliance with Trump as president,” said Ischinger, the German diplomat. “It is rather sad. I don’t know how the loss of this symbol can be replaced.”

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