Former Obama Officials Suggest European Allies Expel American Diplomats

By Published on May 13, 2018

Two former Obama administration officials suggested that America’s European allies should punish President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Iran deal and levying additional sanctions on the Islamic republic.

The European Union and individual European countries are obligated to take aggressive steps to preserve the Iran deal, in order to avoid becoming Trump’s “doormat,” Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson argued in an op-ed that ran in The New York Times Thursday. Both Simon and Stevenson were directors on former President Barack Obama’s National Security Council (NSC).

“The European Union could, for instance, announce the withdrawal of member-states’ ambassadors from the United States. Isn’t this what states do when diplomatic partners breach solemn agreements, expose them to security risks and threaten to wreak havoc on their economies? That is, after all, what the administration is threatening to do by courting the risk of a Middle Eastern war and applying secondary sanctions to European companies,” they argued. “Depending on the American response, European capitals might even follow up with expulsion of American ambassadors.”

“It would be hard to fault these moves as irresponsible, given that they would not impair vital security functions like intelligence-sharing and law enforcement coordination. They would, however, symbolize a stark diplomatic breach that could extend to other areas in which the Trump administration needs allied support,” the former Obama officials wrote. “Thus, the White House would face the first hard choice in this whole process: a full-blown crisis in trans-Atlantic relations. If the administration’s next move were to impose secondary sanctions on Europe, the Europeans could slap its own penalties on American multinational corporations, which in turn would place additional pressure on the White House.”

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Simon and Stevenson conceded it would be “radical” for Europe to sanction American companies in order to protect the Iran deal, but claimed that “it would arise in response to correspondingly egregious American behavior.” 

Obama himself sharply and publicly criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal — breaking with precedent that presidents refrain from criticizing their successor. The former president and former first lady Michelle Obama have publicly slammed Trump a dozen times since they left the White House.

 

Follow Hasson on Twitter @PeterJHasson

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