WILMINGTON, Del. – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell to discuss the two foreign policy crises facing President Trump and our nation in North Korea and Iraq.
“I think what's going on here is that President Trump is seeing the limitations – or I'd say even the failures – of his personal approach to international diplomacy. He thought he could charm Kim Jong Un in North Korea into giving up his nuclear weapons, and he thought he could isolate Iran. And in both cases, he abandoned traditional diplomacy,” said Senator Coons.
“We need a real strategy. President Trump needs a real strategy that relies on our allies and traditional diplomacy to find a way forward with Iran,” said Senator Coons.
Video and audio available here.
Excerpts from the interview:
How ominous is what happened in Baghdad and what are the U.S. options against Iran?
Happy New Year to you. And let's hope that 2020 is better for all of us than 2019, but it certainly dawns with two foreign policy crises facing President Trump and our nation, in North Korea and in Iraq because of repeated attacks by Iranian-backed militias. Look, I do support the President taking action against Iranian militias following the death of an American contractor and the wounding of four American troops, and Secretary Esper, who was on earlier in your show, certainly has the responsibility to protect our thousands of troops that are scattered throughout the region. But I think what's going on here is that President Trump is seeing the limitations – or I'd say even the failures – of his personal approach to international diplomacy. He thought he could charm Kim Jong Un in North Korea into giving up his nuclear weapons, and he thought he could isolate Iran. And in both cases, he abandoned traditional diplomacy. He abandoned the very broad deal that was reached by the Obama administration that brought in our European allies and China and Russia to get an inspections regime in place with Iran. He walked away from that and has instead launched a unilateral maximum pressure campaign that has produced some real difficulties, some real pressure on the Iranians, but they've been responding by shooting down a drone, by attacking Saudi Arabia, and now by taking these steps. We need a real strategy. President Trump needs a real strategy that relies on our allies and traditional diplomacy to find a way forward with Iran. Similarly, with North Korea, although President Trump took bold and unprecedented action in meeting with Kim Jong Un individually, that so far hasn't produced any real positive outcomes. We haven't even seen an inventory of North Korea's nuclear facilities and weapons, and I think we're now on the precipice of North Korea demonstrating, testing a new strategic weapon. This is going to be a very challenging period. And in both cases, I think re-engaging our allies and re-engaging with traditional diplomacy is the critical piece that's missing in the Trump administration's strategy.
Should the U.S. withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq under pressure from the Iraqi parliament because of growing anti-American sentiment?
I do think that engaging regularly with Prime Minister Mahdi and with our Iraqi partners is critical if our troops are going to be secure and if we’re going to sustain our work in the general area. The major reason that we had gone back into Iraq was to defeat ISIS. ISIS is not defeated. A recent report suggests that ISIS is regaining strength and regaining their footholds in eastern Syria and in central and northern Iraq. And frankly, that's a result of President Trump's abrupt and ill-considered decision to betray our Kurdish allies in Syria and pull our troops largely out of Syria. So, should we pull our troops out of Iraq? No, we should be doing the things that we need to do to strengthen our relationship with Iraq so that when we leave, what we can possibly leave behind is an independent country, not a country that is largely run by Iran and Iranian influence.
Should Secretary of State Pompeo still have gone to Ukraine for this promised, and many would say long overdue, meeting in Kiev tomorrow?
Yes. I think it is important to continue to show strong support for Ukraine. I'll remind you, as you well know, that Ukraine is a country that the United States has supported in their long-running fight against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass and in the face of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. I think it's important that we show our continued, strong support for Ukraine and for President Zelensky. The impeachment trial of our President that's about to begin and is centrally about President Trump shaking down President Zelensky, withholding badly needed military aid in order to try and get Ukraine's government to gin up dirt on his most prominent political opponent for 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden – that means the world is going to be focused on that series of incidents. If we want to make it clear that the United States continues to carry forward our foreign policy, regardless of what's going on in Congress, then our Secretary of State should be in Ukraine.