World capitals and the national media are abuzz with talk of a Nobel Peace Prize for President Donald Trump for his work to end the conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
Whether you might think that such an accolade is deserving, or ridiculous or at least premature, stranger things have happened.
Remember it was only October 2009 when President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” or, in other words, for thinking good thoughts and articulating them well. Perhaps President Trump will be gifted with a Nobel to balance the score.
Last week, 18 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the Nobel Committee nominating the president for the prize.
And actually there are some very serious members of that committee in Oslo, Norway, who are contemplating the possibility of Trump alone or in some combination with others (South Korean President Jae-in Moon, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, China’s President Xi Jinping) as the next holder of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Of course this assumes that the face-to-face meeting between President Trump and “Supreme Leader” Kim takes place and results in mutually acceptable and agreed-upon measures that could lead to the end of the Korean War and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Never-Trumpers and others unalterably opposed to all things Trump are tearing their hair out over the very thought that Trump can pull off the deal of the century and garner the Nobel Peace Prize.
They maintain that it was high time that the North and South had a rapprochement anyway and the real credit goes to Moon and Kim, the two Korean leaders who met on April 27 for the first time.
They conveniently ignore that fact that the Koreans themselves give the credit to Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s work behind the scenes.
Juxtaposed with these positive developments in the Koreas is the looming May 12 deadline on the Joint Compromise Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal.
A Franco-German tag team of visits by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel took place in Washington at the end of last month with the purpose of pleading with Trump to preserve the Iran deal by agreeing to some new restrictions to curb Iran’s bad behavior.
It is no secret that the Trump Administration hates the Iran deal negotiated by the previous administration and would like to renegotiate a new agreement that would be much tougher on Iran.
Our European allies see the flaws in the current agreement to be sure, but are loath to just give up on it.
It is conceivable that a “side agreement” among the Europeans and the U.S. could be appended to the original agreement to set benchmarks for additional sharp sanctions on Iran for violations on ballistic missiles development, Iran’s support for global terrorism and the mullahs’ aggressive mischief in Syria and in the greater Middle East.
Even some modifications to the original agreement requiring tighter inspections and an elimination of the “sunset clause” — which now permits Iran to start reprocessing enriched uranium after 2025 — is being considered.
Do I need to mention that Iran wants no part of a side agreement or any appendices to the agreement it now has?
On this issue, no one is prophesying a Nobel Prize for President Trump. A booby prize may be more likely.
For even if the U.S. can convince our European allies — Britain, France and Germany — to go along with some needed modifications to placate Trump, Russia, China and certainly Iran will do nothing to support a change.
In the end, either the U.S. will eventually withdraw from the Iran agreement or Iran will.
The best-case scenario then is for the U.S., even in withdrawal, to abide by the terms of the agreement and work to convince other parties to impose sanctions on other aspects of Iran’s rogue behavior.
If Iran withdraws and restarts its nuclear program, then the world will face another North Korean-like nuclear wannabe.
Whatever happens in the course of the next several weeks regarding Korea and Iran, President Trump will continue to be the essential player. He may well come out of it all with a prize in hand.
Whether it is the Nobel Prize or the booby prize is anyone’s guess.
The following commentary was originally published in LNP, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, May 6, 2018. [Copyright ©2018 Steinman Communications.]
William P. Kiehl is a retired Foreign Service officer who served 35 years with the U.S. Information Agency and U.S. Department of State in Europe, Asia and Washington. He was also a diplomat-in-residence at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle. He resides in Lancaster County.