There are two kinds of people: those with and those without grace. President Donald Trump can decide on which side he falls, although Akie Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister's wife has clearly made up her mind.
Anyone who can read a whole speech in English knows enough to say, "Excuse me, I do not speak English well." But to not respond at all to the U.S. president sitting beside her, who turned to converse, conveys a distinct meaning.
There was a time when countries prided themselves on their civility and their citizenry for their courtesy. Now the byword is the put down; rudeness, crudeness and vulgarity rule the day — not to forget the jingoism, demagoguery and xenophobia that can win elections. If such was the state of a democracy, its founders, were they alive, would weep.
In the past week, U.S. presidential ire has been directed at Iran. Shortly after the administration's annual declaration to congress certifying Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal, it slapped additional economic sanctions on the country on July 18.
Three days later, Trump added threats of "new and serious consequences" unless detained U.S. citizens were returned. Robert Levinson, a former law enforcement officer disappeared 10 years ago in Iran. In addition, Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, as well as father and son Iranian-Americans, Baquer and Siamak Namazi — the elder a former provincial governor in Iran — have been sentenced to 10 years in jail for spying. It is worth noting that five million tourists visit Iran annually contributing US$2 billion in revenue and the country is trying to expand its tourism industry.
The nuclear agreement itself is difficult for the U.S. to abrogate unilaterally as it involves the five permanent veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. Yet Trump appears to have swallowed the Netanyahu line on the deal. Add that to Trump's new found chumminess with the Saudis and their deep Wahhabi antagonism towards Shia Iran, and we could be on the edge of another cataclysm in the Middle East, this time enveloping the whole region.
If we recall the history of the deal, the Barack Obama administration first had to give up their zero-enrichment requirement before the Iranians would even agree to talk. They got low enrichment.
While sanctions had hurt Iran, it refused to buckle under the pressure; in fact, it added centrifuges and speeded up enrichment. Had Obama continued on this course, they would have had a nuclear Iran or war.
There are those in Washington who still believe sanctions and pressure would bring Iran to its knees. They have forgotten the Iranian response to Iraq and the Iran-Iraq war when Iran stood up to a better-armed Iraq despite enormous casualties.
If Trump keeps up the pressure imposing further sanctions, could an unwinnable war (Iraq and Afghanistan being living examples) and/or a nuclear Iran be the consequence?
Dr. Arshad M Khan is a former professor whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.