Here are the main events in Politics that occurred over the past week:
1. President Donald Trump Decertifies The Iran Nuclear Deal
On October 13, President Donald Trump announced that he will decertify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and put forward a new strategy regarding Iran that shifts the focus from the countries nuclear program to other actions the administration says are contributing to the destabilization of the Middle East. President Trump has repeatedly criticized the agreement, which lifted sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program in exchange, dubbing it “the worst deal ever” and as an embarrassment to the US. Decertifying Iran’s compliance under the agreement would set up a 60-day timeframe for Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran, which would effectively remove the US from the deal. President Trump stated that the policy is based on a “clear assessment of Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world” and has urged allied countries in both Europe and the Middle East to adopt policies meant to further isolate the Iranian government and, ultimately, bring about the collapse of the current Iranian government and allow the Pahlavi family to come back into power in its place.
The reaction to President Donald Trump’s announcement by international leaders has been almost universal condemnation. Whereas countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia have praised Trump’s actions and urged the US to overthrow the Iranian government, other countries such as the UK, Germany, France, Russia, China, and Italy expressed reservations towards the decision. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief and one of the lead negotiations of the agreement with Iran, expressed the strongest criticism towards Trump’s decision and pledged to work with the other signatory countries to uphold and strengthen the agreement. Additionally, many observers believe that such actions on the part of President Trump have reignited the chance for an open conflict to break out between Iran and the US and threaten to isolate the US from the rest of the international community.
2. President Donald Trump Signs Healthcare Executive Order
On October 12, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would amend several provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). The executive order consists of three major policy changes. The first two are expanding access to association health plans, in which a group of small employers can band together to buy insurance as a collective for a discount and expand access to short-term health plans from the present three months to one year. The final change is expanding the use of health reimbursement accounts, which allow employers to set aside tax-free money to help cover their employees’ health care costs. Workers will likely be able to tap into the money set aside in such accounts to pay the premiums for plans from the individual market. By implementing these changes, President Trump hopes to broaden the healthcare market and thus lower overall healthcare costs.
The reactions to President Trump’s healthcare executive order have been mixed thus far. Republican Senators such as Rand Paul and Ted Cruz praised the President’s decision and view it as the first step to reforming the nation’s broken healthcare system. On the contrary, many independent observers believe that the executive order would ultimately have unintended consequences. In particular, they feel that these changes will divert healthy people into cheaper plans outside the realm of the ACA’s exchanges, leaving such markets with a less healthy and more expensive customer base, which would cause premiums to instead increase.
3. Criticism Regarding The Federal Response To Hurricane Maria Mounts
Criticism towards the overall efforts by the US government to Hurricane Maria grew this week due to the slow response rate and actions on the part of President Donald Trump. Nearly three weeks after the hurricane first hit, more than 80% of Puerto Rico is still without electricity and nearly half of the country is without means of communication. Despite the pressing situation within the territory, federal aid has been painfully slow to come, perhaps due to bureaucratic pressures and strains on the existing federal aid structure. The response to the hurricane by the Trump Administration has been compared by some observers to the response by the Bush Administration to Hurricane Katrina some twelve years earlier.
Instead of instilling a sense of confidence in the minds of the residents of Puerto Rico, several actions by President Donald Trump this week seem to contradict his earlier pledges to help the island recover from this debilitating disaster. On October 12, President Trump threatened to end US aid to Puerto Rico in a Tweet by saying that “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. Forever!” Additionally, President Trump attempted to deflect some of the criticism that his administration received regarding their handling of the disaster by stating that the infrastructure of Puerto Rico was in poor shape prior to the hurricane and stated that the financial crisis facing Puerto Rico was created “largely of their own making.” These actions perhaps indicate an overall unwillingness on the part of the Trump Administration to stand up for the most vulnerable and impacted people within the US.
4. North Korea Renews Threat To Attack Guam In Response To Joint US-South Korea Naval Exercise
On October 13, North Korean officials on Friday renewed their threat to launch ballistic missiles near Guam in response to the US and South Korea preparing for their joint naval exercise. The drill is scheduled to begin on Monday in waters on both coasts of South Korea. The primary purpose of the exercise, according to the US Navy command in the region, is to check the communications network, partnership, and operational capabilities of both allies in the event of a confrontation breaking out within the region. In contrast, the North Korean government sees the exercise as one of many recent attempts to intimidate and incite the isolated country and as a rehearsal for an eventual invasion of the country. It is unclear if this most recent threat is merely rhetorical bluster on the part of the North Korean government or a threat that they are willing to follow through with.