Coverage of The Recent U.S. Withdrawal from Iran Treaty Shows Bigger Trend of Isolation

While Judge Kavanaugh’s process of confirmation to the Supreme Court dominated the news cycle, many stories did not receive sufficient attention. One such story involving Iran fell through the cracks because of the monopolized news cycle and confusion over the story’s immediate implications. Ironically, this issue also concerns one of the highest courts of the land.

On October 3rd, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an injunction ordering the U.S. to ease certain sanctions against Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, responding to the court, rejected the ruling and withdrew the US from the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran, which gave the ICJ the authority to rule on disputes between the countries.

Domestic coverage of the story mostly dealt with discussing the potential implications of the ruling and explaining the now-dead treaty in general. Vox addressed the obscurity and impact of the treaty with the headline, “The US Is Tearing Up A Friendship Treaty with Iran You Probably Didn’t Know Existed.”

Despite Vox’s ominous headline, there may not be many immediate ramifications from this decision and the subsequent U.S. response. Ignoring the ICJ is common for many countries, including the U.S. Additionally, the 1955 treaty was created during a different political climate before the overthrow of the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979.

Nonetheless, several international news outlets framed backing out of the treaty as a part of the American government’s recent trend of withdrawing from the world stage.

Reuters reported, “there have been mounting concerns among U.S. allies about the Trump administration’s commitment to multilateralism.” Multilateralism, the organization of relations between several states, has been the foundation of global relations since the creation of the U.N. following WWII.

The article goes on to mention that this is only the latest piece of evidence in a long timeline of weakening ties between the U.S. and international community, including withdrawals from the Iran Deal and the Paris Climate Accords. Additionally, the rejection of the ICJ parallels the recent U.S. withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

At a press conference shortly after officially withdrawing from the treaty, National Security Adviser John Bolton accused the ICJ of being “politicized and ineffective,” an accusation similar to when the administration called the UNHRC  “a cesspool of political bias” in May.

The recent resignation of U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley heightened the media’s anxiety about U.S. withdrawal from the global stage. After the departures of H.R. MacMaster and Rex Tillerson earlier this year, Haley was looked at as one of the last few moderate strongholds on President Trump’s foreign policy team. BBC referred to Haley as “an internationalist who’s done much to protect the United Nations from Donald Trump’s anti-globalist wrecking ball.”

Most domestic sources failed to fully analyze the larger trend of the Trump administration’s frequent departure from multilateral institutions. A handful of papers, including The New York Times and CNBC, were satisfied with simply citing former Obama administration official, Robert Malley, who stated that the rejection of the ICJ showed why the Trump administration is increasingly internationally isolated.

In contrast, many international sources, including Reuters, Haaretz and multiple Iranian news agencies, took a deeper dive.

Despite the U.S. government’s absence from the ICJ treaty, sanctions against Iran already put in place will remain. There are even more sanctions scheduled to go into effect in November.

Domestic media sources, while acknowledging that this is an example of isolationism, fail to dive deeper into the issue that the U.S. is increasingly turning inward and creating distance from numerous global institutions.

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