French President Emmanuel Macron masterfully works Donald Trump, perhaps better than any U.S. ally. By the end of the day Tuesday, it looked like he might—just might—prevent an angry showdown between the United States and Iran. Trump began the day by virtually declaring war on the Islamic Republic if the nuclear deal unravels and Tehran resumes uranium enrichment, a fuel process for both peaceful nuclear energy and bombs. “They’re not going to be restarting anything,” the President pronounced angrily, during an Oval Office photo opportunity with Macron. ”If they restart it, they’re gonna have big problems, bigger than they’ve ever had before. And you can mark it down.” He called the historic accord, finalized in 2015, between Iran and the world’s six major powers, “insane. It’s ridiculous. It should never have been made.”
But, in the afternoon, after talks with Macron, Trump was almost conciliatory. He even hinted, at a joint press conference with Macron, that the United States and its European allies could have “an agreement among ourselves very quickly. I think we’re fairly close to understanding each other.”
The French leader is trying to coax Trump into accepting an expanded compromise that would prevent him from pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear accord—a decision is due by May 12th—and address the White House’s concerns about Iran’s broader behavior. It would build on what exists to “fix it”—the language Trump uses—rather than revise it or renegotiate it from scratch. Macron said that the “four pillars” of such a compromise would focus on Tehran’s missile program and its meddling in the rest of the Middle East, notably in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
“The Iran deal is an important issue,” Macron said, during the morning photo opportunity. “But we have to take it as a part of the broader picture, which is security in the over-all region. And we have the Syrian situation. We have a common relation in Iraq. We have the stability to preserve for our allies in the region, and what we want to do is contain the Iranian presence in the region.” The Iran deal, he added, is just “part of this broader picture.” [Continue reading…]
One day after President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Trump showered each other with praise, the French president spoke more critically of his host’s foreign policy, trade and environmental decisions in a speech to Congress that amounted to an implicit rebuke of Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach.
Mr. Macron, who traveled to Washington this week hoping to persuade the American president not to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, reiterated his argument for preserving the deal even as he said he and Mr. Trump had decided to pursue “a more comprehensive deal” to restrain Tehran.
The French president used his speech in the House chamber to urge Mr. Trump not to shrink from the leadership role the United States had played in forging the pact that Mr. Trump on Tuesday called “insane” and “ridiculous” — in the first place.
“We signed it,” Mr. Macron said of the nuclear deal with Iran, raising a finger for emphasis, “at the initiative of the United States. We signed it — both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that.”
Mr. Macron acknowledged that the deal had not addressed crucial concerns, including future nuclear activities in Iran, the use of ballistic missiles and the country’s destabilizing activities in the region. “But we should not abandon it without having something substantial, and more substantial, instead,” he added. “What we decided, together with your president, is that we can work on a more comprehensive deal addressing all these concerns.”
He was greeted warmly with a three-minute standing ovation, and he drew several more ovations throughout his speech as he outlined his vision of global affairs and the alliance between the United States and France, in nearly flawless English. [Continue reading…]
Macron made a speech — using lots of flattering language and lavish references to American history — directly attacking the worldview of Trump.
He called for greater efforts on climate change — because “there is no planet B” — as well as “a more effective, accountable, and results-oriented multilateralism.” He wasn’t even subtle in his attack on Trump’s backward-looking nostalgia and xenophobic language: “We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism . . . but that will only inflame the fears of our citizens.” And, of course, he supported the Iran deal, which Trump has railed against as recently as this week.
This combination – flattery plus direct talk — hasn’t yet been tried on Trump. The friendly gestures will appeal to his narcissism; there is a slim chance — very, very slim — that it might even get him to change his mind about some things. There is a greater risk that the clear opposition, even cloaked in elaborate references to Lincoln and both Roosevelts, might irk him.
But the most likely result is that the American president won’t pay attention to what Macron was trying to say — indeed, that he won’t even understand that he has been so openly challenged. And that may have been the point, for Macron’s speech will be perfectly understood in France, in Europe, and even in the United States (at least outside the White House). [Continue reading…]