Macron pitches Trump on new Iran deal
After a chummy visit from his favorite world leader, French President Emmanuel Macron, President Trump said this week he would consider a deal to preserve the Iran nuclear pact if Tehran agreed to new concessions. Trump hosted Macron for talks and the first state dinner of his presidency, and with Macron laying on the flattery, the two appeared to have forged a warm bond despite differences over trade, climate change, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. That deal lifted sanctions on Iran in return for an end to its uranium enrichment program and constraints on its ability to develop nuclear weapons. Macron’s goal for the visit was to persuade Trump, who calls the pact “the worst deal ever,” not to unilaterally abandon it on May 12, when the U.S. president must recertify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. Macron proposed bolstering the deal with an additional pact that would address Trump’s concerns: It would restrict Iran’s missile program and its military actions across the Middle East, and extend the ban on nuclear activity beyond 2025, when the current deal expires.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani denounced the idea, calling Trump a “tradesman” who has “no clue about the law or international treaties,” and threatening “severe consequences” for U.S. withdrawal from the pact. Trump responded with his own threat—“they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid”—and refused to say whether he would ultimately support Macron’s proposal. “Nobody,” Trump said, “knows what I’m going to do on the 12th.”
What the columnists said
Having wowed Trump last year in Paris with his friendliness, his strong handshake, and a rousing military parade, Macron has more influence with the U.S. president than any other leader, said Robert Malley and Colin Kahl in TheAtlantic.com. But that’s still not much. Macron was only in the U.S. for a few days. Iran hawks such as new national security adviser John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, the likely next secretary of state, can whisper in Trump’s ear whenever they want, and push the president to make “an ideologically inspired” decision to kill the Iran deal.
That would be Trump’s most reckless act yet, said USA Today in an editorial. Negotiated over two years and involving all members of the United Nations’ Security Council, the complex deal is the only thing keeping “one of the world’s most threatening regimes from developing the world’s most terrifying weapons.” If the U.S. quits, Iran will resume its nuclear program, sparking “a Middle East nuclear arms race” that could lead to a major war. And what incentive would North Korea have to sign a similar denuclearization deal with a president “who so cavalierly breaks America’s word?”
Yet there’s reason for “cautious optimism,” said Jennifer Rubin in WashingtonPost.com. Accepting Macron’s proposal would allow Trump to say he’s kept a key campaign promise by making a bad Obama deal much tougher on Iran. Plus, “Trump likes being liked,” and by staying in the deal he will please both Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also visiting Washington this week. “Maybe as a reward, Macron could throw him another parade.”