Macron, Trump and Iran

Reuters photo



Tom Arms



It appears that Emmanuel Macron failed, at least on one important diplomatic front – the Iran nuclear deal. The odds are – according to the French President in the aftermath of his American state visit – that The Donald will pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal within the next two weeks.


He made a promise. He said that he would end American support unless the deal was renegotiated to end the sunset clause and expanded to include missile development. And he keeps his promises, no matter how intemperate, ill-advised, wrongheaded, misguided and downright dangerous to global peace those promises may be.


The French president – and Trump’s new best friend – may have had some success in at least one area – climate change. The American leader has been making noises about rejoining the Paris Climate Change Accord. He is already under strong pressure from daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared to do so, and Macron’s assertion that there “is no Planet B” appears to have struck a chord with Congressmen and women and the American public.


The French leader’s address to a joint session of Congress was a brave tour de force as he used the platform for a frontal assault on the Trumptonian policies. Nationalism was bad. Tariffs were bad. American First was bad. Globalism is good. The rule of law is good. Cooperation is good. Keeping international agreements negotiated by previous administrations is good.


Congress heard. The French leader enjoyed repeated standing ovations. But did they listen? Did they understand the importance of what Macron was saying. More importantly, did the Trump Administration listen?


It was clear from the hand holding, smiles and suit-collar flicks, that there is a strong personal chemistry between the French and American leaders. President Macron makes no secret that he is regularly on the phone to his friend Donald. He appears to have the best relationship with the White House of any world leader.


This is acknowledged by Trump. He describes Macron, as smart, strong and someone with whom he has “a very special relationship”. But then cast your mind back to the effusive comments the US president made about Steve Bannon, Rex Tillerson, Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn, even James Comey. Of course, Trump can’t fire Macron. But he can hang up.



Israel and Iran


As Trump prepares to ditch the Iran Nuclear Accord, Iran is busily conducting an internal debate on the best response. Tied in with that internal debate is how best to exploit its successes in Syria to support the Palestinian cause.


The Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu appears utterly convinced that it is in acute danger of an imminent Iranian air attack. This past week it summoned foreign correspondents to the Ministry of Defence to release a dossier which included a map of Iranian air force bases in Syria, satellite reconnaissance footage and even a photograph of the Iranian air force commander in Syria, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh. The message was clear: We know where you live.


Washington also seems worried. Within an hour of being confirmed as the new Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was on a plane to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel for “urgent consultations”.


But all is not necessarily as it seems in Iran. There are disagreements between President Hassan Rouhani on the one hand and the Revolutionary Guard and the religious leadership on the other. The more practical Rouhani is seriously worried about the drain that the Syrian war – and a potential direct conflict with Israel – is having on the Iranian economy. The riots of a few months ago were not against Israel but against the rapidly declining economy and consequent rising unemployment levels.


The more ideologically-driven Revolutionary Guards and religious leaders see an opportunity to press home the advantage in their evangelising mission. President Trump’s likely withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Accord; his plans to withdraw American troops from Syria and his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is strengthening their hand.


The hardliners at the moment appear in the ascendant, but there is no final determination as yet. Lawrence Freedman, emeritus professor at King’s College London and one of the world’s leading strategic thinkers, thinks there is still a long way to go before a possible conflict.


Writing in this week’s Sunday Times, he pointed out that Iran and Israel are not natural enemies. In fact, they are more like natural allies. They were certainly exactly that in the days of the Shah when both countries recognised that their common foe was the Arab world and that their individual causes were best served by working together to counter Arab influence in the Middle East. It is only since the religious takeover that Iran has developed an anti-Israeli position.


Iran is also very aware of Israel’s nuclear arsenal, probably 160 missiles. They are an ultimate last resort hotel, but nevertheless a very real reality.


For its part, Israel knows that Iran has the capability of producing its own nuclear deterrent which would negate their own. In 1981 it demonstrated its determination to prevent opponents developing a nuclear capacity when it bombed Iraq’s Osirak reactor. But in the case of Iran, the programme is more substantial and better protected.


Israel could attack the Iranian air bases in Syria before they become a major threat. But that would not be enough to end the threat. Unless the territory was occupied by Israeli forces the bases would simply be rebuilt. The Israeli army’s experiences in Lebanon have left the Jewish state wary of occupying hostile Arab territory.


Moving Israeli troops into Syria would also put the Netanyahu government in direct conflict with Syria and the Russians which means a significant widening of the Syrian civil war.


The risk of conflict with Russia is possibly one of the lesser known dangers. Israel has good relations with Moscow as well as with Washington and the Russians are believed to have used their influence to keep the Iranians at bay. With Russian influence growing in the Middle East and American influence waning, the Israelis need to remain on good terms with Moscow and Vladimir Putin.





Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and email[email protected].

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