Donald Trump, Turning the Other Cheek — to Iran and Justin Trudeau
Author: Greg Valliere
June 21, 2019
WHY DID TRUMP PULL BACK ON IRANIAN STRIKES? We spoke this morning to a Mideast expert about the president’s apparent decision to call off air strikes on Iranian military bases. It was a typically outside-the-box move by Trump, our source said — probably designed to show wavering U.S. allies that Trump is willing to go the extra mile to defuse the Persian Gulf crisis.
THE WHITE HOUSE IS TORN by conflicting camps; hard-liners want aggressive air strikes, but Trump is an isolationist who is extremely averse to getting the U.S. involved in still another Mideast conflict. He thinks the region is a quagmire that has cost this country dearly in terms of lives and money — and his political base agrees.
TRUMP’S MESSAGE TO IRAN that negotiations are preferable probably fell on deaf ears in Tehran. The increasingly hard-line ayatollahs are desperate for sanctions relief; the Iranian economy is crippled. They want Western European public opinion on their side, so portraying the U.S. as warmongers may win them some support.
IF THERE’S A THEME THAT UNITES BOTH COUNTRIES, it’s that neither seems to have a clear exit strategy. We think this crisis will not cool off soon — more tension near the Strait of Hormuz is likely, with the risk that an incident at sea could spin out of control. Last night’s reversal by the U.S. most definitely has not eliminated the threat of a conflict.
AS FOR TRUMP, he probably has infuriated hard liners like Lindsey Graham and John Bolton, but we give the president credit. If the U.S. ultimately launches air strikes, he can say — credibly — that the U.S. made a good faith effort to negotiate, only to have the Iranians rebuff any effort to talk.
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JUSTIN TRUDEAU’S NEW FRIEND: There’s been little love between Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the two had a cordial meeting yesterday at the White House. They agreed that Nancy Pelosi should pick up the pace on negotiations on a NAFTA replacement, called the USMCA.
PELOSI, WHO’S LOCKED IN A BITTER PERSONAL FEUD with Trump, does not want to do him any favors, so she sounded non-committal on the USMCA when she met with Trudeau yesterday. We suspect she views this issue as a bargaining chip that she can play later this year when budget battles erupt.
RATIFICATION OF THE USMCA DEAL is still likely, but no time soon; Democrats still insist on opening up the treaty to environmental and labor reforms. In the meantime, it’s encouraging to see Trump and Trudeau have a civil meeting — could this be a good omen for constructive talks late next week between Trump and other world leaders like Chinese president Xi? U.S. and Chinese trade “sherpas” are already laying the groundwork for talks designed to jump-start trade negotiations.
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