Thursday, April 26, 2018

Good morning, Europe - Eldad Beck

by Eldad Beck

Even if it adheres to the nuclear deal, Iran is still pushing ahead with its plan to destabilize the Middle East. Yet many Europeans view Trump as the problem, which attests to their inability to face reality.

This week's front page of Der Spiegel aptly illustrates the overriding mood in the offices of French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini: Underneath the headline asking "Who will save the West?" U.S. President Donald Trump is depicted as a menacing fireball facing a seemingly panic-stricken Merkel and a smiling, winking Macron holding a fire extinguisher with an EU sticker on it.

Trump is hosting the two leaders in Washington this week. Macron was able to identify in time the need to caress and embrace Trump, and he greeted the American president with a king's welcome when he visited Paris last summer – while other Western leaders treated him with contempt and revulsion. Macron, in turn, was welcomed by the American president warmly, as a friend.

Merkel was unable to overcome her aversion to Trump and forge a close relationship with him. It will be very interesting to see how Trump greets the German chancellor for a "work meeting" this weekend. Merkel would be wise not to get Trump "heated" and galvanize him to do the opposite of what she wants. Macron and Merkel's goal in Washington is to get "Hurricane Trump" under control, particularly as it pertains to the future of the nuclear deal with Iran.

Yes, the American president's unpredictable behavior does cause a fair degree of anxiety, especially among those who grew accustomed to the affable yet destructive foreign policies of his predecessor, Barack Obama. However, it's been over a year since Trump entered office and the leaders of Europe should have adopted a wiser approach to their new American ally by now: He hasn't triggered any wars.

Even his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the U.S. Embassy there didn't spark the violence and bloodshed that the European powers warned against. Quite the opposite: His unconventional, frenetic management of American foreign policy has substantially moved things forward that seemed stuck and intractable.

Such as the nuclear deal with Iran: The EU and European powers fully endorsed Iran's demand not to change the nuclear deal at all; but Trump's threats to reimpose sanctions, which would almost certainly "kill" the accord, prodded the Europeans to agree to a "complementary addendum" to partially iron out its most problematic wrinkles.

European and American representatives have met five times to discuss the matter. These meetings have produced a memorandum of understandings about the "core faults" of the nuclear deal: What happens after its 10-year expiration date? How can oversight of Iran's nuclear facilities be enhanced? What are the deadlines for punishing Iran if it continues developing ballistic missiles and pursuing its aggressive policies beyond its own borders across the Middle East?

In their meetings, Macron and Merkel will ask Trump to finalize this addendum to preserve the nuclear deal. The Europeans are now willing to admit the deal has significant holes. This is in large part due to the immense pressure applied by Trump via threats, tweets and special envoys. Even if Trump looks like the "bad guy" breaking the rules of the game, this approach will almost certainly lead to an improved nuclear deal.

The "bad guy" in this story continues to be Iran. Even if it completely adheres to implementing the nuclear deal, the Islamic republic is still pushing ahead with its plans to destabilize the Middle East and grow as a leading military power in the region. The menacing fireball is Tehran, not Trump. The fact that many Europeans struggle to recognize this attests to their inability or lack of desire to face reality.

Eldad Beck


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