Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Trump and Macron Have Made Their Deal on Iran and Trade, but What Will Merkel and the Rest of Europe Do?
THE NEWS TODAY IS THAT FRANCE AND AMERICA HAVE KISSED AND MADE UP. At least for public consumption, that is, although French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump have a lot of reasons to love each other. • • • WHAT WAS THE PHOTO-OP VISIT ALL ABOUT? It was certainly more than the oohs and aahs over Melania Trump's gorgeous Chanel gown or Brigette Macron's Lous Vuitton gown, also pretty spectacular -- although trying to compete with Melania on a political catwalk is a lot like going to Paris and not noticing the Eiffel Tower. Cannot be done. • So, the important stuff aside, what is happening as Macron [MA-crahn, please, not Ma-CRON] wrapped up his US visit with an address to Congress. • President Macron wants to be the leader of Europe. To do that, he has to replace Germany's Chancellor Merkel and her deep-pocket check book. Although France has the 3rd largest economy in Europe, after Germany and the UK, its bank balance is negative. If he can boost his second-rate financial position by having the US pay some of Europe's bills so he can take credit, that would help him look like a real alternative to Merkel -- something many EU leaders would like but are afraid to talk about. We all know that President Trump has demanded from the beginning that Europe pull its own weight financially. BUT, if Macron can persuade Trump to stay in Syria to support a real settlement, if he can perusade Trump to make a dela on tariffs that will even slightly favor EU exports into the US (something Merkel is hopelessly inadept at doing), and IF he can convince Trump to renegotiate rather than scrap the Iran deal -- which would allow the lucrative EU business with Iran to continue and grow -- Macron would have serious credentials to wave at the other EU member states who have long suffered from the German hegemony that uses them as cash cows while refusing to free them from slavishly following the German-model in order ot develop thier own vastly different economies. • Et Voilà !! As the French say. I have to add that 65% of the French do not believe Macron can pull it off, but about the same percentage gave the 40-year-old no chance of winning the French presidency. Et Voilà ??? • • • THE STATE DINNER. There is nothing to say about Melainia Trump's perfection at her job as First Lady. Add to that her ability to speak to the entire French delegation in French and we have another Et Voilà ! The conservative Parisian daily Le Figaro put it this way : "Diplomatic dinners have marked history, from ancient Greece to the Medici banquets to Talleyrand's dinners at the Congress of Vienna meant to save France because of the talent of its chefs. Today, customs have evolved, but these dinners continue to be important." And, who but the French would center a story about the White House State Dinner around French experts on the history of cuisine. Le Figaro quoted Yves Schemeil, a political science professor : "State Dinners have become obligatory, but they advance diplomacy. People are always friendly when at table together." And, Patrick Rambourg, an historian who specializes in food and cuisine, told Le Figaro : "It was a relatively intimate State Dinner. That tells the world that there is a particularly good rapport between the two presidential couples." Professor Schemeil said : "While serious negotiations are avoided at such dinners, but the two sides can...enjoy a moment of pleasure together. That paves the way for later, serious discussions." And Rambourg concluded : "The Dinner allowed the two presidents to talk a bit more openly than in the serious meetings. One can always say things a little differently at table, when one has eaten well and tasted good wines, even if the State Dinner was a very formal official occasion." • These comments may sound hyper-French and silly, but they reflect centuries of successful French negotiation. We should never forget that the French invented diplomacy long before becoming America's ally 250 years ago. First Lady Melania Trump appreciated this by arranging a private dinner for the two couples at Mount Vernon on Monday, to serve as a reminder of France's "unique status" as America's first ally. • • • IRAN -- THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Even before his trip to America, President Macron sat down for an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News. Macron told Wallace that he has a “very special relationship” with President Trump, suggesting they’re political “mavericks” mutually committed to fighting terrorism and that he will ask Congress during his US visit this week for support in ending the influence of dictators and rogue nations : "We are very much attached to the same values...especially liberty and peace. And I think the US today has a very strong role to play for peace in different regions of the world and especially Middle East.” Macron described the United States as “one of the last resorts” for peace and multilateralism. And he thinks special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the 2016 Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the White House race has “no impact” on Trump’s credibility and his effectiveness on the world stage. Macron also said “I’m not the one to judge” Trump over current controversies or investigations. "I work with him because both of us are very much at the service of our countries on both sides." lace. • The "rogue nation" that most worries Macron, and many in Europe, is Iran. • But, strangely, Europe is pressuring Trump to allow Iran to continue its mid-range ballistic missile program -- missiles that can hit some parts of Europe, as well as Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday that : "The Trump administration is poised to legitimize Iran's ballistic missile program, granting the Islamic Republic the ability to produce and test a series of missiles capable of striking Israel, according to those familiar with US concessions during ongoing talks over the future of the landmark Iran nuclear deal. After weeks of pressure from European countries, senior Trump administration officials handling the talks are said to have conceded to a demand that Iran only restrict ballistic missile activity to its longer range missiles, leaving untouched its mammoth arsenal of short-range and medium-range missiles that could easily hit Israel and other Middle Eastern nations. The concession, which comes after months of wrangling over the future of the nuclear deal ahead of a May deadline, has roiled congressional officials and administration insiders who have been pressuring the White House to stand firm against these European demands." Senator Ted Cruz, a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal who advocates in favor of tough new restrictions on Iran, told the Free Beacon that the fixes proposed by the Europeans and supposedly endorsed by the Trump administration do not go nearly far enough in addressing Iran's contested missile program : "Obama's Iran nuclear deal was fatally flawed from the beginning.The deal required reckless international concessions and incentivized the international community to turn a blind eye to Iranian bad behavior. These proposed European ‘fixes' don't address the missiles Iran would actually build, the inspection problems that would actually arise, or the eventual sunsets as they would actually occur. They would only constrain the Iranians from doing things they never would have done. President Trump should reject these empty promises and withdraw America from this disastrous deal." The Free Beacon says other European demands include "a basket of so-called fixes to the deal that Iran deal experts and administration insiders say falls far short of President Trump's original demands. This reversal in the negotiating position of the United States could result in Trump deciding to wholly abandon the nuclear deal." • French President Macron is pressuring President Trump to stay in the Iran deal for now -- by agreeing that it needs to be "negotiated," a change in approach for Macron, who has until now called on the US to keep the deal as it is. • The Free Beacon also reported that : "European officials, on a recent trip to Washington, DC, are said to have attended a dinner party where they met with former Obama administration officials and Iran deal supporters to figure out ways to preserve the accord and not give in to Trump's demands, according to sources familiar with the ongoing talks." • One problem for Trump, says the Free Beacon, is that : "There also has been little change in the US negotiating team and its stance since former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by Trump for failing to carry out his hardline stance on reforming the Iran deal, sources said. US officials confirmed to the Free Beacon in recent weeks that the negotiating team has not changed personnel since Tillerson's exit, a disclosure that opponents of the deal have found troubling." An unnamed insider told the Free Beacon : "The Tillerson-McMaster negotiating team is carrying water for the Europeans." The insider was referring to H.R. McMaster, the recently fired national security advisor who also was viewed as going along with European concessions on Iran's nuclear program. The insider said : "They have nothing real to show after months of negotiations. The idea that they are even close to ‘fixing' the JCPOA is farcical." • The points Trump wants renegotiated as his price for staying in the deal include a full restriction of Iran's ballistic missile program (endorsed by many in Congress, as well), but the Europeans and, seemingly, the US team have chosen to focus only on Iran's long-range missile stockpile, with a cap on Iran's missiles that would keep them below a range of around 1,240 miles.This distance is the same one embraced by Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei when he issued a 2017 edict on the country's missile program. A State Department official confirmed to the Free Beacon that Iran's long-range capabilities are currently up for discussion. The official would not comment specifically on whether distances would be capped in line with the ayatollah's demand : "We have discussed the areas the President identified in January where he wants to see improvements -- including ensuring Iran never comes close to developing a nuclear weapon and addressing our concerns with the sunset dates, taking strong action if Iran refuses IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections, and preventing Iran from developing or testing a long-range ballistic missile." • President Trump and his administration maintain that the US will walk away from the deal if negotiations fail to produce an acceptable agreement by May. The State Department official said : "This is a last chance. In the absence of a commitment from our European allies to work with us to fix the deal's flaws, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time the President judges that agreement is not within reach, the United States will withdraw from the deal immediately." • These alleged recent moves to align the US more closely with Iran's position have angered White House allies and congressional officials, as well as hawks in the Jewish community who believed Trump would finally crackdown on Iran's repeated threats to destroy the Jewish state. One Jewish official close to the White House told the Free Beacon : "I honestly don't know how the President can sell Israel down the river like that. It's bad enough they're trying to deal with missile threats to their north alone. Now Iran gets a green light to perfect missiles that will one day constitute an existential threat to Israel's existence?" • Richard Goldberg, a former top aide to GOP Senator Mark Kirk who currently advises the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon that the only acceptable fix to Iran's missile program is a complete blanket ban : "A true fix on missiles should align with the Roskam-Cheney bill in the House -- total snapback of all sanctions if Iran develops or tests any nuclear capable ballistic missile, period. That's the gold standard. That's what the Security Council calls for. Otherwise you're just negotiating a bad missile deal to supplement a bad nuclear deal." • Josh Block, a longtime foreign policy professional and former Clinton official who serves as the CEO and president of The Israel Project, told the Free Beacon that by only focusing on Iran's long-range missile capability, the Trump administration is leaving Israel open to attack : "We know that the mullah regime already has the capability to strike targets up to 1,240 miles from Iran's borders -- a range sufficient to hit the State of Israel, our Arab allies across the region, every US military installation and American soldier in the region, and even parts of Europe. Iran's new ballistic missile cap offer is a total sham -- one cooked-up by Iran's allies in Russia, who are already supporting Teheran and Assad's violent war to dominate the Middle East -- designed to fool President Trump, with the support of greedy Europeans who care more about making money." • Can President Macron convince President Trump to give the Iran deal one more extension, to allow Macron to try to move Europe into a position that Trump can accept concerning the ballistic missile program and other elements of the Iran nuclear deal? We should know the answer by May 12. • • • THE SYRIA STRIKE AND IRAN. One element that may persuade Europe to take a tougher negotiation stance with Iran is the US-French-UK strike on the chemical weapons capabilities of Syria. European Union countries, as well as Canada, Australia, members of Arab union and Gulf countries, have fully supported the airstrike. • The one country that condemned the attack was Iran, whose dictator warned that there would be 'consequences' for the region. Iran‘s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said coordinated airstrikes on Syria by the United States, France and Britain were a crime that would bring no benefit. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that the US-led attack against Syria would lead to the destruction of the Middle Eastern countries. • American Thinker says that : "The bluster and heated rhetoric about ‘the region’ was about par for the mullahs. But the mullahs probably realize it was really a strike against Iranian capacities in the region. This strike was the result of one basic problem, that is, that Iran came to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s aid, sending fighters and an organized airlift of militia fighters from a number of countries to bolster Mr. Assad’s military and to prepare for retaliation after a chemical attack. The US, UK and French airstrikes also escalated the internal situation in Iran to further destabilize the Iranian regime, uniting the different factions of society in Iran. • American Thinker cites the leading opposition group to the regime, the National Council of Resistance in Iran : "On April 17, 2018, thousands of people in the city of Kazerun demonstrated for the second day running in the city’s main square. The merchants refused to open their shops. The protesters were chanting, 'Our enemy is right here, but they keep saying it is America...No fear, we are all together...the movement will continue until we obtain our rights.'....In another development, on April 16, the families of those detained during the April demonstrations in Ahvaz staged a protest outside the governor’s office and the office of the Majlis Deputy from the city. The security forces attempted to disperse the crowd through intimidation. During the protests by the people of Ahvaz and other cities in Khuzestan Province, hundreds of people, including 11- to 15-year-old children, have been arrested and their fate is unknown. On Sunday, April 15, 2018, in addition to the strikes of merchants and shopkeepers in the cities of Baneh and Javanrood, protests by deprived and oppressed people continued in various cities....At midnight of Sunday, April 15, 2018, suppressive forces attacked houses of Khorasgan people in Isfahan in order to prevent the spread of protests and demonstrations by farmers and others, and arrested a number of farmers and youths in the city. Throughout the day and night, repressive forces had an intense presence around Varzaneh, in an effort to intensify the atmosphere of fear and intimidation. The anti-riot mercenaries also moved toward the city in 20 cars and four buses to stop the demonstrations of the people. On Saturday, in spite of repressive measures in Isfahan, farmers gathered at the Khourasgan Square and Abazar Ave. They chanted : Imprisoned farmers should be freed; farmer dies, but does not accept humiliation; we are the women and men of battle, we will get back our right to water." • Thus, it seems the US, UK and French airstrikes had an impact on the region and especially on the internal situation in Iran. • Will this encourage Europe to strike while Iran is in some disarray, hoping to get a better nuclear deal? That will surely be one of Macron's talking points when he returns to Europe. • • • IRAN THREATENS THE WEST IF THE DEAL IS SCRAPPED. Reuters reported on April 21 that : "Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday Iran’s atomic agency was ready with 'expected and unexpected' reactions if the United States pulls out of a multinational nuclear deal, as US President Donald Trump has threatened to do : “Our Atomic Energy Organization is fully prepared...for actions that they expect and actions they do not expect.” US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood says Washington has been having “intense” discussions with European allies ahead of the May 12 deadline, when US sanctions against Iran will resume unless Trump issues new waivers to suspend them. Iran has said it will stick to the accord as long as the other parties respect it, but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out. • • • IS OBAMA WORKING AGAINST TRUMP ON THE IRAN DEAL? In late March, the New York Post's Seth Mandel wrote that in an effort to save the Iran nuclear deal, former top Obama officials in the group National Security Action said : " 'John Bolton is at the nexus of Russia’s interference in our democracy and the NRA’s reckless agenda. It's time to delve deeper into the web of connections among Bolton, Russia, and the NRA.' : The sentence is so bonkers, so pristine in its conspiratorial insanity that it should one day grace a Museum of Natural History exhibit on early-21st-century US politics. Yet it wasn’t from an anonymous troll, or some Hollywood figure with tons of followers but little common sense. It was tweeted by National Security Action -- an outfit run by former top Obama officials. Described by the Washington Post as a 'political strike force,' this NSA is a coterie of veterans from the Obama White House and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, acting as a shadow government to weaponize foreign-policy disputes. It’s a fever-Swamp-in-exile. And it exemplifies everything that’s wrong with top Democrats’ partisan madness in the Age of Trump." The NY Post says NSA co-chairs : "are Ben Rhodes and Jake Sullivan. Rhodes, you’ll recall, was the reckless novice Barack Obama made a top adviser who proceeded to create what he called an 'echo chamber' of lies, distortions and spin about the Iran nuclear deal for pro-Obama reporters and think-tankers to regurgitate. Sullivan’s presence atop a conspiracist machine is more troubling. Unlike Rhodes, he’s knowledgeable, experienced and inclined to public service. Had Clinton won the 2016 election, Sullivan would’ve been the front-runner for national security advisor -- the post to which Bolton has just been named. What’s up with this Bolton/Russia stuff, anyway? It’s all based on the fact that Bolton was asked in 2013 by the then-NRA president to record a pro-gun rights statement for a Russian organization. For that, Sullivan’s group accuses Bolton of being “at the nexus of Russia’s interference in our democracy?” • The NY Post says : "Bolton hates the nuke deal and wants President Trump to scrap it. His opposition stems mostly from the fact that it’s a disastrous mess that legitimized Iran’s program, knifed US allies -- and unchained Teheran’s terror squads with an infusion of cash and a willingness by Obama to look the other way as they bloodied up the Middle East." • The smear of Bolton by Team Obama is the echo chamber reverberating to save its legacy project. As the New York Post put it : "In the New York Times this week, Sherman excoriated Bolton as a warmonger for wanting to tear up the deal : 'The march to military conflict will be hard to stop, especially with Mr. Bolton leading the National Security Council.' With the deal in place, Iran won’t build nukes, because...the mullahs pinky-swore : 'Iran has committed to never obtaining a nuclear weapon.' As absurd as this sounds, it’s a key talking point : If you don’t like the deal, you want war, and anyway Iran promised." • • • WHAT ABOUT ISRAEL? American Thinker wrote in April 20 that : "Debkafile reports on April 17 that Iranian Guard troops are massing in four Syrian air bases near Israel in an apparent preparation for a major attack from UAVs and perhaps by armed thrusts over the Syrian border. President Trump wants to withdraw from Syria and is hoping to do so with only symbolic strikes. However, Iran is using its Syrian ally to threaten major attacks against Israeli population centers. Hezb’allah may attack from Lebanon, while Hamas may stage raids in the south. Iran believes it can now use Syria as a staging base, and while the US wants to wind down the Syrian civil war, it appears that Putin has positioned himself as a deciding factor. Putin now has an alliance with Turkey and Iran, and the large Egyptian army is hoping to stay out....The question is whether Putin wants peace, or whether he wants trouble to create pressure on the US....Israel is very worried about war, because they can sustain a war for only a short time. During that time, Israel may take the imitative and destroy invading forces and foreign bases. The lack of defensive depth in Israel should also worry the world, because Israel will feel compelled to use nuclear weapons as soon as its population centers are attacked. Their back will be against the wall, from their viewpoint, and they will do anything to prevent a second Holocaust." • That is a real doomsday view of what can happen between Israel and Iran, with Syria as Iran's proxy. Even if exaggerated, the possibility of a full-scale war between Israel and Iran will certainly cause Macron to redouble his efforts to get Europe into a negotiating mode with Iran. • As Israeli-boron Shoula Romano Horing wrote for American Thinker : "As Israel is celebrating its 70th birthday, the bad news is that it is still resides in the most dangerous and unstable neighborhood in the world, facing many enemies who wish to destroy it. The Arab public still hates the Jewish State even though its leaders are reconciling themselves to its existence, fearing Iran even more....The good news is that Israel maintains its military superiority and economic prosperity in the Middle East and its ability to deter its enemies, with its willingness and capability to independently take aggressive and deadly actions, even at the risk of escalation. The ugly news is that there is a high probability that Iran, its proxies and the Arab world will try to develop and be willing to use chemical and nuclear weapons against Israel and the Western world. In the short term, Israel's hope is that the Trump administration will abolish the Iran nuclear deal, reimpose suffocating sanctions against Iran, and if necessary be willing militarily to work with Israel to curtail the threat." • The Washington Institute's Andrew J. Tabler wrote articles for the Atlantic and the New York Daily News on April 14 and 15. In them, Tablier said the Syrian civil war "is now arguably the world's largest humanitarian disaster since World War II. The death toll now stands at nearly half a million, though the UN has stopped counting. Countless others are wounded and missing. A US government report that the Assad regime is using a crematorium near the Saidnaya Prison outside Damascus indicates many of their remains may never be found. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates 13.1 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance, with more than 6 million internally displaced and 5 million registered as refugees. Hundreds of thousands more remain unregistered. Estimates of the total number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon today surpass a quarter of the country's population, with only slighter smaller figures for Jordan....Israel, worried about the spike in Iranian militias and influence in Syria, is bombing there like never before. Turkey, concerned about the growth of the Kurdish-dominated forces linked to Ankara's archenemy, the PKK, has invaded northwest Syria, pushing Kurds out of one stronghold in Afrin with threats to do the same in another one, Manbij. Meanwhile, negotiations in Geneva and elsewhere have yet to produce viable ceasefires or anything resembling a political settlement. Like the civil war in neighboring Lebanon, the Syrian Civil War now threatens to morph into the Syria War -- a regional conflagration which seems likely to burn for a generation. And civilians are cursed to live it, and die in it, every day....President Trump's decision to strike the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons sent a powerful message that use of such munitions will not go unpunished, helping to set up a deterrent on future use. Such strikes have a shelf life, however, and if Assad's past behavior is any indication, future strikes will likely be necessary. It is therefore important to tie future strikes to a viable political process to end the Syrian civil war enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 2118, the 2013 chemical weapons deal brokered by the United States and Russia. Given that the regime's deployable manpower is so depleted, and is unlikely to be replenished in the near to medium term, Washington can expect Assad to resort to chemical agents again and test Washington's resolve. The Trump administration should therefore incorporate scenarios for future strikes into its recently announced Syria strategy in such a way to force Assad to make political concessions at the negotiating table toward a viable political transition in Syria....Continuing to enforce the chemical weapons red line can give Washington some much needed leverage in political negotiations in Geneva, which to date have only been a cover for Assad, Putin and Khamenei to shoot and gas the Syrian people into submission." • All the Syria news is bad, and Macron understands that Europe is in the line of fire whereas America is not. If he and the rest of Europe hope to prevent another massive influx or the continuing drip-drip of Syrian refugees -- and the economic migrants joining them to look for a better life in Europe -- they need to get behind President Trump's effort to keep Iran from enlarging its nuclear or ballistic missile program. Macron told the US Congress on Wednesday that France will not leave the Iran nuclear deal. Fine. But, what is France going to do about preventing Iranian nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from being pointed or fired at Europe? And, what is France going to do about the European migrant crisis fueled by the Iranian and Russian takeover of the al-Assad regime? • • • DEAR READERS, never fear. The "real" EU leader is on her way to Washington. Emmanuel Macron is the dauphin anxious to be King. But, Angela Merkel is the Kaiser. What will she and President Trump talk about? Surprisingly, Merkel's agenda, unlike the affable and diplomatic French leader's, will probably not center on Iran. • Peter Skurkiss wrote in American Thinker on Wednesday : "German chancellor Angela Merkel's goal for her White House this Friday would be humorous if it weren't so pathetically typical of what America often faces....Ever since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and started encroaching on the Ukraine, Western Europe has been demanding that the US sanction the Russians....That brings us to today. President Trump...has recently issued strong sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 US election. So far, so good. But now Merkel and the rest of the German political establishment have flip-flopped. They want President Trump to exempt their county's companies from these tough new sanctions. Frau Merkel plans to bring this request up at her scheduled meeting with Trump at the White House this week on April 27, along with Germany's concerns about America's newfound attitude toward unbalanced trade, Iran, and Trump's withdrawal from the Paris accord." Why? Well, Skurkiss says says : "The Germans are in a pickle. Even more than China, Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe, relies on exports for its economic well-being. Some 46% of that country's GDP is due to exports in goods and services. That's a staggering amount. For the US, exports account for only about 12% of its GDP. Germany's exports to Russia came to $30 billion in 2017. That might not seem like a lot, but a loss of any of it would hurt German companies at the margin. So Chancellor Merkel wants her industries protected. The Germans desperately need this, as multiple sources say Germany is headed for a recession. On trade with the US, Germany is enjoying a $65-billion surplus. This can only incur Trump's righteous wrath at his April meeting with Merkel." • Poor Chancellor Merkel -- who in the last election barely got to keep her job in Germany, and so in the EU as its acknowledged head -- is now the head of a fragile coalition government. Skurkiss says : "No question, Merkel is coming to Washington with an extremely weak hand to play. If Trump can't wring major concessions out of Germany on trade and other issues, then he's a dunce who doesn't deserve the title of the master of the deal. It would be a fortunate fly who is on the wall at the Trump-Merkel meeting. No doubt, Merkel will insist on her issues. It is as if she and much of Europe are in a time warp, thinking they're still dealing with Obama or someone like him. Other leaders are quicker on the uptake, like Shinzo Abe of Japan and Moon Jae-in of South Korea...and even Little Rocket Man in North Korea. China, too, is becoming "woke" to the new reality." • We should add to the list of the "woke' ones, Emmanuel Macron, the young French President itching to be the acknowledged head of the EU. If Merkel focuses on Russian sanctions, she will be proving once again that Europe likes to bully the US into leading while they sit back. And, as Skurkiss says : "When action is taken, our trans-Atlantic armchair experts criticize that what was done -- for being too much or too little, too harsh, or whatever. This is called ankle-biting. Trade is a good example. Our partners want America to take the lead. In their minds, this means free trade for them but not for us. American markets must be open to them while their industries are allowed protection. Europe has no problem in putting Europe first but goes apoplectic when Trump does likewise for America. An interesting dichotomy, no?" • And, to get to the meat of the Merkel dilemma in dealing with Trump, think about Iran. If Trump actually tears up or at the very least significantly alters the nuclear deal with Iran, both France and Germany would find their post-2015 business dealings with Iran sharply reduced or eliminated. And, what does htat mean? If Iran goes nuclear, who will have to deal with that awful situation? Not France. Not Germany. Right -- the US. • President Macron understands that. He knows that Europe and America are in the Iran deal mess together but that the US is the "Mother" of their weapons. So, when he says he will "negotiate," he very likely means it. The rest of Europe seems more interested in Russian gas for their winter needs, and Iranian deals to pay for the Russian gas. Cozy, isn't it? • As Skurkiss reminds us : "Past US administrations have allowed the word 'leadership' to be terribly misused. A leader isn't one who rolls up his sleeves and does all the heavy lifting. That describes a hired hand more than it does a leader. No, for although a leader may do actual lifting here and there as a way of example, the leader's main role is to set direction for the team, delegate what others are to do, and maintain accountability standards. It's time for the US to get back to that type of leadership. And if others don't like that, they're free to quit the team and look for greener pastures elsewhere." And, it is entirely possible that Merkel and Germany could actually be looking East toward Russia for their future. • Macron has placed France beside Trump and America. What will Merkel do on Friday? That answer will tell us a lot about who the next leader of Europe will be. My guess? Et Voilà !!