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Donald Trump acknowledges his diplomacy on Iran has been open to misinterpretation, delighting in a strategy that keeps his opponents guessing, both at home and abroad.
“Everyone was saying that I’m a warmonger and now they say I’m a dove,” the U.S. president said last weekend after he called off airstrikes on Iran. But to Tehran, fresh sanctions on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are far from Trump’s claimed commonsense approach. Rather, they mean the “permanent closure of the diplomatic path” with the U.S., a nation with which it has no formal ties.
The wrangling reflects Trump’s blunt and at-times confusing approach to complex international problems, a tactic that’s sure to play out at this week’s Group of 20 summit in Japan on everything from Iran to Russia to his trade war with China.
The G-20 host is already smarting from Trump’s tweet that nations dependent on fuel exports from the Middle East should defend their own ships rather than rely on the U.S. Then there’s the president’s musings – as reported exclusively by Jennifer Jacobs – about withdrawing from America’s postwar defense treaty with key ally Japan, a pact he regards as too one-sided.
It's highly unlikely Trump would actually rip up the treaty. But given his prior criticisms of allies for not shouldering enough of their own defense burdens, even raising the prospect of it threatens lasting damage to U.S. ties around the world.
Foreign influence | Russia, China, and Iran are trying to manipulate U.S. public opinion ahead of the 2020 elections, a senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday. But none has successfully corrupted actual election infrastructure, even as it remains a potential target. China has primarily used conventional media outlets to push its viewpoint on things like trade, while Russia and Iran have been more active on social media platforms.
Big challenge | Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan has a daunting job as incoming ambassador to Washington, with U.S. ties at their lowest point since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The princess, who is the daughter of a former envoy and has strong connections within the Royal family, must navigate tensions over the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the long-running war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the detention of Saudi female activists.
Charm offensive | The man who defied Recep Tayyip Erdogan to take Istanbul relied on an upbeat message in stark contrast to the negative rhetoric often deployed by the president. Ekrem Imamoglu's campaign slogan for mayor was: “Everything is going to be great.” After his win, he said was ready to work with Erdogan to tackle issues affecting Turkey's largest city, from transport gridlock to Syrian refugees.
Click here for a look at how Erdogan's own mistakes helped propel Imamoglu to victory
Power grab | Acrimony is mounting between France and Germany over who gets to be the next European Commission chief. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right allies in Europe are determined to defy French President Emmanuel Macron, who blocked their candidate at a summit last week in Brussels, even though they won the most seats in the next European parliament. Leaders will meet Sunday in an effort to break the deadlock.
Tory race | Conservative Party leadership contender Boris Johnson doubled down on his pledge to take the U.K. out of the EU by Oct. 31 without a deal if necessary, setting up a potential showdown with senior party members who oppose such a move. The front-runner for prime minister has been accused of trying to avoid scrutiny; he'll make more public appearances today as he tries to hold back rival Jeremy Hunt.
What to watch
Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will discuss Nissan Motor's troubled alliance with Renault tomorrow in Tokyo before they head to the G-20. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo arrives in India today seeking to forge ties in a region where America’s key economic rival — China — is expanding its reach.
And finally ... One's a spokesman for an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. His Palestinian partner is derided at home as a traitor to the national cause. This is the unlikely duo the Trump administration has embraced as it prepares to launch the economic component of its much-vaunted “deal of the century” for Middle East peace with a workshop starting today in Bahrain.
--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Rosalind Mathieson and Stuart Biggs.
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