Since President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Washington, D.C., on Monday for the first state visit of President Trump’s administration, the French leader has tried to persuade the American president not to abandon the three-year-old nuclear agreement with Iran next month.
An eloquent if hard-nosed pragmatist, Macron says he pressed Trump to accept that the deal, while imperfect, was better than no deal, and that it could be strengthened to speak to Trump’s concerns. Macron argued that scrapping it now could send precisely the wrong message to North Korea, a regime that Trump’s foreign policy team is trying to bring to the negotiating table over its own nuclear weapons program. Macron worked hard to leverage his personal connection with Trump to get him to shift his position on a deal that the president has regularly denounced as a candidate and since taking office.
As Macron prepared to leave Washington on Wednesday evening, he was not optimistic that his attempts at persuasion had succeeded. When asked if he thought that Trump would walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, Macron told a small gathering of journalists, “That’s my bet.”
Macron appeared to be realistic about his chances to persuade Trump to maintain the nuclear deal, especially one he has repeatedly derided on the stump and on Twitter. Macron seemed to suggest that despite his best efforts, the odds still favored that the president would be true to his promises to scrap the agreement. “When a lot of people say Trump isn’t predictable, I think the opposite,” said Macron. “He is very predictable.” The French president noted that Trump had followed through on previous promises, including pulling out of the Paris climate accord.
Macron may be attempting to lower expectations ahead of the Trump administration’s May 12 decision, when Trump must next decide whether to continue to waive nuclear sanctions against Iran. Even if Trump scraps the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, Macron doesn’t believe his visit will have been a failure. “I never said, ‘I will convince Mr. Trump,'” said Macron, raising his fist and using a mocking tone. Rather, he said he was trying to serve as an “honest broker of this situation.”
It’s a situation that Macron believes could soon become far more difficult for Europe, the United States, and Iran. “If you just kill the JCPOA, without an option, you’ll just open a Pandora’s box,” he said.