US president still seems to be trumping his foes

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Is the US political establishment trying a different tack to pull down a president it abhors? Over the weekend, an unnamed senior security source briefed the Washington Post that, despite the deal Trump cut last month with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the Pyongyang regime is continuing the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

This news, if it is not fake, looks custom-made to humiliate the president in the wake of what he claimed were his triumphant Kim talks. There is, of course, the possibility that Trump authorized the leak as a way of keeping up the pressure on the North Koreans, but this seems unlikely. If Trump wanted to warn Pyongyang that US spy satellites had seen continuing work at the Sanumdong rocket factory, he would have opened his Twitter account.

The Washington establishment has tried the headlong assault on the president and everything he stands for. When the attacks began, it seemed as if they were shooting at an open goal. By the standards of many people, not simply their own, Trump’s behavior can be questionable. America’s friends in the Arab world have not forgotten his unacceptable comments about Muslims during his presidential race. The Russian campaign interference probe, the continual carping about his apparently chaotic administration, the mockery of his tweeted opinions were all suppose to make Trump a dubious laughing stock. But to the amazement of the country’s elite, not least the political correspondents of the New York Times and the Washington Post, with their overweening sense of entitlement to a privileged position close to the White House, the more vicious the attacks on the President’s reputation, the stronger he became.

There is clear evidence that mainstream media polls, which have downgraded Trump’s popularity to below 40 percent of the electorate, are plain wrong. Arguably more reliable surveys see his standing increasing among women and young college-educated males, hardly the “deplorables” at whom Establishment darling Hillary Clinton sneered during her own campaign.

The jury is still out on the success of Trump’s summit with the North Korean leader. It seems clear his Helsinki meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin did not come up to even the downplayed expectations he expressed just before their summit. A US visit by Putin is currently on hold. But it was undoubtedly right that Trump took this chance to size up his Russian counterpart and feel his way toward a better working relationship with Moscow.

His possible talks with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, however, carry a far higher risk. Both Kim and Putin call the shots in their respective countries. Rouhani does not. He is merely the marginally acceptable face of the deeply unacceptable regime of the ayatollahs. Trump ought to have learnt from Barack Obama’s spectacular failure to nail the slippery Tehran regime to a real denuclearization deal, which would have also stopped its deeply malign inference in the internal affairs of Washington’s allies in the Arab world.

Trump would be wiser simply to continue with the reimposition of the Iranian sanctions and let them bite home, even though Moscow and Beijing will now seek to frustrate them. If he does meet Rouhani, he should send him back to his masters with the clear message that nothing short of a profound and convincing change in their policies is going to deflect him from the new economic clampdown.


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