Weekly cables

Week 19 - 2017

Trump, Nafta and a White House ruse

Now we know, Trump is all about haggling. When setting up a negotiation, he sets the bar really high in the attempt to get interlocutors and allies fear his determination, knowing he’ll settle for much less in the end. In brief: bargaining disguised as imposing one’s will. It happened with the initial threat of labeling China as currency manipulator, it happened with his several statements on Nato being obsolete, then suddenly becoming useful again. Something very similar has recently happened with Nafta. But this time with a twist: the White House staff playing good cop while his boss engages in posturing, fearing someone might take Trump too seriously and force him to pass the point of no return. Right after U.S. media ran stories on the president considering tearing up the free trade deal, last month White House staff called the office of Canada’s Justin Trudeau to urge the prime minister convince Trump to renege on his electoral promise. Fearing either Canada or Mexico might push Trump to be true to his word. The trick played out. Trudeau phoned Trump and the American president used their conversation to justify his alleged change of heart. But ruses don’t work forever, especially if others figure out your tactics.

The US won’t extradite Fethullah Gülen

For months many observers have been wondering whether Trump administration would push for the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, leader of the Hizmet network who has resided in Pennsylvania for almost twenty years. Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan has long accused Gülen of trying to undermine his regime and of being the man behind last July’s failed coup. MacroGeo never believed Trump would have the will or the inherent strength to dismiss such an asset of the US defense and intelligence apparatus. Now we learn that Gotham Government Relations & Communications, a New York lobbying firm which worked for Donald Trump’s campaign, has been hired by the Washington Strategy Group, a group strictly aligned with Gülen himself. Lobbying can say much of how Washington works. And sometimes even confirm something we knew all along.

Iran’s conservatives seem certain to lose next presidential election

Strangely enough, as of late Iran’s hardliners have been lavishing praise on Eshaq Jahangiri, vice president of Hassan Rouhani's government and fellow Reformist. Jahangiri is running for president, but his not so hidden goal is to support Rouhani throughout the debates before withdrawing from the competition. Iran’s conservatives seem to know they have little chance to win the election. Hence, they have been focusing their efforts on sowing division among Reformists by trying to pull Jahangiri to their side, rather than actually fighting to win. Rooting for a candidate they consider softer than Rouhani, therefore easier to live with if he ever was elected president. A clear signal of their own perceived weakness.