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WASHINGTON -- President Trump seems convinced that he has found the formula for success in foreign policy: Bully your adversaries, sanction them, squeeze them -- and then flatter them and make a deal.
Trump followed this approach with North Korea and he got a showy summit meeting in Singapore in June with Kim Jong Un and a pledge (encouraging but so far undelivered) for denuclearization. He adopted the hard-talk/sweet-talk tactics with Mexico and, eventually, after a long pout, with Canada, and he got a trade deal that's a modest but real improvement over NAFTA.
China - Wrestling - Trump - Beijing - Bewildering
China is now in the wrestling ring with Trump, and for Beijing, it must be a bewildering contest. One minute, Trump is hitting the Chinese with stiff tariffs; the next he is saying what a great friend he has in President Xi Jinping, who he's sure will ultimately make a deal.
These crude tactics are so obvious that, on one level, it's astonishing that Trump gets away with them. Unlike the WWE wrestling matches Trump adores, these foreign-policy adventures are not pre-scripted, and there's lots of room for error. Trump's success shows that bullying can work, at least in the short run, so long as the bully is a lot bigger and stronger than those he taunts.
Adversary - Iran - Bout - Trump - Punches
The next adversary is Iran, and this could be the most interesting bout yet. Trump was telegraphing his punches at the United Nations, in a series of public and private comments. Simply put, the plan is to strangle the Iranian economy to the point that Tehran cries "Uncle!" (or maybe, "Uncle Sam!") and then negotiate the bigger, better deal on nuclear and regional issues that Trump can claim as a breakthrough.
Trump launched his pirate ship/love boat toward Iran on Sept. 25 in New York: "We are doing many things right now, including sanctions,...
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