Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Analysis: Under Trump Doctrine, no slight goes unanswered

By JONATHAN LEMIRE and ZEKE MILLER

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the presidential tweets ricochet from one world hot spot to another, a Trump Doctrine has emerged: Claim matchless strength, suffer no slight and counter-punch harder than you are hit — at least verbally.

President Donald Trump’s searing ALL CAPS response to a relatively routine Iran provocation is the latest example of Trump’s refusal to show weakness, continuing a pattern that includes showdowns with North Korea, China and even NATO allies, with Russia the notable exception. Trump’s tough-guy rhetoric has become a defining characteristic of his overseas affairs, as have the relatively modest results.

His late Sunday tweet warning of “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE” caught Trump’s staff by surprise, sparked a fresh day of foreign policy confusion, and triggered fears of a potential nuclear showdown in the Middle East. The tweet was reminiscent of Trump’s brash warning of “fire and fury” for North Korea last year, part of an exchange of bravado in which he and Kim Jong Un’s government compared the relative size of their nuclear buttons.

White House officials now cast those exchanges with Kim as a negotiating tactic to bring the mercurial autocrat to the negotiating table, culminating in last month’s Singapore summit. But despite Trump’s pronouncements that he is “very happy” with the results of the summit, the North has yet to take concrete steps toward denuclearizing, nor has it returned the remains of some U.S. service members, as was promised as part of the two-page agreement signed in Singapore.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t rule out that the latest tweet about Iran was a similar negotiating gambit. “I’m not going to get into the president’s strategy,” she said Monday. “But I think he’s very clear about what he’s not going to allow to take place.”

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