eyes on the U.S.

Yes He Can! An Astonished World Reacts To Trump’s Republican Victory

Trump's triumph
Trump's triumph

A brash yellow-haired billionaire with no political experience and a willingness to spew racism and sexism is now virtually guaranteed to be the Republican party nominee for president. Donald Trump, mes amis, is huuuge front-page news around the world:

Le Monde, France

The Times, UK

Dagens Nyheter, Denmark

Trump’s victory in the Indiana primary on Tuesday, which led his last two remaining rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich to drop out of the race, prompted a mix of stupor, alarm and sarcasm from the international press. This week’s global roundup of the U.S. election begins with some notable headlines:

"America's Trump nightmare has arrived"

(The Guardian, UK)

"Businessman who began his campaign as a joke has the last laugh"

(Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil)

"The ‘Real Donald Trump’ Remains"

(Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany)

"Donstoppable! Cruz drops out"

(New Zealand Herald, New Zeland)

"Anti-Trump camp grasping at straws"

(Dagens Nyheter, Sweden)

"Trump: from laughingstock to presidential candidate"

(NRC Handelsblad, Netherlands)

But beyond his big mouth and bad manners, global coverage has also focused on the fact that Trump, if victorious in November, would arrive with the most isolationist foreign policy in memory.

Yuriko Koike â€" a former defense minister and national security adviser, and current member of Japan’s Lower House â€" wonders: "Is it possible that a substantial bloc of Americans today really wants to pull up the drawbridges and embrace isolationism?"

In an editorial in The Japan Times, Koike notes that Japan has particular reason to be unnerved by the rise of The Donald, given Trump’s dark insinuations about a nuclear arms race in Asia and the stability of U.S.-Japan relations.

"For Japan and other U.S. allies, an isolationist America remains a distant prospect," she writes. "But as we watch Britain prepare for its referendum on EU membership, doubts begin to creep in. There, a small-minded sector of the Conservative Party has played on almost the same sentiments as Trump to stoke political rage and turn ‘Brexit’ into a real possibility."

France’s Libération offers a map of the world according to Trump, where Russia appears with the label "Putin, I love this guy!" Europe, meanwhile, is marked as a "No-Go zone," Belgium "is like a horror movie," and of course, the U.S. border is sealed off from Mexico with a "big, big wall paid for by the Mexicans."

In his coverage of the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the Sydney Morning Herald’s chief foreign correspondent Paul McGeough observes that the biggest joke of all is on Americans, "as they come to terms with the awful reality that, come November, Trump could be stepping out as leader of the free world."

Not a populist

Writing for Spanish daily El Paìs, Héctor E. Schamis takes issue with the media’s frequent application of the "populist" label to Trump.

"Trump brings with him none of that idea of community typical of rural American populism," Schamis asserts, adding that the GOP candidate has no connection to Latin American or European variations on the theme, either. "He isn’t populist, although he certainly is a demagogue, quite literally. He’s never one for metaphors, in spite of his tremendous ability to speak without saying anything, his exaggerations and his particular tendency to cite nonexistent statistics."

Switzerland’s Le Temps also takes an interest in the language of the American campaign, analyzing the primary candidates’ speech patterns using a computer program. Among the conclusions: Beyond the verb "to be," Trump’s most used words are "I" and "me."

"Are we moving from ‘Yes, we can,’ to ‘Yes, I can’?" asks writer Jacques Savoy.

Reality check

Danish daily Jyllands-Posten says that Trump is gradually morphing into a viable candidate. The editorial board suggests, that while the real estate mogul is hardly an attractive candidate, who often shot from the hip early on in his campaign, "he has now hired an experienced staff that knows how to assist a president, and this has positively influenced his recent performances."

In Italy, Corriere della Sera columnist Beppe Severgnini reflects on the awkward way in which Matteo Salvini â€" leader of the country’s right-wing, separatist Northern League party â€" has been cozying up to the Republican candidate.

"Don’t hold it against me, Matteo Salvini. But that picture you took with Donald Trump looks like one of those snapped at the end of a wedding reception, when a distant cousin â€" his collar unbuttoned and his eyes glazed over â€" sidles up to the groom and hugs him," Severgnini writes. "The groom in question, Donald Trump, might barely know who cousin Salvini from Padania, Italy, is, and considering his knowledge of the world, one could hardly expect otherwise. But in the end, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the leader of the League went all the way to Philadelphia for that picture."

Santiago, Chile-based business magazine America Economia reminds readers that if Trump wins the presidential election, his Slovenian wife Melania will be America’s first European first lady in almost 200 years. The Latin American monthly quotes Stane Jerko, a 79-year-old photographer and fashion icon from former Yugoslavia, as saying that "as first lady, she would become a fashion icon, like Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama. All designers would fight for her."

On the Democratic side

International coverage of the campaign has not been all about Trump, especially as Bernie Sanders continues to garner support among Democrats even as Hillary Clinton still appears headed to the nomination. Reporting on the skepticism many young American blacks are showing toward Clinton, Jeune Afrique’s Jean-Eric Boulin observes that "If she clinches the nomination in July â€" and that seems likely â€" she’ll owe her success, in large part, to the black community. And yet, the perfect relationship is quietly turning sour, especially with young people. It’s not yet a domestic squabble, but it’s starting to look like one."

From Australia’s The Age featured a story entitled "Bernie Sanders Breaks a Taboo." The taboo in question: criticizing Israeli policy toward Palestinians in the occupied territories. "He has broken a taboo. He is the first political figure in the history of the presidential race to do so, especially as a person of Jewish faith, and just prior to the crucial New York primary, in which the Jewish votes really matter. What has driven Sanders to take a huge risk to tackle the subject matter head on?"

Bernie And Donald Shake Up Trade

Though Sanders is unlikely to make it to the November general election, Le Monde columnist Alain Frachon notes that he shares something with Donald Trump: The two candidates have challenged decades of conventional wisdom on free trade and global economic policy.

Here’s an excerpt from Worldcrunch’s English version of the Le Monde piece: "The way we perceive free trade, or globalization, will never be the same as it was before this presidential campaign. Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ pointed criticisms of the system resonated with voters, whether Republican or Democrat. Their criticisms go far beyond economics. They’re part of a broader protest movement against globalization and increasingly porous national borders, with the resulting migration flows, trade competition and uncontrolled capital flows. Dismissing these stances as "populist" is pointless. It would be better to question the root causes of the angry chorus that is being heard from both sides of the Atlantic. What is it all about, then? It is likely a reaction to an ever-growing sense of vulnerability stemming from the combined impact of the technological revolution and globalization. Some of the effects are well known: an increase in inequalities, and a stagnation of middle-class incomes.

Read the full article, How The 2016 Campaign Has Rewritten Debate On Economics.

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020


Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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