Iran, Syria, Trade Hover Over Macron’s US Visit
U.S. President Donald Trump has officially welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron with an arrival ceremony Tuesday at the White House before the leaders hold official talks and attend a state dinner.
The ceremony included nearly 500 service members from all five branches of the U.S. military, while Trump’s first state dinner will feature entertainment by the Washington National Opera company.
Tuesday’s bilateral meeting comes with several issues of global importance confronting the governments of both countries, including the war in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program and Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel imports.
Trump takes great pride in his friendship with Macron, which is one of the reasons he invited the French president to be his guest for the first state visit of a foreign leader in his administration.
“This visit is very important in our current context, with so many uncertainties, troubles, and at times, threats,” Macron said upon arriving in Washington.
Macron will likely use part of his White House talks to try and persuade Trump not to pull out of the six-nation nuclear deal with Iran. Trump has constantly called it a bad agreement. He faces a May 12 deadline to again waive economic sanctions against Iran as part of the agreement.
Iran would regard the reimposition of sanctions as killing the deal and threatens to restart its nuclear program.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told supporters Tuesday there would be severe consequences if the United States withdraws from the agreement.
Benham Ben Taliblu, an Iran expert with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told VOA that if the United States pulled out, the Iranian reaction would depend on the way in which that happens.
“If the U.S. pulls out with a statement that says the U.S. is abrogating all its commitments under the deal, then I think the Iranians would look to try to try to create some sort of leverage, restart part of their nuclear program, but most importantly the Iranians would sic the Europeans and the international community on America and try to isolate America,” he said.
Macron has said he knows the deal with Iran is not perfect but said there is no “Plan B.”
Trump also has until May 1 to waive tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports or face a possible trade war.
The French president will also likely talk to Trump about what Macron said is the importance of U.S. forces remaining in Syria. Trump has talked about withdrawing Americans from northern Syria. Macron said that would increase the risk of giving up Syria to the Assad regime and Iran.
Shortly after his arrival in Washington Monday, Macron and his wife, Brigitte, along with Trump and first lady Melania Trump, planted a young tree on the South Lawn of the White House. It came from the Belleau Wood, where more than 9,000 American Marines died in a 1918 World War I battle on French soil.
The Macrons and Trumps also took a helicopter tour of famous Washington tourist attractions before touching down at Mount Vernon, the 18th century estate of America’s first president, George Washington, where they had dinner.
Macron will address Congress on Wednesday before heading back to Paris.
VOA’s Victor Beattie contributed to this story.