Trump withdraws US from nuclear deal
On Wednesday 9 May papers across the world headlined President Trump’s long anticipated announcement of US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement and the re-imposition of tough sanctions on Tehran.
The UK’s Daily Telegraph highlighted Trump insisting he was keeping a long-held campaign pledge: “When I make promises, I keep them.”
Other papers stressed the divide Trump’s decision opened up with America’s European allies. “Move creates divide with allies and complicated North Korea talks,” reported the New York Times.
NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof concluded that the move “isn’t foreign policy. It’s vandalism.” European papers generally reflected the opposition on the continent to the idea of cancelling the deal. Germany’s Der Spiegel called it “the most dangerous and cavalier foreign policy decision that a US president has made since the 2003 invasion of Iraq,” while its front cover has Trump telling the Europeans what he thinks of them.
France’s Le Figaro’s goes with the effect of the US decision on the region: “Trump’s choice damages Middle East stability.”
Pan-Arab commentators were, by contrast, generally favourable towards the US president’s decision. The Gulf editor of the Saudi-owned Asharq al Awsat reflected a common Gulf view that the Iran nuclear deal was “flawed from the beginning” because it ignored the Iranian ballistic missile programme - producing missiles that have been falling on Saudi cities - and Tehran’s regional militias. Security analyst Mustafa Fahs wrote in the same paper that North Korea’s decision to talk to the US about its nuclear programme was “a clear message to his friends in Tehran that playing with nuclear fire was no longer protecting his regime.”
Israel and Iran on the brink?
The Guardian highlighted fears of a new regional crisis. And these seemed prophetic when Israel launched heavy air raids on Iranian positions in Syria on Wednesday night in response to rocket attacks on the Golan. The result was an outburst of press speculation on war between Tel Aviv and Tehran. Anshel Pfeffer, author of a new biography of Benyamin Netanyahu, argued in the Guardian that the Israeli PM is using the airstrikes in Syria to try to bring about regime change in Teheran.
The editor of the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, Zouheir Kseibati, argued that regional war is coming, because the US wants to destroy Iran economically and Israel sees a “golden opportunity” to destroy Iranian bases in Syria.
Xi meets Kim to send message to Trump
The meeting this week in China between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping was reported by the official China Daily as a chance to discuss tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
But the Washington Post saw the meeting more as a move by President Xi to send a signal to his American counterpart that China will not be side-lined in any deal between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington.
Mahathir’s dramatic victory in Malaysia
This week saw an extraordinary political comeback in the Malaysian elections for Mahathir Mohamad, who at 92 becomes the world’s oldest elected prime minister. His victory pushed the ruling coalition out of power for the first time in 60 years.
But Kevin Rafferty in the South China Morning Post asks if Mahathir Mohamed, noted for his autocratic tendencies when last in power, will really tackle the corruption and kleptocracy he campaigned against. “Mahathir must right past wrongs and protect the rule of law,” he warned.