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Trump's French flip on Syria

French President Emmanuel Macron and President Trump shake hands at a meeting during the UN General Assembly last year. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron claimed in a television interview that France has convinced President Trump that it is "necessary" to remain in Syria "long-term," according to the AFP.

Why this matters: If Trump follows through on this alleged commitment to Macron, it would be one of the biggest and most abrupt foreign policy reversals in his presidency. Trump has demanded for months — over the objections of his national security team — that his administration withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

"Ten days ago, President Trump was saying the United States of America had a duty to disengage from Syria," said Macron, according to Agence France-Presse White House correspondent Jérôme Cartillier.

  • "We convinced him it was necessary to stay. I assure you, we have convinced him that it is necessary to stay for the long-term."

Trump thinks Syria is a "dump" that probably can't be fixed — though he'd be happy to let Russia try. He thinks it's a waste of lives and money and that the U.S. gets "nothing" for its involvement in Syria, according to multiple sources familiar with his thinking.

  • However, when Trump sees the images of gassed children, he flips in the other direction and issues missiles to Syria — as he did on Friday and last year when news reports and allied intelligence indicated Assad had used chemical weapons to murder Syrian civilians.

But, but, but: Trump's apparent reversal on Syria wouldn't be the first time he's backflipped on the foreign policy instincts he trumpeted during the campaign. Last year, Trump told his aides over and over that he wanted to get out of Afghanistan — citing the same arguments he used for Syria and previously to argue that the Iraq War was a waste of lives and money. But his national security team, led by Defense Secretary James Mattis, ultimately persuaded Trump to keep America in Afghanistan.

WH response: I've asked the White House whether it's true that Macron persuaded Trump to stay the course in Syria. We will update you when we hear back. (Though we suspect Trump may tweet before that happens!)

Axios 20 mins ago
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Lifting of Saudi Arabia's movie ban signals cultural shift

Saudi ministers and AMC executives at the first movie screening in the country since the 1980s. Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Hollywood blockbuster "Black Panther" premiered in Saudi Arabia's first movie theater for the first time on Wednesday evening in a groundbreaking moment for the country, AP's Aya Batrawy reports from Riyadh.

Why it matters: The screening was private and invitation-only, but it was a clear marker of change in the country as it ushers in a new era of progressivism for the country.

Mike Allen 56 mins ago
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David Cameron's new project: fragile states

Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron is in Washington today for the release of "Escaping the fragility trap," a report on fragile states by a commission he chaired.

Why it matters: "State fragility drives some of the biggest problems in our world today: extreme poverty, mass migration, terrorism, trafficking, and more."