Stuck In The Middle With EU
June 19, 2019
“Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There is too much fraternizing with the enemy.”
– Henry Kissinger
Stuck In The Middle With EU
President Trump’s jingoistic approach to international diplomacy has traded calm for crisis, and nowhere is that more apparent than what’s happening vis-a-vis Iran. The 2015 nuclear deal may not have been perfect, but by pulling America out last year and reinstituting punishing sanctions Trump has placed America’s national security and that of her European allies in a decidedly more precarious position.
Europe’s leaders saw the nuclear deal as important for their own security and for the stability of the Middle East. They wanted to encourage Iran to keep in compliance, because pursuit of a nuclear weapon by an unrestrained Tehran could lead to war with Iran on one side and the US and Israel on the other. European officials were also troubled by Washington’s ready use of extraterritorial sanctions that affected their countries, so last January Britain, France and Germany created their own trade channel called INSTEX, for Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges. It was intended to bypass Trump’s punitive banking sanctions and enable Tehran to keep doing business with the rest of the world.
However, six months later European leaders are finding themselves caught in the place they most feared when Trump left the deal 13 months ago — the middle of escalating tensions between Iran and the US. Tehran’s Atomic Energy Agency announced Monday it will continue stockpiling uranium and exceeding enrichment limits, in violation of the 2015 accord, unless Europe can solve its economic problems caused by the sanctions. And Washington wants Europeans to help pressure Iran to enter humiliating new negotiations aimed at shutting down its nuclear program entirely, limiting its missile programs, and restricting its regional ambitions. At a time when America needs allies it is doing the exact opposite.
- Pentagon Sending 1,000 More U.S. Troops To Middle East (NPR)
- The Strait of Hormuz: A U.S.-Iran Maritime Flash Point: The narrow and congested Mideast waterway has become a site of escalating U.S.-Iran tensions. Conflict in the wake of tanker attacks there could jolt global oil supplies. (CFR)
- U.S. Resident Imprisoned In Iran On Spying Charges Returns To America (NPR)
Germany’s Seesaw Leans Right
- The chief of Germany’s domestic intelligence service, which is investigating the murder of a pro-refugee politician, has revealed that nearly 13,000 violent rightwing extremists are now living in the country.
- Thomas Haldenwang, head of the BfV, spoke at a press conference in which he released the first concrete details about the main suspect in the murder of Walter Lübcke, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party. Expressing concern about the scale of the problem, Haldenwang said: “We currently have 12,700 rightwing extremists willing to use violence in Germany, and it’s difficult to have an eye on them all.”
- Lübcke was shot outside his home in Kassel June 2. The brutal attack shocked the country, and investigators are trying to determine whether the suspect operated as a lone wolf or as part of a neo-Nazi terror network. (Guardian)
- Germany’s Angela Merkel ‘fine’ after seen shaking in heatwave: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is fine, after she was seen trembling as she greeted Ukraine’s president on a boiling day in Berlin. (BBC)
- As Far Right Rises, a Battle Over Security Agencies Grows (NYT, $)
Survival Of The Diplomatist
- Dozens of people demonstrated outside the main government office in Quito on Monday, protesting Ecuador’s decision to allow US military planes to use an airstrip on one of the Galapagos Islands for anti-narcotics flights. The islands, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, lie 563 miles west of the South American continent and are renowned for their unique plants and wildlife. The archipelago is visited by a quarter million tourists each year, and has been described as a “living museum and a showcase for evolution.”
- Ecuador’s defense minister provoked patriotic and environmental outrage last week when he said that US aircraft could use the airbase on San Cristóbal Island, and noted the islands were a “natural aircraft carrier.”
- A former Ecuadorian president tweeted: “Galápagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use. It is an Ecuadorian province, world heritage site, homeland.” (Guardian)
Putin Pulls Out Of Venezuela
- Embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has been relying on Russia for economic support, but there are signs that relationship is fraying.
- Russian president Vladimir Putin has enabled Maduro to continue his grip on power, but that grip has helped plunge Venezuela into deeper political crisis. Ultimately it is Venezuela’s economic collapse that has motivated Russian banks, grain exporters and weapons manufacturers to curtail doing business with the bankrupt country to protect their own bottom lines.
- The Russian government is now refusing to issue Venezuela new credit lines, to commit to new investments, or even to provide relief on existing debt. Apparently there are limits to Putin’s strategy of propping up an ally and antagonizing the Trump administration. (NYT)
Facebook Funny Money
- Over the past few months bitcoin has risen significantly: ‘Bitcoin is easily going to take out its all-time highs’: Fundstrat’s Tom Lee (CNBC)
- As a technology company-country its surveillance of its users surpasses North Korea or China. It is also ruled by a corporate autocrat and it is now the largest technology company with its own currency.
- Is it only a matter of time before Google, Amazon, and Apple adopt their own currencies or will historians cite this decision to build a Facebook currency as just one more example of Mark Zuckerberg reenacting Icarus? #Techopolies
- Libra: Facebook launches cryptocurrency in bid to shake up global finance: Digital currency will let billions of users make transactions, but is already facing opposition from US lawmakers amid privacy concerns (Guardian)
- Facebook announces Libra cryptocurrency: All you need to know: The use cases, technology and motive behind the new digital money (Techcrunch)
- Facebook Token Runs Into Instant Political Opposition in Europe (Bloomberg)
Can’t Defend Against These Allegations
- On Tuesday President Trump withdrew the nomination of acting defense secretary and former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan to become permanent defense secretary. Shanahan announced his resignation as a routine FBI investigation continued into his divorce and his ex-wife’s allegations of domestic violence.
- According to court documents, in 2011 Shanahan’s 17-year-old son hit his mother repeatedly with a baseball bat, resulting in her hospitalization. At the time Shanahan flew from Seattle to Florida and stayed with his son for several days before his son turned himself in to authorities.
- Trump named former Raytheon executive Mark Esper to replace Shanahan as acting defense secretary. The president has had difficulty in permanently filling top jobs in his administration. Both the White House chief of staff and the secretary of homeland security are in acting positions. (NYT)
- Are the U.S. and China on a war footing in space?: Trump wants a Space Force, Beijing is developing weapons it could use in orbit, and ‘there is not a lot of dialogue’ between the two countries. (Politico)
- How America Cheapens War: Drew Magary on Peter Jackson’s unflinching World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old and America’s military-industrial complex. (GQ)
- Let’s Play War: Could war games replace the real thing? (Nautilus)
Additional USA News
- Braininess Is Now the Brand: For a party dependent on highly educated voters, Buttigieg’s rise and Warren’s resurgence foretell the future. (Atlantic)
- Trump Threatens To Deport ‘Millions,’ As He Kicks Off Campaign For Reelection (NPR)
- 2 winners and 4 losers from Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign launch speech: Winners from Trump’s 2020 kickoff rally: Mitch McConnell, William Barr. Losers: Fake news and any sense of perspective. (Vox)
- Echoes of Jaws as Cape Cod learns to live with rise of the great white shark: A booming seal population is drawing the apex predator to the Massachusetts peninsula where contact with humans follows (Guardian)
- No rest for the workers: how the US is out of step on paid leave: A survey of the 21 wealthiest countries has found that the US is the only one not to guarantee paid vacation time (Guardian)
I Plead the Anti-Fifth
- Why do people confess to crimes they didn’t commit? Saul Kassin has studied interrogations by observing them and simulating them in the lab. He says false confessions are not rare. In fact, more than a 25 percent of the 365 people exonerated in recent decades by the nonprofit Innocence Project had confessed to their alleged crime.
- Drawing on more than 30 years of research, Kassin discusses how standard interrogation techniques combine psychological pressures and escape hatches that can easily cause an innocent person to confess.
- Young people, he explains, are particularly vulnerable to confessing, especially when stressed, tired, or traumatized. Rebecca Brown of the Innocence Project calls Kassin one of the godfathers of the innocence movement. (Science)
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” – John F. Kennedy
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