Age: 56 |
Birth City: آبادان |
Joined on October 02, 2012
21 shot — 3 killed — Saturday in Chicago gun violence
Three people were killed and 18 others were wounded in gun violence Saturday across Chicago, including seven people caught in a mass shooting on the West Side.
Over half of the victims suffered gunshots in a series of three fatal shootings over a period of about 30 minutes near the end of the day >>>
A woman was shot and killed when a gunman ran into a Los Angeles supermarket where he held dozens of people hostage for about three hours on Saturday before handcuffing himself and surrendering to police.
About two hours before taking the hostages, police say the man shot his grandmother seven times and wounded another woman whom he forced into a car. Police chased the vehicle and exchanged gunfire with the man, who crashed into a pole outside Trader Joe’s in the city’s Silver Lake suburb and ran into the store >>>
A cardiologist who once treated the former US president George HW Bush has been fatally shot by another cyclist while riding through a Houston medical complex. Police were trying to determine if the shooting was random or a targeted act.
The shooting happened around 9am on Friday as Dr Mark Hausknecht was going northbound through the Texas Medical Center, said Troy Finner of Houston police.
“The suspect was on a bicycle as well. Rode past the doctor, turned and fired two shots. The doctor immediately went down,” Finner said. Hausknecht, 65, hit at least once, was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died >>>
White House Weighs Allowing Russia to Question Ex-U.S. Envoy
Wall Street Journal: The White House is reviewing a request by Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow Russian investigators to question a number of Americans they say are implicated in criminal activity, including a former U.S. ambassador, a spokeswoman said.
The White House decision to weigh the proposal rather than dismiss it outright prompted alarm among former diplomats and on Capitol Hill.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed Wednesday that Mr. Putin and President Donald Trump discussed a desire by Russian authorities to question a number of U.S. citizens, including Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama who now lectures at Stanford University.
Asked at Wednesday’s daily briefing whether Mr. Trump was “open to having U.S. officials questioned by Russia” including Mr. McFaul, Ms. Sanders replied, “There was some conversation about it but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States. The president will work with his team, and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.”
As ambassador, Mr. McFaul was an architect of Mr. Obama’s attempted reset with Moscow, but was sometimes critical of the Kremlin, a posture which brought intrusive Russian media scrutiny and official accusations that his mission was to undermine the country’s leadership.
Mr. McFaul told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday he was “deeply disappointed that the White House had the chance to denounce this crazy invented tale about U.S. government officials being somehow involved in breaking Russian laws and decided not to do so.”
Other former U.S. officials also reacted with chagrin.
“Those who serve the U.S. government must know that they will not be put in jeopardy, or offered up as bargaining chips to authoritarian dictators,” said Dan Shapiro, who was ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration. “President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the administration need to shut this travesty down immediately.”
Democratic senators also pressed the White House to reject Mr. Putin’s proposal.
“We’re not turning @McFaul or any other American public servant over to Russia to be prosecuted for nonexistent crimes,” tweeted Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The White House should make that clear immediately.”
In a separate briefing Wednesday afternoon, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert was asked about Ms. Sanders’s comments. She said she hadn’t seen the remarks and couldn’t address them, but dismissed as “absurd” the allegations that Russia was making about U.S. citizens.
“We do not stand by those assertions that the Russian government makes,” said Ms. Nauert. “I will be sure to look into it and understand that it would be a grave concern to our former colleagues here.”
The new White House comments came two days after the idea of allowing Russian officials access to Americans was first publicly broached at the press conference held by Messrs. Trump and Putin in Helsinki.
On Monday, Mr. Putin cited the case of William Browder, a U.S.-born investment-fund manager and thorn in the Putin government’s side, as a potential area of cooperation between Russian and U.S. investigators. Mr. Putin said he would be willing to give the U.S. access to Russians, such as the 12 intelligence officials recently indicted in the U.S. election meddling case, if the U.S. were willing to give Russia access to its targets.
Mr. Browder led a campaign to expose corruption and punish Russian officials whom he blamed for the 2009 death of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The U.S. subsequently passed the Magnitsky Act, which put sanctions on Russian officials for alleged human-rights abuses. That act has been a point of contention between the U.S. and Russia, and Moscow convicted Mr. Browder in absentia of financial crimes last year. Mr. Browder has maintained his innocence and called the trial a farce.
Mr. Putin said Monday that Russia wanted to question U.S. officials in the Browder matter. Alexander Kurennoi, a spokesman for the Russian attorney general’s office, told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday that Mr. McFaul is one of the Americans suspected of involvement in Mr. Browder’s purported illegal activities.
“I am not an ‘associate’ of Bill Browder,” Mr. McFaul wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “I am the former US ambassador to Russia. Putin is seeking to arrest a former Ambassador. Please understand how outrageous this act is, discussed no less between our two presidents.”
Mr. McFaul was denied a Russian visa in June 2014 and subsequently banned from entering the country, in what he says was a response to U.S. sanctions and his service in the Obama administration.
Speaking late Wednesday at a security conference in Aspen, Colo., Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray was dismissive of Mr. Putin’s suggestion that Russia and U.S investigators could jointly look into allegations that Moscow meddled in the U.S. election.
Mr. Wray said as far as the FBI is concerned, “I never want to say never, but it’s certainly not high on our list of investigative techniques.”
A President With No Shame and a Party With No Spine
Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times: If your puppy makes a mess on your carpet and you shout “Bad dog,” there is a good chance that that puppy’s ears will droop, his head will bow and he may even whimper. In other words, even a puppy acts ashamed when caught misbehaving. That is not true of Donald Trump. Day in and day out, he proves to us that he has no shame. We’ve never had a president with no shame — and it’s become a huge source of power for him and trouble for us.
And what makes Trump even more powerful and problematic is that this president with no shame is combined with a party with no spine and a major network with no integrity — save for a few real journalists at Fox News like the outstanding Chris Wallace.
When a president with no shame is backed by a party with no spine and a network with no integrity, you have two big problems.
First, there is no one inside his party or base who is going to sustainably stop Trump from being himself and doing whatever he bloody pleases. The Republican Party has completely lost its way. Don’t be fooled by the last-second tut-tutting of G.O.P. senators about Trump’s kowtowing to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and spurning of our intelligence agencies.
Until and unless the G.O.P.-led Congress passes legislation that protects special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by Trump or enacts into law specific, deeper sanctions on Russia if it is ever again caught trying to tilt our elections — or secures Trump’s tax returns or the transcript of his two hours and 10 minutes of private conversation with Putin — it’s all just talk to cover the G.O.P.’s behind.
Let the Republicans in Congress do something hard and concrete that shows they love our country more than they fear Trump’s base and I will believe their words.
I can’t say it better than Michael Gerson, the former George W. Bush speechwriter, did in The Washington Post Monday: “Much of the G.O.P. is playing down Russian aggression. And it is actively undermining the investigation of that aggression. Trump’s political tools have become Putin’s useful idiots. The party of national strength has become an obstacle to the effective protection of the country.”
The G.O.P. has lost its way because it has been selling itself for years to whoever could keep it in power, and that is now Trump and his base. And Trump’s base actually hates the people who hate Trump — i.e., liberals who they think look down on members of the base — more than it cares about Trump. This is about culture, not politics, and culture doesn’t change with the news cycle. And neither do business models — and Fox News’s business model is to feed, and feed off of, that culture war by allowing many of its commentators to be Trump’s parrots and bullhorns.
The fact that Trump’s party and his network always look for ways to excuse him has been hugely liberating for Trump. He can actually deny he said things that were recorded — like his trashing of the British prime minister. He can take one side of any issue (like trashing key NATO allies to satisfy his base) and, when he gets blowback, take the other side (claim to love the Atlantic alliance). And he can declare that he really meant to ask why “wouldn’t” Russia be the one hacking us instead of why “would” it, as he did say. If you believe that last one, I have a bridge near the Kremlin I’d love to sell you.
“Hey, give him a break,” say Trump’s supporters, “there is a method to his madness.” And that is true. What they don’t admit, though, is that there is tremendous madness to Trump’s method. And then, there is just his sheer madness — ideas he holds that are ignorant gut impulses that bear no relation to science, math or history.
For instance, Trump is right: We do need to confront China on its trade restrictions, forced technology transfers and nonreciprocal trade arrangements. But then, look at the madness to his methods. How would you try to influence China on trade if you were thinking strategically?
For starters, you’d sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership, creating a free-trade alliance around American values, standards and interests, with 11 other Pacific economies, creating a trade agreement covering 40 percent of global G.D.P. Then you’d forgo ridiculous steel and aluminum tariffs on our European Union allies and sign them all up instead to join us in our efforts to curb China’s trade abuses, which the E.U. suffers from just as much as we do.
Then you’d go to the Chinese and say: “Let’s have secret negotiations — no one will lose face, we will present it publicly as win-win — but, just so you know, we will be coming at you with a Euro-Pacific coalition of all your major trading partners and we will be focused on eliminating all your cheating on W.T.O. rules and nonreciprocal trade shenanigans once and for all.”
Now that would get the attention of China — not a foolish trade war based on bilateral trade deficits. But what did Trump do with his method? Blow up TPP, blow up relations with the E.U. and confront China alone — an utterly mad method that I do not believe will produce the meaningful, sustainable trade realignment with China that we need.
And then there is the sheer madness. Threatening the U.K. that if it doesn’t do a full Brexit it will not get preferential trade treatment from Trump, calling the bloc a “foe” on trade, and sneering at the number of refugees it has admitted.
Where do you start? The E.U. is the United States of Europe — the other great center in the world of free markets, free people, liberty and democracy. It has kept the peace in Europe after a century of strife there — that dragged us into two world wars — and its economic growth as a trading partner has made both America and the E.U. steadily richer and more stable. It is sheer madness to believe that it is in U.S. interests to see the European Union fracture!
Ask any senior U.S. military officer and you’ll be told that our greatest strategic competitive advantage is that we have a network of allies, like the E.U., and the Russians and Chinese do not. They only have customers and vassals. Why would we give that up for closer ties to Putin? >>>
Trump sits down with Putin after denouncing past U.S. policy on Russia
Reuters: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin arrived at the presidential palace in Finland for a long-awaited summit on Monday after Trump blamed Washington’s own past “foolishness and stupidity” for bad relations.
The Russian foreign ministry “liked” Trump’s comments on Twitter ahead of the summit, in which Trump denounced the investigation into Russian meddling in American elections as well as previous U.S. policy.
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” wrote Trump.
The two leaders were due to start their summit in the Finland capital Helsinki with no one else in the room apart from interpreters. They were scheduled to hold a working lunch accompanied by aides later on Monday before speaking to media.
The Kremlin said it did not expect much from the meeting but hoped it would be a “first step” to resolving a crisis in ties.
“Presidents Trump and Putin respect each other and they get along well,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “There is no clear agenda. It will be determined by the heads of state themselves as they go along.”
The summit comes at a time when relations between the two superpowers are widely seen on both sides to be at their lowest point since the Cold War. Trump has repeatedly said it would be in the U.S. interest to improve those ties.
Critics and Trump’s own advisers have urged Trump to use the summit to press Putin hard about “malign” activities, from annexing Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula to interfering in Western elections, to poisoning a spy in England, which Moscow denies.
During a breakfast meeting with Finland’s president before the meeting with Putin in the Finnish capital, Trump appeared upbeat. Asked what he would say to Putin, Trump said: “We’ll do just fine, thank you.”
While Trump has been abroad since last week, the special prosecutor investigating allegations that Russia interfered to help him win the 2016 presidential election indicted 12 Russians on Friday for stealing Democratic Party documents.
“WHICH TEAM DO YOU PLAY FOR?”
Trump’s foes at home have been scathing about his apparent refusal to criticize Putin. His 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Great World Cup. Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”
Russia denies interfering in the U.S. presidential election. The state RIA news agency quoted a Russian source as saying Moscow was “ready to discuss, ready to undertake mutual obligations of non-intervention into internal matters”.
Trump has said he will raise the election meddling but does not expect to get anywhere. He has repeatedly noted that Putin denies it, while also saying that it is alleged to have taken place before he became president.
For Putin, that the summit is even happening despite Russia’s semi-pariah status among some Americans and U.S. allies is a geopolitical win.
The countries are expected to discuss the prospect of extending a nuclear disarmament treaty, and the war in Syria, where Russian-backed forces of President Bashar al-Assad have advanced in the south of the country in recent weeks despite a ceasefire brokered by Moscow and Washington under Trump.
The summit caps a trip abroad during which Trump sternly criticized NATO allies for failing to spend enough on their militaries and embarrassed British Prime Minister Theresa May by saying she refused to take his advice about how to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU. He referred to the European Union itself as a “foe” in trade, and repeatedly criticized it.
In some of the strongest words yet reflecting the unease of Washington’s traditional allies, Germany’s foreign minister said on Monday Europe could not rely on Trump.
“We can no longer completely rely on the White House,” Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group. “To maintain our partnership with the USA we must readjust it. The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe.”
Trump has predicted he will be accused of being too soft on Putin no matter how the summit goes.
“If I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia...I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough – that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!” he tweeted on Sunday.
Russia ready to invest $50bn in Iran’s energy industry
The Financial Times: Iran has touted $50bn worth of potential Russian investments in its oil and gas sector as it seeks to deepen its relationship with Moscow, amid mounting pressure from the US to curb the country’s energy exports and diplomatically isolate Tehran.
Russia has sought to use its vast oil and gas industry to build stronger links with Iran, as part of a strategy to increase its role in the Middle East. This includes supporting the government of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war, as relations with the west sour and US sanctions force it to look for new trade and investment partners.
“Russia is ready to invest $50bn in Iran’s oil and gas sectors,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, said during a visit to Moscow that included a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. “Military and technical co-operation with Russia is of major importance to Iran.”
Russia’s relationship with Iran is likely to be a key element of talks between Mr Putin and US president Donald Trump in Helsinki on Monday. Mr Trump is expected to demand that Mr Putin move to curb Iranian influence in Syria, and may threaten further sanctions if Russian companies continue doing business with Tehran.
Mr Velayati, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s top diplomat, also used a media interview during his visit to say that a Russian oil company had already signed a $4bn deal with Iran that “will be implemented soon”, without providing details. He added: “Two other major Russian oil companies, Rosneft and Gazprom, have started talks with Iran’s oil ministry to sign contracts worth up to $10bn.”
A Russian government official confirmed the $50bn investment plans on condition of anonymity. Gazprom and Rosneft did not respond to requests for comment.
Separately, Russia’s energy minister Alexander Novak said on Friday that Moscow was interested in developing an oil-for-goods program that would see Iranian companies buy Russian products in exchange for oil contracts to be sold to third countries.
The suggestion of deeper co-operation between the two countries’ energy industries comes eight months after Russian companies signed preliminary agreements to invest up to $30bn in Iran’s oil industry, as part of a visit by Mr Putin to Tehran.
However, there is little significant history of energy or economic co-operation between the two countries. After Iran signed the nuclear accord with major powers in 2015, the government of President Hassan Rouhani preferred to work with European oil majors and signed a $4.8bn deal with France’s Total.
But Mr Trump’s decision to rip up that accord and threaten to sanction companies that trade in Iranian oil has led Tehran to work with Moscow. Hardline Iranian politicians have urged Mr Rouhani’s government to expand co-operation with Russia and China to replace European companies unwilling to risk the wrath of Washington.
This year, Russia’s Zarubezhneft and Iranian quasi-private Dana Energy signed a $740m contract for the Aban and West Paydar joint oilfields, the biggest contract to develop an oilfield between the two countries.
While support from Moscow has allowed Tehran to maintain its regional and defence policies, Mr Putin’s decision to also build warm ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, has created unease in the Islamic Republic.
The Kremlin’s delicate geopolitical balancing act in the Middle East — Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Mr Putin a day before Mr Velayati — may founder over Syria, where both Moscow and Tehran are vying for influence in the post-conflict state.
The US, alongside Israel, is insistent that Iran should not be allowed to use the war to gain a foothold in the country, something Russia has countered. Mr Velayati said on Friday that Iran’s presence in Syria was co-ordinated with Moscow and Damascus, and that Tehran saw no gain in negotiating with the US.
“Iranians and Russians will [continue to] stay in Syria to ensure terrorists can no longer be active in that country,” Mr Velayati said at an event held by the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow. “Iran’s presence in Syria has nothing to do with Israel while Iran sees no reason to materialise Israeli wishes.”
The big winner of the NATO summit? Putin.
Vox: Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to divide NATO. President Donald Trump is doing that for him.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things Trump did when he arrived at the NATO summit this week:
He blasted allies for not spending enough on defense, calling them “delinquent” and even suggesting they double their commitments.
He repeatedly interrupted NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, at one point making Stoltenberg praise him.
He insulted Germany, calling it a “captive to Russia” because it imports energy from the country.
And all of that took place at the opening breakfast of the two-day summit. It just got worse from there.
Trump arrived 30 minutes late to a meeting on Russian aggression, skipped at least two scheduled meetings with world leaders, and threatened to “go it alone” if European allies didn’t pay more, seeming to suggest he might pull the US out of NATO.
Things got so bad that Stoltenberg canceled Thursday afternoon’s meetings to call an emergency session to hear out Trump’s concerns.
Trump ultimately declared the summit a success in a bizarre impromptu press conference shortly after, claiming he got allies to pay up for defense and declaring himself “a very stable genius.” (French President Emmanuel Macron disputes that NATO countries agreed to Trump’s demands.)
But it was too little, too late. “The damage had already been done,” says Rachel Rizzo, a European security expert at the Center for a New American Security think tank. Close US allies were insulted, the stability of the alliance was shaky, and the US commitment to the defense of Europe was uncertain at best.
Putin couldn’t have orchestrated it better himself.
Putin wants to undermine and divide NATO
NATO, which stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was formed in 1949 by the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and several other European countries. The goal was to create a powerful military alliance to contain Soviet expansionism after World War II.
While NATO leaders probably wouldn’t say this publicly, the alliance still exists mainly as a way to deter Russian aggression on the European continent. The alliance’s Article 5 provision, which states an attack on one is an attack on all, helps to keep Moscow from invading any of NATO’s 29 members, especially those in Eastern Europe. Indeed, if Putin ordered an invasion of, say, Estonia, then the US would be treaty-bound to come to Tallinn’s aid. Putin, surely, doesn’t want to start a war with America.
So instead of all-out war, Putin has long tried to divide and undermine the NATO alliance. For instance, he’s interfered in the elections of NATO members in favor of pro-Russia candidates held large-scale military exercises on the alliance’s eastern flank. Threatening NATO political and militarily leads allies to question their own security the commitment of their friends.
It’s one thing for the president of Russia to actively undermine a military alliance that basically exists to thwart his ambitions. It’s another thing entirely when the president of the United States does it.
To be fair, the Trump administration has done a few things to strengthen NATO. It’s increased the number of US troops to Eastern Europe and upped financial help for Europe’s defense.
But Trump’s behavior at the summit is still really bad for NATO, mostly because he keeps attacking allies — dividing the alliance in a way Putin only wishes he could.
“Putin wants to find cracks in this alliance, and he wants to crawl into those cracks and live in those cracks in order to spread them further,” retired Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top military commander from 2013 to 2016, told me. “We don’t need to be building those cracks for him.” Breedlove doesn’t believe Putin necessarily came out on top during the summit, but still thinks there’s a better way for Trump to interact with America’s allies.
How Trump could make it even worse
Trump is flying to Helsinki on July 16 to sit down with Putin for a one-on-one meeting — and experts and NATO allies are afraid that Trump might end up agreeing to things in that meeting that would be good for Russia but bad for the US and NATO.
For instance, Putin could capitalize on Trump’s anger over how much the US spends to defend Europe and his desire for a closer relationship with Russia to convince Trump to suspend NATO military exercises, arguing they cost too much and antagonize Russia.
But that would send shivers down the spines of America’s NATO allies, who view those training exercises as a strong deterrent against Russian aggression.
“Putin doesn’t have to overplay it. He could sympathize with Trump about how NATO is useless, a Cold War relic that is encroaching on Russia’s borders, stirring up trouble,” Jill Dougherty, a Russia expert at the University of Washington, told me. “And he will sit back and watch Trump tear the alliance apart.”
Trump could also recognize Crimea — which Putin illegally seized in 2014 — officially as part of Russia. In June, Trump reportedly told leaders at the G7 summit in Quebec that Crimea might as well belong to Russia because the majority of people there speak Russian — a talking point straight out of the Kremlin.
This would be a huge win for Putin and a massive betrayal of America’s European allies. It would effectively end four years of united US and European policy to push back on Russia’s incursion. If Trump gives up on that push back, it could lead allies to wonder Trump’s commitment to broader European security.
It’s unclear if Trump would agree to any of these things, but it’s a real possibility. On Thursday, reporters at the NATO summit asked Trump if he’d consider canceling NATO military exercises if Putin asked him to. Trump declined to give a definitive answer, merely replying, “Perhaps we’ll talk about that.”
That fact alone — that he wouldn’t rule it out even after spending two days with NATO allies — is the clearest sign of all that Putin has won big.
Iran’s Humiliated Instagram Dancer Stirs a Backlash
The Medialine: Maedeh Hojabri was arrested last May in Iran’s capital of Tehran on charges of spreading indecency after the government discovered the 19-year old’s Instagram page showcasing videos of her dancing in her bedroom. The page was quickly taken down.
Hojabri had posted around 300 videos on the social media platform, many of which showed her dancing in both Iranian and Western styles, and often without the obligatory Islamic headscarf. Sporting a modern pixie cut, Hojabri danced to songs like “Whenever, Wherever” by Shakira and Justin Bieber’s “Let Me Love You.” Her performances attracted a following of more than 600,000 people before the account was suspended.
In the Islamic Republic women are not allowed to dance, at least not in public. They must also wear a headscarf when appearing in public. Although Hojabri danced in the privacy of her own home, broadcasting her dances through a public medium resulted in her arrest and subsequent release on bail.
Maedeh’s fans reportedly wondered where she had disappeared to until last week. During a show called “Wrong Path” broadcast on state television, Hojabri, welling up in tears, admitted that dancing is a crime and that her family had been unaware of her online performances. While the authorities hoped Hojabri’s public shaming would dissuade others from committing such “crimes” in the future, the campaign seems to have ignited a backlash against the government.
Shortly after her appearance, Iranian men and women used several platforms to upload videos of themselves dancing in a show of solidarity with the teen. Thousands more posted images of Hojabri and messages of support under the hashtags “dancing isn’t a crime” and “dance to freedom.”
Explaining this revolt, Alex Vatanka, an expert at The Middle East Institute (MEI), told The Media Line that “Iranian society is far more liberal than the Iranian regime.”
He explained that the country’s secular-minded population is ruled by one of the world’s last remaining theocracies. “There is a group of 60 plus men at the top of the pyramid in Iran who are religious and traditional, and they call the shots in terms of what is decent and what should be allowed.”
Azadeh Kian, an expert at the Paris Diderot University, told The Media Line that “when women let the shape of their bodies be seen, it is considered indecent in Iran.”
The ayatollahs, she explained, have been trying to impose their interpretation of women and Islam on Iranian society for 40 years, except that it is no longer working in the age of globalization and social media. Iranian women, who comprise the majority of the nation’s student body, have been resisting the regime’s precepts ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Vatanka added that authorities went after Hojabri who, unlike other Instagramers, captivated a large and fast-growing audience that threatened the regime. “They wanted to stop a message they deemed un-Islamic before it became uncontrollable.
“The regime is extremely nervous about anything that becomes a symbol of resistance,” Vatanka added. “The teen was arrested and punished to set an example for others who will think twice before putting a similar video out there. And often, it does deter people because they are afraid. No one wants to end up in a prison cell.”
Leila Arakami, an Iranian lawyer and activist, told The Media Line that the regime’s interpretation of Islam is highly political and based on the notion of “ummah.” In the Qur’an, “ummah” refers to the collective community of Islamic peoples. The idea is essentially that all Muslims are a united nation without borders.
Arakami explained that Iranian leaders are trying to build an Islamic state that can claim power over the ummah through more and more restrictions on women. “If you travel to Iran and see women without long black dresses and dancing with their hair blowing in the wind, then they are no different than those in any other country.”
“They [Iranian leaders] want to create a powerful Islamic nation based on the image of a nation of families, which is why controlling women with Sharia law is vital to them.”
Tara Sepehri, an Iranian Human Rights Watch representative, told The Media Line that Hojabri’s fate often depends on the family. If she comes from a secular family or one that does not closely observe Islamic tenants, then her security will not be threatened. In that case, she could very well opt to emigrate like many others who ran afoul of the regime. But if she is from a traditional family, Sepehri added, then the pressure on her to conform will be great.
Based on Iran’s criminal code, Hojabri stands accused of spreading indecency. Sepehri explained that the meaning of “indecency” is not defined by the written law, but will depend on the whims of the judges.
Arakami concluded that Hojabri cannot be charged with a crime based on Iran’s criminal code “because she was doing something in her own home without disturbing or causing problems with any individuals. She used an online space to share her art and express herself.
“She didn’t have bad motives, and there is nothing in Sharia law that says dancing is a crime.”
Trump Just Announced Tariffs on $200 Billion More Chinese Goods
Forbes: Less than a week into the trade war with China, President Trump is already thinking about levying more tariffs against goods imported from that nation to the U.S.
The White House said it was considering additional tariffs of 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports. This would be the third round of tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by the Trump administration and comes shortly after a tariff of 25% went into effect against $34 billion of Chinese goods. While the tariffs wouldn’t go into effect for at least two months, they would be much more aggressive in the range of goods they’d apply to. Here’s what makes these different.
The round of tariffs that went into effect last Friday mainly applied to raw materials imported by American companies. Only about 1% of the items on the list were consumer goods. This round targets a larger number of consumer goods as varied as fish, luggage, tires, dog leashes, baseball gloves, furniture, clothing, mattresses, and some electronics. The Trump administration has tried to limit the impact of the trade war on consumers and any backlash that it might prompt, but the scale of these tariffs make it next to impossible to protect them.
Targeting total exports
A senior White House official told CNBC that the reason for the $200 billion figure was that it’s “roughly equal to their exports to us.” Adding $200 billion in goods to the list of existing tariffs would bring the total value of tariffed goods to $450 billion—just shy of the $505 billion in exports that China sends to the U.S. Trump had threatened this level of escalation as early as last week, before the current tariffs even went into effect.
Made in China 2025
As with previous rounds of tariffs, the new list takes special aim at “Made in China 2025” products. The Chinese government’s industrial strategy to make its goods competitive on the global market, in place since 2015, seems to have been one of the key instigators of Trump’s trade war.
Many Americans—even those the tariffs are ostensibly intended to help—quickly came out against threats of additional tariffs. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said that although he’d supported the previous tariffs, the latest round seemed “reckless.” In addition, the National Association of Manufacturers, which has been silent on previous tariffs, said this round would make U.S. manufacturers less competitive.
History repeats itself. That means Trump’s in trouble.
Richard Cohen, Columnist
The Washington: If you think history repeats itself, consider this: For the past 73 years, the Western alliance has been led by the nations that defeated Nazi Germany, foremost among them the United States. For the past year or so, it has been led by the former Nazi Germany, reformed and reconstituted as a liberal democracy. The United States, it is fair to say, has been going the other way.
Now both are converging. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reluctantly come to grips with the political cost of her admirable migrant policy, promising a sterner application of the laws and closing the door a bit to what had been the flood of Middle Eastern political refugees. She acted after politicians to her right threatened to pull out of the government. They want to make Germany great again.
Off to the side, tweeting in a juvenile fashion, is President Trump. Instead of giving Merkel support, even some sympathy, Trump has been belittling her. In characteristic fashion, he’s gotten almost everything wrong, including alleging an upsurge in crime in Germany committed by Middle Eastern immigrants. Actually, crime is down, but the facts never mattered to Trump. His crime wave is like his inaugural crowd and his own greatness — real only to him.
Merkel is an entirely commendable political leader. When she called on her fellow Germans to welcome nearly 1 million migrants and refugees in 2015, she had the best of intentions. But being a good person is not the same as being a wise leader. It’s now clear that Merkel sorely tested Germany’s tolerance and hospitality. There’s been a backlash. Bavaria, in particular, has had it up to here with migrants. So, too, have nearby countries. The principle of a borderless Europe is gasping for air. Barriers are going up.
Any other American president would have lamented the possible end of a borderless Europe. Any other American president would have recognized that Merkel was doing the humane thing in admitting so many migrants and would have offered moral support. Any other American president would recognize that once history starts marching backward, there’s no telling where it will stop. A borderless Europe, after all, was intended to deal with the disease of virulent nationalism. Twice in the past century, Europe took the world to war. This is a continent that knows how to fall off the wagon.
At the heart of Europe is Germany. It is the continent’s most important country, its largest economy, its most populous country. Its eastern neighbors — Austria, Poland and Hungary — have moved to the right. In Poland and Hungary’s cases, they’re creeping up on authoritarianism. This is nothing new for these countries. They both had illiberal regimes before World War II. They seem to be heading that way again. Germany, too, has a past. Germany, in fact, has the past. It has faced it commendably. It cannot, though, eradicate it. Germany bears watching.
The United States, too, is undergoing an ugly fit of nostalgia. Trump’s anti-migrant demagoguery — a nonexistent crime wave, for instance — is reminiscent of the period from 1917 to 1921 when the United States entered World War I and communists took over Russia. Combined, these events caused Congress to lose its head and mop the floor with the Constitution. Speakers, writers, union leaders and others were arrested, jailed and in some cases deported to the emerging Soviet Union. An imminent threat was seen from Moscow, only 4,857 miles away. The Reds were coming. Now it’s migrants — a threat so dire that children had to be taken from their parents.
The worldwide resurgence of cruel folly is being cheered by the American president. He knows nothing of history. He does not know the reason Europeans with a memory cherish open borders. He does not know why they fear the right. He does not know why, to them, the vilification of the other, the outsider, is not something new, but an echo. The original sound never fully faded. Now the volume is being raised.
The migration phenomenon is bigger than any single world leader — and that has to include any American president. But this president has only made things worse, cheering the haters and tossing spitballs at those, such as Merkel, whose fault was an excess of what she called “Europe’s basic principle: humanity.” Trump kicked her while she was down, bringing to mind what Franklin D. Roosevelt said when fascist Italy declared war on a France already attacked by Germany: “The hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.”
Maybe history does repeat itself.
How Bad Is Iran’s Oil Situation?
OilPrice.Com: The U.S. government has continued its attempts to shut down Iran’s oil exports, and in recent days Iranian officials responded by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz. Such an outcome is highly unlikely, but the war of words demonstrates how quickly the confrontation is escalating.
Oil prices spiked in late June when a U.S. State Department official said that countries would be expected to cut their imports of oil from Iran down to “zero.” The official also suggested that it would be unlikely that the Trump administration would grant any waivers.
This hard line stance fueled a rally in oil prices as the oil market was quickly forced to recalibrate expected losses from Iran, with a general consensus changing from a loss of around 500,000 bpd by the end of the year, to something more like 1 million barrels per day (mb/d), or even as high as 2.0 to 2.5 mb/d in a worst-case scenario in which all countries comply.
A loss of that magnitude would be hard to offset, even if Saudi Arabia decides to burn through all of its spare capacity.
That led to a dialing back of the rhetoric from the Trump administration, or so it seemed. A follow-up statement from the State Department suggested that the U.S. government would work with countries on a “case-by-case basis” to lower Iranian oil imports. High oil prices seemed to put pressure on Washington.
But for now, there is no policy shift. “I think there's going to be very few waivers. That's what we're hearing all the time from officials across the administration. I think it's a very strong policy decision,” Brenda Shaffer, an adjunct professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, told Oilprice.com.
Time will tell, but early evidence suggests that the Trump administration is having success convincing top buyers of Iranian crude to curtail their purchases.
South Korea reportedly plans on zeroing out its imports of oil from Iran in August, according to Reuters. Sources told Reuters that Japan plans on buying oil from Iran for the next few months, but will likely come under pressure to cut imports as the November deadline approaches.
Iran managed to keep exports from being adversely affected in June, with volumes mostly unchanged, although higher condensate exports offset a decline in crude oil exports, according to S&P Global Platts. Export flows to Europe fell sharply as European refiners cut back, which is significant since Europe accounts for about a third of Iranian sales. South Korea, Japan and Taiwan bought more Iranian oil in June, offsetting the decline to Europe. But, as mentioned before, South Korea plans on eliminating those purchases later this summer.
The real battle will be convincing India and China to play along. India has reportedly advised its domestic refiners to prepare for a “drastic reduction or zero” imports from Iran. China, for now, remains in defiance of U.S. demands, and Beijing doesn’t recognize U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The European Union, which still hopes to keep alive the nuclear deal with Iran, had initially hoped to shield Iran from the worst effects of U.S. sanctions. The foreign ministers of the UK, China, France, Germany and Russia held talks on July 6 with Iran’s foreign minister in an effort to keep the nuclear accord alive. But that will only be possible if Iran can receive the benefits of the deal, which includes exporting oil. The group of world powers hope to put together an economic package that helps Iran enough to keep Iran in compliance with the nuclear deal.
But it will be a difficult task since European companies are walking away from Iran even as their governments insist they will support their investments. “What I hear from oil and gas companies, no one is taking a risk from being cut off from the U.S. financial market. So I think there's a really big gap between what foreign governments are saying and what companies are saying,” Brenda Shaffer of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service said. She cited the case of Total SA, the French oil giant that pulled out of Iran despite assurances from European governments that they would be protected from U.S. sanctions.
All of that is to say that by all accounts, a significant chunk of Iranian oil exports will be interrupted over the second half of this year. The economic pain will add even more pressure on a government that is already struggling with an increasingly restive populace.
One other thing to keep an eye on are the protests underway in Iran. “The demonstrations taking place in Iran are very very serious, and many of them right now are focused in the oil producing areas. Over the weekend there were incredible demonstrations in Abadan, which is like the heartland of Iranian oil production,” she said. “So we might have two things going on, which is not just the limitations on the exports, but they might have some serious production problems if these demonstrations continue to escalate. I think that is something that is completely realistic.”
Either way, as oil exports start to feel the pinch, Iran’s back could be against the wall. Iranian officials said this week that they might block the Strait of Hormuz if their oil exports are blocked. “Around 17 million barrels per day or 35 percent of all seaborne oil exports pass through the strategic waterway and, needless to say, such a move would propel oil prices well into triple figures,” Stephen Brennock, oil analyst at PVM Oil Associates, said in a research note.
“A blockade of this transport route would thus have dramatic consequences for global oil supply and an impact on prices that is almost impossible to put into figures,” Commerzbank wrote in a note.
Iran has threatened this before and the recent statements are likely a bit of bluster. Such a drastic move would not only provoke a response, likely from the U.S. Navy, but it would also be self-defeating since much of Iran’s trade also goes through the Strait. "The country that would suffer the most from the Strait of Hormuz being cut off would be Iran. It’s a muted threat. Because it's like ‘I'm going to threaten my trade if you don't allow my trade,’” Shaffer said.