Iranians Take to Streets After Government Admits It Shot Down Passenger Plane

  • Protests have erupted in Iran after the government admitted responsibility for shooting down an Ukrainian passenger jet on the same night as it fired missiles into Iraq to avenge the death of its top military commander, Qasem Soleimani.
  • Soleimani, who led Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force, was killed in an American drone strike on President Donald Trump’s order.
  • No Americans or Iraqis were killed in the reprisals. All 176 passengers and crew aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, including 82 Iranians, were killed when the plane crashed outside Tehran on Wednesday morning. Read more “Iranians Take to Streets After Government Admits It Shot Down Passenger Plane”

Soleimani Assassination Divorced from Strategy

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump answers questions from reporters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, July 18, 2019 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

The killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani in Iraq could turn out to be a brilliant gamble that in the long term stabilizes the greater Middle East.

More likely, it will be a major political and strategic problem for the region and the United States broadly speaking within the context of renewed great-power competition, particularly with respect to Sino-American competition. Read more “Soleimani Assassination Divorced from Strategy”

EU Shields Companies from Trump’s New Sanctions on Iran

Donald Trump Giuseppe Conte
American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12 (NATO)

The European Union has announced measures to protect companies that do business with Iran from American sanctions.

The BBC reports that an EU “blocking statute” bans European firms from complying with the sanctions, unless they get approval from the European Commission.

It also enables businesses to recover damages resulting from American sanctions on Iranian cars, gold and other metals. Read more “EU Shields Companies from Trump’s New Sanctions on Iran”

Europe Can Stand Up to American Threats on Iran

Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017
Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017 (DoD/Dominique Pineiro)

Leonid Bershidsky is optimistic the EU can stand up to American threats and continue doing business with Iran. He writes for Bloomberg that the stakes are higher than President Donald Trump seems to realize:

With its influence on SWIFT, the Brussels-based payment-facilitation system, and its trade power, the EU is capable of blunting US sanctions. If they prove ineffective, and Iranians merely rally around their government as Russians have done in the face of American restrictions, the US may be exposed as less of a fearsome global policeman than Trump would like it to be.

Read more “Europe Can Stand Up to American Threats on Iran”

Trump Further Isolates America by Withdrawing from Iran Deal

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the nuclear agreement his predecessor, Barack Obama, negotiated with Iran in 2015.

All the other parties — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia — want to keep the deal in place. Trump’s only allies on the issue are the Arab Gulf states and Israel, which consider Iran a regional threat. Read more “Trump Further Isolates America by Withdrawing from Iran Deal”

Europe Doesn’t Know How to Handle Trump, Macron Runs Tight Operation

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17, 2017
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Stephen Walt argues in Foreign Policy that the diplomatic crisis around the Iran nuclear deal shows European leaders don’t know how to handle an American bully:

[I]nstead of getting tough with Trump and warning him that Europe would both stick to the deal and defy any subsequent US effort to impose secondary sanctions on them, [France, Germany and the United Kingdom] chose to mollify and flatter Trump instead.

It seems to no avail.

It pains me to admit it, but Walt has a point:

[T]he European response to Trump shows how successfully the United States has tamed and subordinated the former great powers that once dominated world politics. After seventy-plus years of letting Uncle Sam run the show, European leaders can barely think in strategic terms, let alone act in a tough-minded fashion when they are dealing with the United States.

I do think this is slowly changing. Trump is a wakeup call. The EU is rushing new trade agreements with Japan and Mexico. France is leading efforts to deepen European defense cooperation outside NATO. The Balts and Scandinavians are remilitarizing.

But deferring to America is a hard habit to kick. Read more “Europe Doesn’t Know How to Handle Trump, Macron Runs Tight Operation”

Locating the “Real” Country, Putting Germany First and NATO Solidarity

The town of American Fork in Utah
The town of American Fork in Utah (Unsplash/Colby Thomas)

Andrew Sullivan is always worth reading, but, in the case of his latest column, I do think Noah Smith has a point and Sullivan falls into the trap of conflating Brexit and Donald Trump voters with “real England” and “real America”.

This is a mistake conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic make. The small towns and countryside aren’t the “real” country. They’re half the country. Or, in the case of Trumpists, a third of the country. Their views deserve to be taken seriously, but so do those of big-city liberals.

Or as Smith puts it:

What we should NOT do is elevate one segment of the populace to Special Real American status, simply because they fit a certain classic stereotype or because they are more intolerant and angry than the rest.

Related to this discussion is Nabila Ramdani’s argument in UnHerd for retiring the label “Gaullist” in France. (Charles de Gaulle is to French politics what Ronald Reagan is to American conservatism.)

De Gaulle’s base consisted of white, Roman Catholic conservatives who had a quasi-mystical faith in their rural nation. There was no place in Gaullism for the millions of immigrants from France’s former colonies, nor did it adapt to globalization and the spread of Anglo-Saxon culture.

Emmanuel Macron’s project is a belated attempt to reconcile these facets of modern France and it meets strong resistance in La France profonde. Read more “Locating the “Real” Country, Putting Germany First and NATO Solidarity”

Trump Leaves Iran Nuclear Deal in Limbo

American president Donald Trump speaks with his defense secretary, James Mattis, outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, January 27
American president Donald Trump speaks with his defense secretary, James Mattis, outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, January 27 (DoD/Jette Carr)

Count on Donald Trump to find a worse way than outright cancel the Iran nuclear deal.

The American president announced on Friday that he will no longer certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement but not withdraw from it either.

The compromise is unlikely to please Iran, which has kept its end of the bargain, nor other world powers, which want to keep the deal in place. Read more “Trump Leaves Iran Nuclear Deal in Limbo”

Trump Treats Foreign Policy Like Reality TV

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

American president Donald Trump has made a decision about the future of the Iran nuclear deal — but he isn’t sharing it with anyone yet.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed on Wednesday that the president has made up his mind. But he also revealed that Trump had refused to share his decision even with America’s closest allies.

“Prime Minister [Theresa] May asked him if he would share it with her. He said no,” Tillerson said.

What is this, a cliffhanger? Read more “Trump Treats Foreign Policy Like Reality TV”