Age: 57 |
Birth City: آبادان |
Joined on October 02, 2012
Giuliani: Trump Tower Moscow talks may have lasted ‘as far as’ October or November 2016
Politico: President Donald Trump’s conversations with his former personal attorney about a Trump Tower Moscow deal may have lasted up until the 2016 election, his new lawyer said Sunday.
Rudy Giuliani said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the president’s written answers to questions from special counsel Robert Mueller “cover up to the election” with regards to discussions about the possible deal and that Trump “can remember having” such discussions “up to as far as October, November.”
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress about talks about a potential real estate deal in Moscow. Cohen told lawmakers in closed-door testimony that negotiations about the deal ended in January 2016. Cohen later said in his plea that discussions continued into June of that year.
Giuliani revealed Sunday that the discussions may have lasted up until Trump’s election, a disclosure that has already sparked concerns from Democrats and others who have long worried that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia have exerted a great influence on Trump.
Pressed by host Chuck Todd, Giuliani said that the discussions could have extended until October or November.
Trump had repeatedly insisted throughout the campaign that he had "no business" in Russia, including after U.S. intelligence agencies said Russia had sought to interfere in the election on Trump's behalf.
Giuliani on Sunday downplayed the Trump Tower Moscow discussions as just a proposal and sought to cast Trump’s role in the talks as minor, framing Cohen as the lead negotiator on the project.
But while Giuliani said Trump was mostly uninvolved in the discussions, Trump himself took credit for ending the deal last year, telling reporters multiple times that “I decided” not to pursue it.
For instance, he said on Nov. 29, 2018: “We had a position to possibly do a deal to build a building of some kind in Moscow. I decided not to do it. The primary reason — there could have been other reasons. But the primary reason, it was very simple: I was focused on running for president.“
Giuliani told Todd he was unclear why the deal fell apart: “I don't know why it didn't go anywhere. Nor does the president really know exactly why. I mean, there are a lot of these things that happen in a business like his.“
Regardless, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on "Meet the Press" that Giuliani's admission of even a potential active proposal was big news.
"That is news to me,“ Warner said. “And that is big news. Why, two years after the fact, are we just learning this fact now, when there's been this much inquiry?"
"I think that's a relevant fact for voters to know. And I think it's remarkable that we're two years after the fact and just discovering it today," he said.
How the shutdown might end, according to game theory
PBS: The shutdown has rolled into its fourth week, and the hurt is palpable. Federal workers are losing their savings and putting their professional dreams on hold. Their absence is not only affecting your wait at the airport, but also U.S. economic growth, a White House adviser hinted on Tuesday.
Right now nobody knows how the shutdown will end. Will someone yield in the standoff between President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer? Will Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans push a solution through Congress? Or will the White House forgo all other exit strategies by declaring a national emergency to build the wall, as the president has floated?
But we can find some clues in game theory, which uses math to map out how players and their strategies evolve in the real world. These applied maths can help explain everything from why bats eat puke to when NASCAR drivers should make pit stops.
It may seem that Trump has boxed himself into a corner, but game theory can explain the odds of him taking a certain path out. We spoke to a pair of game theorists who looked at the gridlock over the border wall and saw signs of two familiar games: chicken and a bargaining game (think Settlers of Catan). If the shutdown continues to mirror either one, buckle up, because the numbers suggest that this finish line is far off.
Otherwise known as a war of attrition, the game of chicken is the easiest fit for the current shutdown scenario — and one that’s been cited in previous government shutdowns. The players — Trump and Pelosi/Schumer — have essentially strapped themselves into two cars pointed at each other and hit the gas.
“The question is who swerves at the last minute and loses face and status,” said Colin Camerer, a behavioral game theorist at CalTech. For modelers like Colin, the person who swerves is known as a cowardly dove, while the car that plows forward is a bold hawk. Here’s a look at the four possible outcomes >>>
Nsikan Akpan is the digital science producer for PBS NewsHour and co-creator of the award-winning, NewsHour digital series ScienceScope.
Left Wing Emerging From Brexit Wreckage
Daily Beast: The more damaging the fallout from Britain’s clumsy efforts to leave the European Union, the greater the chance that an angry population will sweep the Conservative government from power and embrace a truly radical alternative.
That’s not to say Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s most proudly socialist leader in generations, is seeking to destroy the British economy in order to seize power. It’s just that there’s a sizeable potential upside to that scenario for him. Like the prime minister, he is in the impossible position of trying to hold together his coalition of voters, which stretches from Britain’s pro-Brexit former industrial heartlands to the Europe-worshiping neighborhoods of North London.
So far, Corbyn’s position has been euphemistically described as “constructive ambiguity.” Now that Theresa May’s Brexit compromise deal has gone down to the most cataclysmic defeat in Britain’s long parliamentary history, many of Corbyn’s fellow Labour lawmakers feel the time is right to step in and try to stop Brexit.
May’s 230-vote humiliation makes an economically catastrophic “No Deal” exit more likely, as Britain is now just two months away from leaving Europe without any trade deals or cross-border cooperation—which would cause severe economic disruption.
In the hours since the House of Commons gasped at the scale of the defeat, Corbyn has not even mentioned the prospect of delaying Brexit or holding a second referendum that could overturn the result of the 2016 vote.
At a quarter past midnight, Neil Coyle, a Labour member of parliament (MP) who is an enthusiastic backer of a second referendum, exploded on Twitter, attacking Corbyn as “the worst bullshit merchant ever.”
David Lammy, another Labour MP from London, where the campaign for a ‘People’s Vote’ is most popular, was only slightly more polite in an interview on the BBC.
“If he vacillates and sits on the fence, I’m afraid he’s gonna to get splinters in places he doesn’t want,” he said. “He will be effectively cooperating with a Brexit that’s running into the sand, and standing with Theresa May.”
Instead of setting out his future position on a second referendum, Corbyn tabled a motion of no confidence in the government to be held on Wednesday. If May were to lose, she would be ousted from No. 10, but her critics in the Conservative party—in a cabal of Brexiteers known as the ERG—and Northern Ireland’s DUP have signaled their support in this vote.
The People’s Vote campaign announced on Wednesday that 71 Labour MPs had joined their fight, but the party leadership sought to downplay the significance of that development, with Corbyn’s No. 2, John McDonnell, incorrectly claiming that a similar number had already committed to a second vote.
The truth is that Corbyn has been against European integration since the 1970s. As recently as the Labour leadership contest in 2015—in which Corbyn secured a shock victory after decades on the party’s Left-wing fringe—he argued that he would campaign to leave the EU “if we are going to get an imposition of free market policies across Europe.”
He has long described the EU as a capitalist club primarily run in the interests of financiers. “The imposition of a bankers’ Europe on the people of this continent will endanger the cause of socialism in the United Kingdom and in any other country,” he argued in the House of Commons in 1993.
Corbyn has argued that state aid regulations and EU diktats on balancing domestic budgets would interfere with the policy implementation of a truly left-wing government.
In a post-Brexit government, Corbyn’s Labour would have the conditions and ability to implement the radical reforms that MPs on the left of the party have dreamt of for decades.
His Labour government would seek to re-introduce nationalization, bring in a 50% top rate of tax, end curbs on trade unions, push nuclear disarmament and recognize Palestine as a state. Many of Corbyn’s positions are considerably to the Left of U.S. figures like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
One of Corbyn’s close allies on the left of the party, Chris Williamson, said economic disruption would make the election of a socialist Labour government more likely.
“We’re obviously not seeking to have a situation where there is ‘No Deal,’ but if that were to happen then it would desperately need an interventionist Labour government with a radical agenda to address the consequences, the implications of that. And I think we could put a program that would be attractive to the public at large,” Williamson told The Daily Beast. “In the event of the U.K. leaving the EU with no deal and then a subsequent election, I think those arguments would have even more resonance with people.”
He also said, it would be less important if the economy was damaged by Brexit because Labour would be best placed to respond: “We could afford actually for the economy to diminish in size and feel if we redistributed the income of wealth fairly we could raise the living standards of the 99 percent.”
While the left of the party sees a route to a socialist government in Britain, Corbyn and his leadership team are vastly outnumbered within the Labour party by politicians and members who would much prefer to stay close to the EU, and possibly overturn the Brexit vote in a second referendum. More than 70 percent of party members would like to see a second referendum, and senior Labour figures in the shadow cabinet known as “frontbenchers,” like Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, continue to push that prospect >>>
Nico Hines is the London editor of The Daily Beast.
What Should Scare Us, America?
President Trump continues the shutdown on the premise that he’ll protect us from foreign invaders, but the latest Russia revelations are a reminder that he probably already sold us out
The Rolling Stone: Eight-hundred-thousand federal workers weren’t paid on Friday because President Trump says he needs a wall to protect us. His case for continuing the partial government shutdown, repeated once more in his Oval Office fundraising speech last week, is that migrants from Mexico and Central America are poisoning our country with their terrorism, drugs and propensity for rape. It is actually a more anodyne version of the argument that Pat Buchanan made in a syndicated column Sunday, one that Trump celebrated on Twitter for its citation of phony White House statistics about immigrant crime. The former presidential candidate and Nixon aide argued for Trump to take actions other presidents have resorted to in wartime because “the Democratic Party is hostile to white men.”
Trump’s entire presidency has embodied that sentiment. The wall may have started as a pneumonic device to remind him to demonize Hispanic migrants, but it morphed into the euphemism “border security.” Trump wants to make this shutdown about our safety, yours and mine. But especially yours, if you are reading this and happen to be white. He is here to protect us against a threat that he invented to get elected.
No matter what color you are, though, it is difficult to square Trump’s supposed obsession with public safety with how servile he has been toward the nation and leader whose tangible interference in the United States is a sustained threat to national security.
On Friday night, as many furloughed government employees wondered how they will pay rent, tuition or medical bills, the New York Times reported that in addition to the previously revealed FBI criminal probe into Trump’s ties to Russia, the bureau had also opened up a counterintelligence investigation into the president after his suspicious behavior following the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. One day later, the Washington Post wrote that Trump “has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations” with Vladimir Putin, the authoritarian president with whom he has met at least five times since the 2016 election.
The White House spit out a childish statement, all but calling the Times and the Post doody-heads. When asked directly on his favorite cable network Saturday night whether he has ever worked for Russia, Trump filibustered for two minutes, insisting that it’s good to be friends with a nation that attacked us and saying just about every word in creation but “no.” His consciousness of guilt was palpable.
This is an unsustainable presidency. Knowing the FBI’s history with black Americans, I hesitate to lionize the agency’s every deed. That being said, we should be having real, adult conversations about Trump’s impeachment. Today. Call that a political gift to him if you wish. News cycles and Republican talking points are less a concern to me than whether or not we have a foreign agent running the country.
We are where Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger supposedly felt he’d arrived in 1974, when he ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ignore any White House military initiatives lacking his signature, undercutting Richard Nixon’s authority at a time when it was feared he might use war powers to escape the stink of Watergate.
Many considered that treasonous, so I am not here to get into a debate about whether or not Trump is a traitor. What can be demonstrated, without semantics or legal definitions, is that the president has made this country more unsafe. Even worse, he has done so to advance his own personal and political interests. He has used the fear of fictional mobs of violent migrants while taking his eye off very real threats, including Russia and white extremist terrorism. He has compounded that betrayal by engineering this shutdown, which on Saturday became the nation’s longest ever.
The shutdown has belied Trump’s promise to protect poor to middle-class white voters. This is not a “vacation,” as White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett idiotically termed it. All throughout the country, local stations have captured stories of furloughed employees not merely struggling to pay rent or make their electric bills, but to choose between doing so and fulfilling their most urgent medical needs. One diabetic woman who works for the Department of the Interior is now rationing her insulin. A Maryland group handed out meals on Friday to affected families, much as one might see charities doing for the homeless at the holidays. How is a wall keeping them safe, or even fed? And while the panic over the lack of Food and Drug Administration inspectors may have been overblown, the increasing number of TSA officers calling in sick is increasingly worrisome >>>
Jamil Smith is a Senior Writer at Rolling Stone, where he covers national affairs and culture. Throughout his career as a journalist and Emmy Award-winning television producer, he has explored the intersection of politics and identity.
Why We Need Mexico
Trump insists there’s a crisis at the border. But in McAllen, Texas, there’s an economic boom, fueled by close ties with Mexico
The Rolling Stone: People say the American mall is dying — but if so, someone forgot to tell La Plaza Mall.
La Plaza is the largest shopping center in McAllen, Texas, a mid-size city on the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s the sort of establishment you’d find in any city or suburb — Foot Locker, Bath & Body Works, Baby Gap — the kind of brick-and-mortar retail dinosaur that’s been hemorrhaging money for years. But not La Plaza. This mall recently underwent a $100 million expansion, and on a recent weekday — in the middle of the school year, in the middle of the week — its parking lot was full of cars. Most of them sported Mexican plates.
McAllen is the biggest city in Hidalgo County, the most populous border county in Texas, not far from where the Rio Grande meets the Gulf of Mexico. Owing to its location as one of the most accessible U.S. ports of entry for migrants fleeing Central America — hundreds of miles closer than El Paso or San Diego — the city is at the epicenter of some of the most divisive issues of the Trump administration’s ongoing anti-immigration campaign: family separations, deportation trials, military deployments, the Wall. The Border Patrol’s Ursula detention center, which became infamous last summer for housing children in chain-link cages, is in McAllen. And the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector, headquartered up the highway, is the busiest such sector in the country by far, making five times as many immigrant apprehensions as any other region — 63,000 families and 23,000 unaccompanied children last year alone.
It’s little wonder that when Trump flew to the border to drum up support for his $5.7 billion demand to fund the wall, he chose to stage his photo op in McAllen. “A wall works,” Trump said at a Border Patrol station, wearing a white MAGA hat.
Yet somewhat lost in all the sensational immigration news is the fact that McAllen is also a prime example of how American border cities reap great economic benefits from a strong relationship with Mexico. For most of the past century, McAllen was a relatively poor agricultural center, largely dependent on cotton fields and citrus groves. But since the introduction of NAFTA in 1994 — and the resulting boom in maquiladoras, or manufacturing plants, across the river in the city of Reynosa — the region’s economy has been one of the fastest-growing in America, thanks largely to retail and international trade. Trump often says Mexico is leeching off America. But to Americans here in the Rio Grande Valley, as to millions of Americans on the border, Mexico is a boon, not a drag.
The mall is just one example. Because of high import costs and comparably high sales tax, millions of Mexican shoppers cross the border (legally) to the U.S. every month, to buy everything from groceries to computers. All told, Mexican consumers pump an estimated $3 billion into the Valley’s economy each year. Coming to McAllen to shop is so common, in fact, that there’s even a Spanish word for it: macalenear, or literally “to do McAllen.” Mayor Jim Darling says the city is one of the top sales-tax collectors in the state of Texas per capita — and a whopping 40 percent of that money comes from Mexican citizens.
Matt Ruszczak, director of the Rio South Texas Economic Council, says annual household spending in the region outpaces annual income by about $20,000 — meaning hundreds of millions more dollars are being spent here than being earned. “And that’s not because we’re all running up our credit cards,” Ruszczak jokes. “It’s because of Mexico.”
The same is true in cities all along the border, from Texas to Arizona to California. As David Deanda, president of McAllen’s Lone Star National Bank, has said of Mexico, “We depend on them more than they depend on us.”
Yet this highly beneficial relationship is currently under existential threat. In December, one week into what is now the longest government shutdown in history, President Trump made an ominous vow: If “Obstructionist Democrats” didn’t agree to fund his border wall, he wrote on Twitter, “We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely.” He went on to add that because the U.S. “looses [sic] soooo much money on Trade with Mexico,” shutting down the border would, he thought, be a “profit making operation.”
But you don’t have to spend long at the border to see that the truth is exactly the opposite.
“WHEN DO WE beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us. . . . Now they’re beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me.”
That’s how then-candidate Trump kicked off his presidential campaign, in June 2015, in a speech at the foot of a Trump Tower escalator. Since then, Mexico has been his go-to political bogeyman, more so than Iran or even ISIS. “Mexico has taken advantage of the U.S. for long enough,” he announced one week after taking office. “Our Southern Border is under siege,” he said last year. “Mexico, which has a massive crime problem, is doing little to help!” Trump’s antipathy toward our southern neighbor even predates his presidency. “They’re selling drugs all over the place and they’re killing people all over the place. We’re not doing anything about it,” he told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly back in 2011. Three years later, he tweeted, “When will the U.S. stop sending $’s to our enemies, i.e. Mexico” — thus characterizing as an “enemy” one of our largest trading partners and longest-standing friends.
Trump has two main problems with Mexico. The first, obviously, is immigration. This despite the fact that illegal immigration has been steeply declining for years, down from its peak some 20 years ago. In 2017, the Border Patrol, with more agents and resources than it’s had in its history, reported apprehending 303,000 undocumented immigrants — the fewest since 1971. What’s more, economists and business leaders agree that the skills gap in our workforce means even undocumented, low-skill immigrants are a net positive for the U.S. economy >>>
Supercoppa controversy rages over Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women
The Guardian: When, early last June, the Italian football league agreed a €20m deal to play three of the next five Italian super cups in Saudi Arabia, it provoked very little controversy. This is, after all, a trophy that has frequently been decided on foreign soil, sometimes in quite unlikely locations.
In 2002, the year that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi bought 6.4m shares in Juventus, the Supercoppa brought the Turin side to play Parma in Tripoli. Since then the match has been hosted once by the United States, twice by Qatar and four times by China. Wednesday’s game between Milan and Juve in Jeddah will be the sixth time in 10 years that the Supercoppa has been decided outside Europe.
It took until October before opposition to the match started to bubble and brew, as the murder of Jamal Khashoggi turned the spotlight on to associations – sporting and political – with the Saudis. “We must immediately reverse the decision to play the Supercoppa in Riyadh,” said the former sports minister Luca Lotti, a member of parliament for the opposition Partito Democratico. “The world of sport cannot let itself fall behind. I can imagine that there are various economic interests behind this match but what took place in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul cannot pass in silence.” He called on the government to “use all necessary measures to prevent Italian football from striking a blow against values and rights”.
In November Gaetano Miccichè, the Serie A president, contacted the Italian ambassador in Riyadh to discuss whether to move the game and was strongly advised not to do so. “Football is a part of the Italian culture and economy and it cannot have an approach, certainly in the field of international relations, different to that of its homeland,” Miccichè said. “Saudi Arabia is Italy’s largest trading partner in the middle east. Dozens of important Italian companies trade there and have bases there, and none of these relationships have ended [since Khashoggi’s murder]. With the approval of Fifa, Uefa and the Asian Confederation, we are going to play a match in a country with its own laws, created over many years, where local traditions impose constraints that cannot be changed overnight.”
Controversy over the match ebbed for a while, until Serie A released ticket details at the start of this year – and revealed that large parts of the stadium would be out of bounds for women, who are permitted only inside designated family areas. The game sold out in a few hours but suddenly debate was as hot as the tickets. Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister and a keen Milan fan, fumed: “For the Supercoppa to be played in an Islamic country where women cannot go into the stadium unless they are accompanied by a man is sad. It’s disgusting. I won’t watch the game.” Giorgia Meloni, leader of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, said the game “should be organised in a country that respects our women and our values”.
On Friday Codacons, a consumer and civil rights organisation, asked fans not to watch live coverage of the game, which will be shown by the public service broadcaster Rai, “as a form of protest against the crazy policies of Saudi Arabia and the odious discrimination against women which is still rife not only in Arab countries but also in Italy”.
Miccichè, however, insisted the advent of family sections in Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City Stadium was a positive development. “The Supercoppa will go down in history as the first official international football competition which Saudi women were permitted to watch live,” he said. “We are working to ensure that in the next games we will play in the country, women will be able to access all parts of the stadium.”
But condemnation has not been universal. Giovanni Malagò, president of the Italian Olympic Association, said that those leading the outcry were engaged in “a triumph of hypocrisy”, having raised few objections to existing trade agreements between the countries. “If you take their money, you have to take what comes with it,” said the television presenter Ilaria D’Amica. “Otherwise you need to make it clear from the start: I’ll bring you the Supercoppa but in return we want respect for women. Instead, when the decision was made to play the game in Jeddah, everyone was silent.”
Milan qualified for the Supercoppa by reaching the final of last season’s Italian Cup, where after a goalless first half Juventus eventually cantered to a 4-0 win. Juve lead Serie A by nine points, having won 17 and lost none of their 19 matches; Milan are 22 points behind after winning one of their last five. Hope for the Rossoneri comes from memories of the 2016 Supercoppa between the same teams in Doha, for which they were similarly unfancied but which they won on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
They will be without the Spanish forward Suso, suspended after being sent off against Spal at the end of December, while Juventus may also be missing a key attacker, with Mario Mandzukic ruled out of this weekend’s cup game against Bologna with a thigh injury and considered doubtful. Consensus, however, is that Juve can win without Mandzukic while Milan cannot win without a miracle.
“Everyone agrees who the favourites are,” says Davide Calabria, the Milan full-back. “Their players are at the highest level while our team is a work in progress. It will be hard to win but it’s not impossible. We proved in Doha that they are not unbeatable. Even if we go into the game as underdogs, it starts at 0-0 and we’ll give everything.”
Who will pay for Donald Trump's border wall?
The Guardian Podcast: With the US government in partial shutdown, the president continues to demand funding for his Mexican border wall. Lauren Gambino, in Washington DC, and Bryan Mealer, in Texas, discuss how Trump’s central campaign promise has led to this point of paralysis.
Donald Trump has visited the southern US border in Texas after walking out of talks to resolve one of the country’s longest government shutdowns in history. The president has refused to authorise the release of funds to pay up to 800,000 government workers until he secures funding for his central campaign promise of a border wall.
The Guardian’s US political correspondent, Lauren Gambino, joins Anushka Asthana to discuss the paralysis in the US government and why the president is so fixated on building his wall. And, as Trump tries to rally support in Texas, the Guardian’s Bryan Mealer reports that there is indeed a crisis at the border, but one largely of the president’s own making. Refugees and asylum seekers are facing appalling living conditions in detention centres struggling to cope with new arrivals.
Also today: the columnist John Harris looks back to 1989: a period of sudden transitions, revolutions, exciting new music and optimism for the future. Amid darkness and division in 2019, can the spirit of that age be revived? >>> Podcast
Denmark backs EU over Iran sanctions after murder plots
AFP/The Local: The EU hit Iran's intelligence services with sanctions Tuesday after accusing Tehran of being behind plots to assassinate regime opponents on Dutch, Danish and French soil.
The move by the 28-nation bloc was announced as the Dutch government said it believed Iran was behind the murders of two dissidents in 2015 and 2017.
"Very encouraging that (the) EU has just agreed on new targeted sanctions against Iran in response to hostile activities and plots being planned and perpetrated in Europe, including Denmark," Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said.
The "EU stands united -- such actions are unacceptable and must have consequences," he tweeted.
Sanctions include the freezing of funds and other financial assets of the Iranian intelligence ministry and individuals, officials said.
“No other countries have parts of their intelligence services on a terror list [in the EU, ed.]. So this is a very clear signal,” Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said according to Ritzau’s report, adding that the sanctions, which come into effect Wednesday, will “have consequences for those who cooperate with (the targets of the sanctions)”.
But Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed the finger at European nations he said were harbouring terrorists.
"Accusing Iran does not release Europe from its responsibility for hosting terrorists," he said in a tweet.
Denmark led efforts for sanctions after allegations that Tehran tried to kill three Iranian dissidents on Danish soil.
According to Danish police intelligence agency PET, Iran planned to carry out an operation against a group of exiled Iranians in the town of Ringsted on Zealand.
A manhunt related to the alleged plot against three Iranians suspected of belonging to the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) led to the shutdown of bridges to Sweden, as well as ferries, on September 28th.
France last year imposed sanctions on two suspected Iranian agents and others from Iran's intelligence and security ministry.
The French security services concluded that the head of operations at the Iranian intelligence ministry had ordered a plot to bomb a rally of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) opposition group in a suburb of Paris in June last year -- which Tehran strongly denied.
"When the sanctions were announced, the Netherlands, together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark and Belgium, met Iranian authorities," Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said.
The meeting conveyed "serious concerns regarding Iran's probable involvement in these hostile acts on EU territory," Blok said in a letter to parliament in The Hague, also signed by Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren.
"Iran is expected to cooperate fully in removing the present concerns and, where necessary, aiding in criminal investigations," the letter said.
"If such cooperation is not forthcoming, further sanctions cannot be ruled out," it added.
The EU has previously trodden cautiously on Iran as it sought to save a beleaguered nuclear deal with Tehran after the US withdrew last year and imposed new sanctions.
Dutch ministers said that at a meeting with Iranian officials "it was emphasised that the measures were not linked" to the Iran nuclear deal.
"Nevertheless, Iran will be held to account for all matters that affect EU and international security interests" including the 2015 and 2017 assassinations in the Netherlands, the letter said.
“We will continue to support the nuclear agreement provided that Iran complies with it. The agency that is monitoring this says that they are. It is also in European interests for the agreement to be kept,” Samuelsen commented.
Tehran blames the ASMLA for an attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on September 22nd, when militants sprayed the crowd with gunfire and killed 24 people.
The MEK, which has a history of attacks inside the Islamic republic, was considered a terrorist group until 2009 by European authorities and until 2012 by the United States, where members of President Donald Trump's administration have had close ties with the movement.
The MEK-linked National Council of Resistance of Iran called the EU sanctions "a positive, necessary but insufficient step" and called for the bloc to expel all of Tehran's "agents" on European soil.
"Three decades of experience show that the mullahs only understand the language of firmness," it said in a statement.
Last June, the Netherlands expelled two Iranian embassy workers in connection with the murders.
Tehran at the time protested the expulsion as an "unfriendly and destructive move" and threatened to retaliate.
Why Trump’s Weakness Masks the President’s Power
The New York Times: For all his bluster, Donald Trump is generally seen by presidential observers as a shockingly weak president. Brought to office in an election in which he lost the popular vote, his approval ratings have remained consistently low. Even with his party in control of the White House and Congress for two years, beyond a typical Republican tax cut, Mr. Trump failed to secure a signature legislative accomplishment.
The president may seem weak, but the presidency remains strong. Mr. Trump has illustrated that even a feeble commander in chief can impose his will on the nation if he lacks any sense of restraint or respect for political norms and guardrails. True, Mr. Trump has not been able to run roughshod over Congress or ignore the constraints of the federal courts. But he has been able to inflict extensive damage on our political institutions and public culture. He has used his power to aggravate, rather than calm, the fault lines that have divided our country.
His “wall” government shutdown is the latest example of his misuse of executive power. To end this essentially pointless standoff of his own making, he is exploring the use of national emergency powers to build a wall Congress and a majority of the public don’t want.
The Trump administration has provided a new example of an old concept: the “imperial presidency.” That term, famously used by the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in 1973 to describe the excesses and abuses of the Nixon White House, fell out of use almost as soon as President Richard Nixon fell from grace. The reckoning of Watergate and the first-ever resignation of a president seemed to show that the executive branch was not as uncontrollable as it had once seemed.
Congress enacted a wide range of reforms that promised to restrain presidential power. The War Powers Act of 1973 created mechanisms to ensure that Congress authorized the deployment of American troops abroad. The Budget Reform of 1974 centralized the process used by the House and the Senate to make decisions about spending money so as to make the legislative branch more of an equal of the executive. The Campaign Finance Reform Act of 1974 established a system of public finance for presidential elections along with spending and contribution limits.
The National Emergencies Act of 1976 required the president to offer greater specificity about how and when he or she was going to use emergency declarations. (This is the authority President Trump has reportedly explored as a way of funding his wall.) Intelligence reforms imposed limits on the C.I.A. and F.B.I., whose surveillance and national security operations had greatly enhanced the president’s power. Last but not least, the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 sought to watch against a replay of Watergate by establishing the Office of the Independent Counsel to ensure that there would be independent investigations into executive branch corruption.
Despite these reforms, four decades later, the “imperial presidency” still seems to be alive and well. What went wrong?
The most familiar challenge stems from the fact that in the midst of national security crises, much of the nation remains willing to allow presidents to respond to its perceived enemies. Despite the War Powers Act and the larger lessons of Vietnam, Congress has continued to allow presidents to send troops into combat without a formal declaration of war. In response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Congress passed legislation authorizing a vast expansion of the national security system that gave President George W. Bush and his successors access to new organizations, programs and institutions through which to pursue national security goals without congressional support.
Since the 1970s, Democrats and Republicans have sorted themselves by party, with less room for internal dissent and less of a will to criticize or challenge a president from one’s own party. Both parties have been willing to grant the president more authority when it served their purpose. The main dynamic for Democrats has centered around party leaders supporting presidents who use executive action, through regulatory orders and rule making, to deal with urgent policy problems that congressional Republicans oppose. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton turned to executive power to deal with energy and climate change when Congress refused to do so. President Barack Obama did the same on immigration after congressional obstruction prevented compromise legislation from passing.
Republicans have done much in the same vein, in moments of divided and united government alike. Republicans have also gone a step further to protect the party’s electoral interests through the use of, for instance, strict voter-ID laws.
Aggressive presidents also depend on a partisan media to do their work without too much pushback. President Trump has demonstrated how this could be turned into a powerful tool for the White House. Mr. Trump has routinely repeated stories seen on the “Fox & Friends” morning program and leaned on conservative cable hosts like Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs for advice as well. Indeed, the line between the Trump White House and conservative media outlets has become blurred beyond recognition. The former CNBC host Larry Kudlow now serves as head of the National Economic Council, while the former “Fox & Friends” host Heather Nauert has been nominated to serve as ambassador to the United Nations. Bill Shine, a former executive at Fox News, now runs the White House Communications Office.
The imperial presidency is, in many ways, propped up by media partisans who insist that the naked emperor has glorious new clothes >>>
Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer, history professors at Princeton, are the authors of “Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974.”
The Myth of a Christian Revival in Eastern Europe
The American Conservative: It takes a village to get a 50-foot Christmas tree into a Hungarian school’s common area. On a gray afternoon in early December, seemingly half of my school’s student body was deputized to help city workers drag an enormous fir into our entrance hall. Class was supposedly in session, but many students exempt from the corvée managed to find their way over to yell encouragement and snap photos of their classmates. Once the students had dragged in the tree, someone used a chainsaw to shape the base of the trunk for an oversized stand. Why this extremely noisy job was done in the school common area while class was in session, and not somewhere outside, is a Christmas mystery on par with the Virgin Birth. After much difficulty, and thanks to the creative use of several ropes, a ladder, and the school’s load-bearing columns, the students finally raised the massive tree. Christmas season in Hungary had officially begun.
The school where I teach is a public institution, but its enthusiastic observance of the Christmas season would put many American parochial academies to shame. From Christmas markets to school pageants, Hungarians celebrate the holiday with a verve that is both charming and somewhat disorienting to an American accustomed to our secular public square. In this corner of Eastern Europe, the War on Christmas is over, and Christmas has decisively won.
What Christmas markets and colorful lights can’t hide, however, is the underlying weakness of Hungarian Christianity, which is gradually degrading into a collection of shallow cultural signifiers. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán often speaks of building a “Christian Democracy” as an alternative to Western European liberalism, but such grandiose pronouncements raise the question: what does Christian Democracy mean in a country that is gradually forgetting its Christian heritage?
From Orbán’s rhetoric to the recently revised constitution’s proud affirmation of Hungary’s “Christian culture,” the political climate in Budapest suggests near-medieval levels of piety. Just as American politicians only began referring to the United States’ Judeo-Christian heritage after the onset of secularism, these public pronouncements are best understood as a sign that all is not well within Hungary’s historic churches. Catholicism and (to a lesser extent) Calvinism have long been Hungary’s dominant religious traditions, but any theological differences have been submerged under vague nostrums about the country’s historic Christian identity. In a country whose second city, Debrecen, was once known as “the Calvinist Rome” for producing generations of combative Protestant theologians, this bland ecumenicism is particularly striking.
In Eger, a mid-sized Hungarian town two hours northeast of Budapest, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are the most visibly active religious communities. The native denominations have their traditions, history, and the town’s beautiful old churches, but energy and conviction are on the side of the foreign imports (Orbán’s own son is a Pentecostal preacher). Meanwhile, local enthusiasm for the Christmas season masks widespread indifference to anything that might be described as regular religious observance. In Eger, Christmas means lights, music, and festivals, not Midnight Mass.
Data on church attendance confirm this picture of a rapidly secularizing society. Although a majority of Hungarians identify as Catholic, only 12 percent regularly attend church. Less than 15 percent of Hungarians say religion is “very important” in their lives. Christmas markets, generous public subsidies to religious schools, and beautifully preserved churches have done little to arrest this steady decline.
The combination of public enthusiasm for Christian symbolism and declining religious participation is not unique to Hungary. Despite the fall of communism, church attendance throughout Eastern Europe has dropped significantly since 1990. Countries whose churches are associated with national resistance to imperial rule, such as Catholic Poland and Orthodox Serbia, are generally more pious than countries where the dominant Christian tradition was tainted by foreign interlopers. Hungarian Catholicism probably suffered from its association with the Habsburgs, and the famously secular Czech Republic is a product of the Austrians’ brutal suppression of that country’s indigenous Protestant churches. In The Good Soldier Svejk, perhaps the most notable work of 20th-century Czech literature, “son of an Archbishop” is just about the worst insult imaginable. Not coincidentally, the Czech Republic is the one country in Eastern Europe where a majority now identify as non-believers.
Regional and national variations aside, the trend line is clear: institutional Christianity is in decline, even as religious symbolism and the rhetoric of Christian identity have experienced a post-communist revival. In Hungary and the Czech Republic, the national significance of figures like Saint Stephen and Saint Wenceslas have eclipsed their religious origins. Christian traditions and symbols are gradually being repurposed by Eastern Europe’s newly reawakened national polities, which are eager to distinguish themselves from both their avowedly secular communist predecessors and the liberal, atheistic West.
There is, however, considerable tension between Christian universalism and religiously tinged nationalism. Members of the Polish clergy have vocally criticized Pope Francis’s liberal views on immigration. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church recently responded to Russia’s de facto annexation of Eastern Ukraine by officially breaking with the Moscow Patriarchate. In both cases, national identity overrode theological considerations.
Just as Eastern European nationalism is a necessary constraint on an overly ambitious European Union, the revival of distinctly national religious traditions may prove a useful corrective to theological overreach. Pious Polish Catholics are under no obligation to embrace Pope Francis’s vision of a Europe without borders, and perhaps the theological split between Ukraine and Russia will prompt the Moscow Patriarchate to reconsider its relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is possible that the persistence of Christian symbolism in Eastern Europe’s public square may yet inspire a genuine religious revival in the region >>>
Will Collins is an English teacher who lives and works in Eger, Hungary.