Opinion | Trump Takes On China and Persia at Once. What’s to Worry About? – The New York Times


Thomas L. Friedman

By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

“If you’re keeping score at home on the Trump foreign policy, let me try to put it in a nutshell: The president has engaged America in a grand struggle to reshape the modern behavior of two of the world’s oldest civilizations — Persia and China — at the same time.

Pressing both to change is not crazy. What’s crazy is the decision to undertake such a huge endeavor without tightly defined goals, without allies to achieve those goals, without a strong and coherent national security team and without a plan on how to sync up all of President Trump’s competing foreign policy objectives.

After all, Trump is unilaterally breaking the 2015 denuclearization deal with Iran’s dictator while trying to entice North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, into a denuclearization deal that he’s supposed to trust the U.S. president will honor. Trump is sanctioning China on trade while trying to enlist its help to denuclearize North Korea. Trump is imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on America’s European allies while needing their help to confront China on trade and Iran on nukes.

And last week Trump came within 10 minutes of bombing Iran — but wisely pulled back — in retaliation for its shooting down of a U.S. drone, at a time when we cannot stabilize Iraq, or get out of Afghanistan without leaving chaos behind, absent the cooperation of Iran.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment.
Thank you Thomas Friedman, great essay, and great points. I don’t have the space and time here to repeat all those points, but it is interesting how the commentors criticize and attack you for thinking that Trump can listen to or take good advice. I’m not a fan of Drumpf, but he is brilliant as a con artist and crook, who has shown that he can dominate the press like few ever have. Furthermore, he has a brand to protect. I agree with your main point, that we can settle with Iran and should, extending the nuclear treaty by more years, for lifting the sanctions and maintaining a long, awkward peace. Your points about China are equally cogent. China poses a serious threat to the United States and the world, as well as a fine opportunity. I share in your unspoken grief. We had the beginning of a plan of action, with the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, and we will have to return to such a proactive and intelligent diplomacy, even it it is to be called, at least temporarily, the Trump Pacific Partnership.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.net. He performs a folk concert of songs and stories about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.

Iran Finally Let Her See Her Husband. He Was Dead. – The New York Times

“. . .  In his free time, Mr. Seyed Emami, a youthful 64 when he died, led an influential private environmental organization, the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, founded in 2008 by Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American entrepreneur. With his Canadian passport, gotten as many Canadian-Iranians had in the 1980s and 1990s, he could have lived in Canada. But he chose to stay in Iran and work for change here.

In his classes and through the foundation, he urged his fellow Iranians to work within the system to build the country they desired, despite setbacks they might experience. But lately some authorities clearly found his work at the foundation, which had continued for nearly nine years, suspicious.

As part of its preservation of endangered species, the foundation had set up camera traps to track rare animals like the Persian leopard in the wild. Those cameras, as well as the foundation’s frequent invitations to foreign experts, would figure in the spying charges.”

Opinion | How to Stop the March to War With Iran – By Wendy R. Sherman- The New York Times

By Wendy R. Sherman

Ms. Sherman is the former under secretary of state for political affairs.

  • The USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier, has been deployed to the Persian Gulf in response to unspecified threats from Iran.CreditU.S. Navy, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • “Either the Trump administration is trying to goad Iran into war or a war could come by accident because of the administration’s reckless policies, but the prospect of the current tensions in the Middle East escalating into a serious conflict are now dangerously high.

This week, four commercial tankers were reportedly sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, near the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic shipping lane for about 40 percent of the world’s oil. Saudi Arabia also reported that drones attacked an oil pipeline, possibly by Iranian-supported Houthis. Both incidents ratcheted up tensions as anonymous American officials in the press pointed to Iran as the perpetrator. Tehran has denied this.

Additionally, during a meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly shared reports of escalating Iranian threats in the Middle East. On Wednesday, the State Department announced that it was pulling nonessential staff from Iraq, citing unspecified Iranian threats. This came after increased American sanctions against Iran and the movement of an American aircraft carrier and B-52s to the Persian Gulf. With Iran threatening to step back from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal, the Trump administration leaked plans to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East if war is to come.

But war is not inevitable. President Trump campaigned on bringing troops home, not sending tens of thousands more to the Middle East. Such a deployment, although inadequate for a full-scale war, is more than foolish. War in the Middle East, as we should have learned by now, is neither swift to end nor sure to achieve its purpose.”

NYT Video: The Militia That’s Threatening American Troops in Syria is backed by Iran



There are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. Recently, a statement went out calling for direct attacks against them. Who sent it, and why?By DAVID BOTTI and CHRISTIAAN TRIEBERT

Opinion | Trump’s Dream Come True: Trashing Obama and Iran in One Move – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

My wife is building a language museum in Washington (I’m its vice chairman), so people often send her funny examples of word play, including a list of mixed-up idioms from oxforddictionaries.com. Among my favorites: “Don’t judge a book before it’s hatched.” “Every cloud has a silver spoon in its mouth.” “It’s not rocket surgery.” “You can’t teach a leopard new spots.” And one that perfectly describes President Trump’s approach to every one of Barack Obama’s policies, including his nuclear deal with Iran: “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.”

And that’s my subject for today. Trump, by taking a hard line on Iran, drew some needed attention to Iran’s bad behavior and created an opportunity to improve the nuclear deal. But to do so would have required Trump to admit that there was merit in the deal Obama had forged and to be content with limited, but valuable, fixes that our European allies likely would have embraced.

Instead, Trump pushed for the max, torched the whole bridge, separating us from Germany, France and Britain, undermining the forces of moderation in Iran and requiring Trump to now manage — on his own — a complex, multidimensional confrontation with Tehran.

Color me dubious that a president who has not been able to manage his confrontation with a stripper, or prevent leaks in his White House, can manage a multifront strategy for confronting Iran and North Korea and trade wars with China, Europe and Mexico.

via Opinion | Trump’s Dream Come True: Trashing Obama and Iran in One Move – The New York Times

David Lindsay:   Excellent op-ed. I wonder if the Iranians would have budged without major new concessions to them.   Here are some of the top comments I recommended:

Times Pick

Mr. Friedman, dare I suggest you made a misplaced assumption when you inferred that president Trump is astutely aware of Iranian misdeeds.

The president has never articulated a single cogent criticism of the Iranian nuclear deal. What we have repeatedly heard is, “It’s the worst deal ever. Very, very bad. Horrible.” This tells us nothing, which is the reflection of what the president knows. I bet you, and this is sad to think, that president Trump would be unable to locate Iran on a world map.

The Trump presidency’s primary political goal is to completely efface Obama’s legacy. Trump’s thinking is simple: if Obama said it was good, it must be bad. It’s really quite that simple. That is unfortunately the shallow depth of Trump’s capabilities.

Rick Gage commented May 15

Rick Gage
Mt Dora
Times Pick

You give Donald too much credit. There is, and never was, a strategy aimed at pointing out Iran’s other bad actions in the Middle East. He hasn’t even acknowledged the bad actions Russia has inflicted here in the U.S.A. Trump’s only reason for walking away from this deal, the TPP and the Paris accords was that Obama midwifed them. That’s it. Just childish petulance because Obama made fun of him, in public, at the White House Correspondents Dinner. His only strategy is to try to erase all of the Obama Legacy. But, the jokes on him because with every reactive overreach he only burnishes Barack’s reputation. The contrast between these two leaders will have historians laughing harder than the invited guest at that fateful dinner.

Socrates commented May 15

Downtown Verona. NJ

Just as Donald has destabilized the United States by systematically catering to the lowest common denominator, he is slowly destabilizing the world with the same destructive technique.

Everything Donald touches turns to fecal matter; it may not happen right away, but give his natural poison time to work and he will destroy everything he touches.

The appeal of smashing everything to smithereens has great appeal to simple infantile minds.

He tried to destroy the ACA….and replace it with nothing and send about 15 million Americans hurling into the outer healthcare atmosphere where they would waste away.

He wants to destroy the Paris Accord…and replace it with accelerated manmade global warming that trashes our climate every waking second.

He destroyed the Iran agreement…and replaced it with the Art of Acting Like A Tough Guy.

He incited Muslim religious fanatics by idiotically moving the American embassy to Jerusalem to please Christian and Jewish religious fanatics, putting a final nail in the coffin of Israeli peace.

We don’t know what he’ll destroy yet on the Korean peninsula, but he’s working on it.

Add in his domestic destruction by signing a one-sided tax law that bypassed all Congressional legislative norms, his abandonment of national infrastructure, and his comprehensive lack of ethics, curiosity and knowledge, and he’s destroyed the dignity of the Presidency and the United States.

The only thing Donald has built has been a ticking Presidential time bomb.

Europe- Again Humiliated by Trump- Struggles to Defend Its Interests – By Steven Erlanger – NYT

May 9, 2018
“BRUSSELS — It is by now a familiar, humiliating pattern. European leaders cajole, argue and beg, trying to persuade President Trump to change his mind on a vital issue for the trans-Atlantic alliance. Mr. Trump appears to enjoy the show, dangling them, before ultimately choosing not to listen.

Instead, he demands compliance, seemingly bent on providing just the split with powerful and important allies that China, Iran and Russia would like to exploit.

Such is the case with the efforts to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear pact. Both the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, made the pilgrimage to Washington to urge Mr. Trump not to scrap the agreement. Their failure is very similar to what happened with the Paris climate accord, and to what is happening now with unilateral American sanctions imposed on steel and aluminum imports, and to Mr. Trump’s decision to move the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

And with each breach, it becomes clearer that trans-Atlantic relations are in trouble, and that the options are not good for the United States’ closest European allies.”

via Europe, Again Humiliated by Trump, Struggles to Defend Its Interests – The New York Times

Excellent piece by Steven Erlanger. Here are the top comments, all of which I recommended. My thoughts are at the end of these comments by others.

New York

In understanding what would lead Putin to support Trump, Europe and the United States failed to objectively assess what is in Russia/Putin’s best self-interest. That is a catastrophic Middle East War that significantly restricts oil supply and sends prices per/barrel back over the $100 mark.

An all out war between Saudi Arabia and Iran will cause, serious disruption to the Arab OPEC energy producing nations far exceeding any war before it. Supply via the Gulf of Hormuz and the southern pipeline will be catastrophically affected.

Russia’s northern routes of supply to Europe (and greatest profit) would be unimpeded.

Russia is Syria and Iran’s main arms supplier and ally. So it would stand to profit directly from the conflict as well.

All this lies behind the decision by Putin and his oligarchs to back Trump the Traitor.

Look at it from Putin’s self-interested perspective and it is the obvious answer to all of his problems:

It will relieve his greatest financial pressure – by replenishing Russia’s coffers.

It will provide cover and distraction to aggressively pursue the restoration of what he views Russia’s “traditional borders.”

It has already weakened and now will split NATO.

It will isolate America and alienate most of the rest of the world from the U.S. as any kind of moral counterweight of any consequence.

It makes any treaty with the U.S. worth one presidential election.

Susan commented May 9

East Coast

I disagree that it’s the European allies who are humiliated. I think Trump has humiliated America with policies that are guided by one tenet: undoing every success of his predecessor, a black president.

Kcf commented May 9

Kure Beach, NC
Times Pick

I do not like the headline. Why should Europe feel “humiliated”? I am embarrassed daily by the people in our White House. It’s a waste of time for anyone to try to talk to a narcissist. They tried – it’s time for them to move on.

Lexington commented May 9


“Humiliated”? Why does the author think that Europe’s self image is dependent upon trump and the United States? What’s happening is the (formerly) United States are being embarrassed by an incompetent head of state with a lack of understanding of even the most basic tenets of diplomacy and leadership. Mr. Erlanger got the “patience is thin” part right, however. The US is no longer a leader, we are rapidly becoming a rogue state. Offered a seat at the table for how long is the question.

François commented May 9

Times Pick

I wanted, in an English that I hope is acceptable, to share the opinion of a very ordinary European citizen, but proud of it. We owe a lot (I’m French) to America, but as time passes, is it more or less than you to the French and Lafayette? But this is not the most important. The contempt, the ignorance, the arrogance of your current administration is sad and makes us want our people to boycott US products. Do you know Iran, Persia … and this people? I do not speak of the mullahs. I do. I am not sure of being more afraid of them than of you. Nor to think that sharing our nuclear technology with this people would perhaps compensate for the scorn in which we are held by uneducated people venerating only money. We are probably not there yet, but you are pushing us. As for the extra territoriality of American law, you play with the fire dear-old-friends …

Opinion | Talk Tough, and Weaken America – by David Leonhardt – NYT

There is a theme to President Trump’s foreign policy: Talk tough, and weaken America’s global standing. It’s virtually the opposite of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous line, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

In Asia, for example, Trump’s withdrawal from a trade pact has thrilled China’s leaders, clearing the way for China to increase its regional influence at the expense of the United States. Yesterday, of course, Trump announced he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. The decision horrified America’s closest allies. Our enemies and rivals, on the other hand, are quite pleased.

“I don’t see any way Iran hardliners aren’t going to take this as a big win,” tweeted Melissa Hanham of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

via Opinion | Talk Tough, and Weaken America – The New York Times

Opinion | Europe’s Plea to Congress: Keep the Iran Pact – By Delphine O- Omid Nouripour and Richard Bacon

By Delphine O, Omid Nouripour and Richard Bacon

“The most important and promising step taken toward nonproliferation in the past 20 years — the one with the most impact — is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. A document 159 pages long, it was signed in Vienna with the Islamic Republic of Iran almost three years ago by the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. It is not only a historical landmark — the crowning achievement of 12 years of intense diplomatic negotiations — but also a safeguard against a nuclear Middle East.

Yet President Trump and his administration have threatened to pull out of this compact. America’s withdrawal would put the agreement at high risk; it might also prompt the Iranians to leave the pact, starting a nuclear race in the region. It would drive a wedge in the trans-Atlantic partnership and drive Europe into a kind of forced marriage with the Russians and Chinese to save at least part of the deal.”

Iran Finally Let Her See Her Husband. He Was Dead. – The New York Times

“TEHRAN — When the call finally came, Maryam Seyed Emami’s heart leapt. Except for one brief phone call, she had heard nothing from her husband, Kavous Seyed Emami, a professor and prominent environmentalist, since he was arrested and accused of spying more than two weeks before. Now, she was being told to come to the offices of the Tehran prosecutor, where she could see her husband at last.

She rushed off, but upon arrival quickly sensed that something was wrong. Instead of being taken to see her husband she was closeted in a room with a prosecutor and four intelligence agents from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and interrogated for several hours. Cooperate, they told her, or you, too, will end up in prison.

In recounting the experience for their two sons, Ramin and Mehran, Ms. Seyed Emami said that the agents had asked about the couple’s friends and parties they had attended. They showed her family pictures and asked her to describe who and what were in them. They inquired about her husband’s environmental work, she told her sons. Did you know, they asked at one point, that he was a spy?

When the agents finally ran out of questions, she was informed she could see her husband. There was just one thing, they said. He was dead, having committed suicide in his cell.

“They should have built a statue to him, not let him die in prison,” Ramin, 36, a well-known singer in Iran who appears under the stage name King Raam, said in a lengthy interview. He and Mehran, 34, said they decided to ignore warnings from the interrogators and speak out in the hope of pressing the authorities to be more forthcoming about what had really happened to their father and to other prisoners who have died recently under mysterious circumstances in Iran’s prisons.”

via Iran Finally Let Her See Her Husband. He Was Dead. – The New York Times

Death by Hanging in Tehran – by Roger Cohen – NYT

“So Kavous Seyed Emami, an Iranian-Canadian university professor and environmentalist, “commits suicide” in Tehran’s Evin prison two weeks after his arrest. His wife Maryam, summoned last Friday, is shown his body hanging in a cell. He is buried four days later in a village north of the capital, without an independent autopsy and after his family has come under intense Revolutionary Guard pressure to accept the official version of events.

Tell me another. Seyed Emami’s death is an outrage and an embarrassment to the Islamic Republic.

I met him in Iran in 2009, on the eve of a tumultuous presidential election that would lead to massive demonstrations and bloody repression. The theocratic regime that promised freedom in 1979 only to deliver another form of repression stood briefly on a knife-edge. Seyed Emami was a thoughtful, mild-mannered man, a sociologist and patriot with a love of nature. The notion that he would hang himself in a prison where they remove even your shoelaces strikes me as preposterous.

“I still can’t believe this,” his son Ramin Seyed Emami, a musician whose stage name is King Raam, wrote on Instagram.

Since anti-government protests began late last year, mainly in poorer areas that had been strongholds of the regime, Seyed Emami is the third case of a supposed suicide while in custody. In him, several of the phobias of Iranian hard-liners found a focus.

He was a dual national of the kind President Hassan Rouhani, a reformist, is trying to lure back to the country to spur growth. He was an environmentalist, one of the founders of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, at a time when mismanagement and reckless dam building by the Revolutionary Guard and its front companies have contributed to water shortages. He was a Western-educated Iranian of the Rouhani camp, whose confrontation with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is in a particularly delicate phase.”

via Death by Hanging in Tehran – The New York Times

DL: Power to the people. Many good comments as well.