Europe/Americas update: June 24-25 2017



Former Astronaut William Shepherd Awarded Russian Medal for Merit in Space Exploration
Sergey Kislyak (Wikimedia)

Russia’s US ambassador, the seemingly ubiquitous (at least among people involved with the Trump administration) Sergey Kislyak, is reportedly being recalled to Moscow. It seems the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation has quashed plans to move Kislyak into a role at the United Nations:

The decision to bring Kislyak back to Russia rather than appoint him to a senior position at the United Nations in New York, as several outlets previously reported, comes amid investigations by the FBI and Congress into the 66-year-old diplomat’s contacts with President Donald Trump’s top aides during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“He could use some time away,” said a US-based diplomat.

Couldn’t we all.


Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist Party appears to have won Sunday’s parliamentary vote by a margin that may be wide enough to give it a sole majority and avoid the need for another coalition. This might speed up the country’s European Union accession process to the extent that it would be easier for a single-party government to enact whatever reforms Brussels requires. Turnout looks like it was ridiculously low, around 45 percent.


New polling puts Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative coalition 15 points ahead of the opposition Social Democrats three months before the country’s September 24 parliamentary election. Which means that all the gains the Social Democrats had made in the polls earlier this year have vanished. However, the news is not great for Merkel in terms of finding a coalition partner. She may have to strike a deal with one of Germany’s left/center-left parties to get to a majority, unless she wants to cut a deal with the far-right nationalist Alternative for Germany, which all of the country’s major parties including Merkel’s Christian Democrats have promised not to do.


President Emmanuel Macron plans to call a joint session of parliament at Versailles palace soon. The joint session at Louis XIV’s old stomping grounds is typically reserved for occasions of national emergency, but Macron apparently would just like to call one so he can tell parliament what’s up. Not a great sign coming from a president who likes to style himself after Jupiter, as in the king of the Roman gods. He seems just a touch egotistical.


Theresa May appears to be preparing to sweeten her offer in terms of the stastus of EU national in the UK after Brexit:

Theresa May will offer to give Europeans living in the UK the same residency, employment, health, welfare and pensions rights as British citizens, but demand that “serious and persistent” criminals may be more easily deported than at present.

The prime minister’s 15-page package, which will be published on Monday alongside a statement to parliament, will be designed to give people who arrived in Britain before an agreed cut off date settled status.

The Brexit secretary, David Davis, said the aim was to ensure people had rights “almost equivalent to British citizens” if the EU27 agreed to a reciprocal deal. “They get the same residents rights, the same employment rights, the same health rights, the same welfare rights, the same pension rights and so on,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr. “The only thing they don’t get is the right to vote and they can get that if they become a citizen.”

The date before which EU citizens would need to have arrived in Britain to qualify for the offer would be no earlier than 29 March, 2017, when article 50 was triggered, but could be at the end of the Brexit process, he added.

If you somehow thought the EU wouldn’t have the upper hand in these negotiations, the past week should have disabused you of that notion. This offer probably still won’t be satisfactory for Brussels unless it carves out some role for the European Court of Justice in protecting EU citizens’ rights.



There’s saying the quiet parts out loud, and then there’s this:

As the White House formulates its official policy on Iran, senior officials and key allies of President Donald Trump are calling for the new administration to take steps to topple Tehran’s militant clerical government.

Supporters of dislodging Iran’s iron-fisted clerical leadership say it’s the only way to halt Tehran’s dangerous behavior, from its pursuit of nuclear weapons to its sponsorship of terrorism. Critics say that political meddling in Iran, where memories of a 1953 CIA-backed coup remain vivid, risks a popular backlash that would only empower hard-liners.

That’s why President Barack Obama assured Iranians, in a 2013 speech at the United Nations, that “we are not seeking regime change.”

But influential Iran hawks want to change that under Trump.

In addition to being self-defeating, publicizing plans for “peaceful regime change” also announces that the Trump administration is interested in violating international law–though, as I’ve often said around this place, international law only means something if somebody decides to enforce it.

What I really like is that this plan rests on arguments that would get you tossed out of a freshman political science course and/or survey of modern Middle Eastern history:

Soon after Trump’s inauguration, FDD’s CEO, Mark Dubowitz, submitted a seven-page Iran policy memo to Trump’s National Security Council. The memo — which was circulated inside the Trump White House and recently obtained by POLITICO — included a discussion of ways to foment popular unrest with the goal of establishing a “free and democratic” Iran.

“Iran is susceptible to a strategy of coerced democratization because it lacks popular support and relies on fear to sustain its power,” the memo argued. “The very structure of the regime invites instability, crisis and possibly collapse.”

Ah yes, the famous kind of democratization that is coerced from outside the country, that’s the kind that always works so well. Look at those thriving democracies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, for example. Shining examples for the rest of us.

Anyway, you know this is a great idea because Michael Morell, who was once acting director of the CIA and is probably certifiably nuts, thinks that it’s dangerously provocative and is likely to implode:

“Even the discussion of regime change is damaging, let alone a policy of regime change,” said Mike Morell, a former deputy director of the CIA who focused heavily on Iran.

“A policy of regime change would be a huge strategic mistake,” Morell said. He added that such an approach would drive away pro-modernization Iranians and allow Khamenei to accuse outsiders of again meddling in a country with a long history of unwanted foreign influence. “A huge potential downside is that you feed the hard-liners and lose the moderates,” Morell said.

“Not only are you unlikely to be successful, but you are likely to have huge blowback,” Morell added.

The people who want regime change, which inevitably means war, don’t care if announcing their policy will alienate moderate and reformist Iranians because they still believe the United States will be greeted as liberators. They learned nothing from Iraq, and why would they? None of these people, who cheerled for that war just as they’re cheerleading for this one, suffered so much as the tiniest professional consequence for being utterly, destructively wrong.

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