Trump plays down war with Iran
US President Donald Trump last week played down the chances of conflict in the Gulf. “President insists he doesn’t want a war with Iran,” headlined the New York Times. The Washington Post saw Trump “resisting aides’ aggressive posture on Iran” and favouring “a diplomatic remedy for perceived threats.”
The Times highlighted last week’s public “spat over threat from Iran” between London and Washington, after US intelligence found that pro-Iran militias were preparing attacks on Western targets in the region.
The Times – May 16th
The Washington Post reported Secretary of State Pompeo’s attempts to persuade the EU to follow the US lead on Iran but failing to convince them. “Pompeo crashes EU meeting, changes few minds,” was the headline. It appeared underneath a photo of one of four tankers subjected to sabotage in the Gulf last week in an attack widely blamed on Iran or its regional proxies.
The Washington Post – May 14th
Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin argued the Trump administration was involved in the difficult task of “restoring deterrence” with Iran, not seeking a conflict. “They say their goal is not to spark a conflict but to combine their ever-intensifying pressure campaign with deterrence against Iran’s response to that strategy. It’s a complicated gambit.”
New York Times opinion writer Ross Douthat agreed this was the US aim but worried what would happen if Iran refused to yield to pressure. “If the White House is wrong about the Iranian regime’s willingness to make more concessions, then they’re turning a dial that can produce only two policy responses: endurance or armed reaction."
China hits back at US tariffs
Financial Times – May 14th
“Global markets reel as Beijing hits back at ‘US protectionism’,” was how the Financial Times early last week reported China’s widely expected retaliation against the US tariff hike. When the US decided to place China’s telecom giant, Huawei, on its export blacklist, the Washington Post said this “raises worries of a broad economic divorce.”
The Times argued, however, “it remains overwhelmingly in both sides’ political and economic interests to reach a deal.” Former South China Morning Post editor Wang Xiangwei saw the tough talk as a negotiating tactic and predicted Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping would agree a deal at next month’s G20 in Japan. “Ignore the bravado, a US-China trade deal is still possible. But it’ll take a Xi-Trump one-on-one.”
US anti-abortion campaign reaches Alabama
A number of US states have this year tightened access to abortion. Alabama last week passed a law making virtually any abortion a criminal offence, even in cases of rape or incest.
The Wall Street Journal May 16th
The Times saw the goal of these moves as being to bring the matter to the Supreme Court and overthrow the constitutional right to abortion. “To overturn this judgment would be a retrograde step of a kind without precedent in an advanced liberal democracy,” it said.
The New York Times unequivocally opposed the Alabama anti-abortion law and those passed in other states and made a direct plea to its readers, “Don’t let abortion rights fade from consciousness as these extreme laws become America’s new normal.”
Washington Post columnist David von Drehle saw the anti-abortion campaign as a political move by conservative Republicans. “A movement that once valued patriotism now sows division just to win re-election,” he said.
May sets timetable for her departure
British PM Theresa May said last week she would again put her EU Withdrawal Bill to a parliamentary vote. She also bowed to pressure from within her party to set a timetable for her resignation.
The Daily Telegraph – May 17th
The Daily Telegraph headlined the leadership of the Tory party was about to “tell a tearful May her time is up.” The paper insisted a new prime minister could negotiate a better deal with the EU. “It would be much wiser to think about a whole new strategy, which means putting preparation for a no-deal Brexit back on the table and returning to Brussels with a fresh set of demands,” it said.
Papers reported former Foreign Secretary and prominent pro-Brexit MP, Boris Johnson, as the most likely successor to May.
A defiant May, however, set out in The Sunday Times why she believed she could still secure Brexit by persuading MPs to vote for her revised Withdrawal Bill. “When the Withdrawal Agreement Bill comes before MPs, it will represent a new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons.. I will not be simply asking MPs to think again. Instead I will ask them to look at a new and improved deal with fresh pairs of eyes — and to give it their support,” she said.