US President Donald J. Trump on June 24 signed an executive order that he said would place “hard-hitting” sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader.


“The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. He’s respected within his country.  His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Trump said before signing the order in the White House. “These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions,” he added.

The executive order allows US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to impose sanctions on officials appointed by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and those who provide material support to his office. “These sanctions will deny Iran’s leadership access to financial resources, blocking them from using the United States financial system or accessing any assets in the United States,” the White House said.

However, most analysts are skeptical about the efficacy of such action.

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As Washington focuses on the threat emanating from Tehran, US President Donald J. Trump is nominating a new head for the Department of Defense, one who has kept his eyes on the long-term challenges facing the United States. Trump named Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper as the new acting secretary of defense on June 18, and later announced that Esper would be nominated for the permanent position on June 21. While some national security experts are concerned that the Iran crisis may distract the United States from its primary challenge of great-power competition vis-à-vis Russia and China, Esper’s tenure as secretary of the army demonstrates a prioritization of great-power competition over other threats, and we should expect this trend to continue in his new role.

When predicting what to expect from Esper, it is essential to evaluate his time as the top civilian leader of the US Army. This approach is even more pertinent given the probable accession of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later this year. Their performance thus far can provide insight into the future trajectory of an army-led Pentagon.

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A central factor in the escalation of US-China tensions relates to technology. The issues on the table go well beyond conventional trade disputes; tariffs get most of the press attention, but they are only part of a much bigger picture. Both the United States and China are already imposing, or considering imposing, restrictions on imports from each other of advanced high-technology products. In the process, they would be aiming at making their economies and companies less dependent on the other’s supplies of such technologies.  

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While there has been much debate about who bears the cost of US tariffs, it is US importers of Chinese goods, and not China, that have to pay. Many of these tariffs significantly increase the price of intermediate goods, such as auto parts and computer components, needed by US manufacturers to produce competitive products in the United States. The additional cost of higher tariffs also forces large numbers of US consumers to pay.


An analysis released by economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Princeton University, and Columbia University in March asserted that Americans were paying “the full incidence of the tariff.” And a more recent Goldman Sachs Research report cited two academic studies showing that “Chinese exporters did not absorb any of the tariffs in their profit margins.”

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As the world’s attention has been focused on the Women’s World Cup in France, the week’s headlines were all about competition. Do you remember who came out on top in Guatemala’s election? How about the liberal leadership race in Brussels? Take our quiz to see if you can claim victory over this week’s top headlines.

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Bellingcat and the Global Legal Action Network are using open source information to investigate airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on civilian targets and critical infrastructure in Yemen.

The goal of this project is to investigate “a hundred airstrikes as part of legal cases to prevent arms exports to Saudi Arabia,” said Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, an open source investigation website. In remarks at the Atlantic Council’s 360 O/S disinformation conference in London on June 21, Higgins used videos—most relying on satellite imagery—to explain the work his team of researchers has been doing to verify the credibility of information obtained from conflict zones around the world.

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In April, Norwegian security agents informed Iyad el-Baghdadi that he was the target of a threat emanating from Saudi Arabia. El-Baghdadi believes the threat came from the government of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the crown prince’s righthand man Saud al-Qahtani.


El-Baghdadi, a prominent Arab activist, is a critic of the Saudi government, much like his late friend, Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. He took the threat seriously.

El-Baghdadi says the threats to his life have escalated since his involvement in an investigation into Saudi government Twitter campaigns against Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos since Khashoggi’s murder. The co-founder and president of the Kawaakibi Foundation, El-Baghdadi participated via Skype from Norway in the Atlantic Council’s 360 O/S disinformation conference in London on June 21. He discussed the importance of open source information in covering authoritarian regimes.

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Current trade negotiations between the United States and China are considerably different in character, and far broader in scope, than any engaged in by the United States since World War II. Dusting off old game plans and strategies of earlier eras will not work and will almost surely be counterproductive in addressing the profoundly consequential issues we now confront. Neither game plans and mindsets used during the Cold War, nor those used in recent and more traditional trade negotiations, are appropriate.

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If the United States decides to strike back at Iran for its shooting down of a US drone on June 20, “the escalatory spiral” in the region “will only continue with potential disastrous consequences, according to Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

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Coming up on the anniversary of the July 2018 “trade truce” between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and US President Donald J. Trump, little progress has been made in trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union (EU). This article is the fourth in a series that will take stock of the opportunities in and challenges to the deepest trading relationship in the world and focuses on opportunities for further deepening and the potential impact on jobs and investment due to the current stalemate.

US consumers and importers are already paying a price for trade tensions between the United States and China. They are bearing almost entirely the tariff revenue collected at the US border. Escalation is also likely to affect business sentiment and investment.

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