A TRANSATLANTIC TRUCE

In a stunning turnaround, President Trump announced a pause in the growing trade fight between the US and EU on Wednesday. According to the agreement, the US administration will, at the very least, forgo new trade measures against the EU in return for an open-ended commitment to buy more American soybeans and liquefied natural gas.


But while the deal between President Trump and EU Commission President Juncker was sealed with a touching smooch on the cheek, the key question remains whether the two sides will now actually do what they’ve promised.

Here’s Gabe with some thoughts on what’s going on:

Why now? Trump understands the importance of picking his battles. With US midterms just months away, a deal to put off possibly damaging tit-for-tat trade measures with the EU is a smart political move. The conflict with China is already being felt in important red states targeted with retaliatory action. The EU commitment to buy up American soybeans could help mitigate some of that pain. Not to mention that far more Americans view China as the top global economic power today — 44 percent — than those who say the same about the EU — just 5 percent.

A new Trump tactic? But this week’s deal also signaled a possibly important shift in the US president’s strategy for dealing with all ongoing trade negotiations — demanding countries get rid of tariffs altogether, rather than simply reducing their deficits with the US. This approach was first floated by Trump at the G7 summit in Canada, and it could prove an effective tool for increasing US leverage in future negotiations. A push for zero tariffs, for example, on automobiles or agriculture would be tough sells for Germany and France, respectively, who Trump could then call out for hypocrisy.

Does this indicate a permanent shift on trade policy? No. In fact, it could enable the Trump administration to go after China more forcefully — unburdened by having to deal with the EU. On NAFTA, the administration has said it’s planning to have a preliminary agreement in place by August. Canadian and Mexican negotiators have long since agreed to the most important US demands, but Trump has prolonged the process because the fight makes for good politics.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

Read More at Microsoft On The Issues.

In recent years, Republicans have come to dominate most of the state legislatures in the US. Ironically, it was during the Obama-era that the GOP made major headway in states that had long been considered safely blue. State legislatures are now redder than they've been in nearly a century, and in most parts of the country, one party holds all the levers of power. For the first time since 1914, there's only one split legislature in the entire country: Minnesota. To be sure, some state races are bucking the trend: Kentucky and Louisiana, both deep-red states, recently elected Democratic governors. Here's a look at how Democratic and Republican control of state legislatures has evolved over the past four decades.

Forty years ago, Islamic extremists angry at the Saudi government's experiments with social liberalization laid siege to the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.

The attack came on the heels of the Iranian revolution across the Gulf, putting the House of Saud and its American backers in a precarious spot. Tehran had challenged Saudi Arabia's Islamic legitimacy from without, while jihadists were now doing the same from within. For a few days it seemed as though the world's most important oil producer – and the custodian of Islam's holiest places – might be in danger of collapse.

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Forty years ago today, dozens of bearded gunmen stormed the holiest site in Islam, the Grand Mosque at Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

They held the complex for two weeks before a French-trained Saudi force rooted them out, but the fallout from the attack went on to shape the modern Middle East in ways that are still with us today: in the scourge of transnational jihadism and the deepening rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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What changes now that the U.S. softened its position on Israeli settlements?

Well, I mean, not a lot. I mean, keep in mind that this is also the administration that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Everyone said that was going to be a massive problem. Ultimately, not many people cared. Same thing with recognition of Golan Heights for Israel. This is just one more give from the Americans to the Israelis in the context of a region that doesn't care as much as they used to about Israel - Palestine.

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