Donald Trump lobs a grenade from afar into the G7

The risks of a trade war were already high. This will not help

.. FOR a moment, the Group of Seven (G7) leaders attending their annual summit, in a mountain village in Quebec, looked like they had managed to paper over their differences with President Donald Trump and present a united front. They found just the right wording to secure American agreement on matters that never used to be in question, such as supporting democracy, abiding by international-trade rules and fighting terrorism.
..  It was unclear whether Mr Trump’s reversal was because of Mr Trudeau’s confirmation that Canada would retaliate against America’s steel and aluminium tariffs (the two leaders had already discussed this). Or was it a rejection of Mr Trump’s claim that a new deal for a North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would have a sunset clause?
.. On trade, at one point it seemed as though Mr Trump was in search of some sort of grand bargain, as he called for the end of all subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade. But this was more an indication of how poorly Mr Trump understands the global trading system than a serious summons to the negotiating table.
.. But his combination of bullying rhetoric and aggrieved victimhood is well-known.
.. It is perhaps more surprising that Mr Trump still faces people who think he can be persuaded by facts.
.. At the meeting, Mr Trump’s counterparts brought binders of figures to the session devoted to trade in an attempt to persuade him that his belief that the rest of the world was unfair to America was mistaken. Tellingly, the desk in front of Mr Trump was bare.
He later told reporters the others had been smiling at him as if they could not believe they had got away with using America as a “piggy bank” for so long. “The gig is up,” he said.

The Myth of Conservative Feminism

While groundbreaking in the literal sense, there is nothing feminist about a woman who oversaw a site where detainees were tortured, someone who refuses to say whether she believes torture is immoral. In the same way, there is nothing “empowering” about Ms. Scott, a media executive who reportedly enforced a “miniskirt rule” for female on-air talent, and who was cited in two lawsuits for contributing to a toxic work environment and retaliating against a sexual harassment victim.

Feminism isn’t about blind support for any woman who rises to power.

The real political duplicity here is Republicans’ continued efforts to co-opt feminist language while actively curtailing women’s rights.

.. Conservatives appropriating feminist rhetoric despite their abysmal record on women’s rights

.. In our eagerness to make feminism more friendly to the mainstream, we didn’t fully consider what it would mean if any woman could claim the label.

.. Now that feminism is more culturally and politically powerful than it has been in decades, however, conservatives are eager to capitalize on its cachet. Or wield it as a cudgel.

.. The conservative commentator Tomi Lahren, for example, has said that any woman who doesn’t support Ivanka Trump’s business because of her father’s policies isn’t “really a feminist.”

.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, blasted any Democrat “who claims to support women’s empowerment” but opposed Ms. Haspel’s nomination as “a total hypocrite.”

.. In 2015, conservative female leaders leveled the same criticism at women’s rights advocates for not rallying around Carly Fiorina’s presidential bid.

.. It’s a hollow argument from the Republican Party, which does next to nothing to prioritize women’s representation. The truth is that while feminism need not be complicated .. it is not for everyone.

.. Women like Gina Haspel and Suzanne Scott have certainly benefited from the movement; without feminism, they very likely wouldn’t have the jobs they have now. But taking advantage of feminist wins does not make someone a feminist.

.. You cannot be a feminist and support an immigration policy of taking children away from undocumented immigrant mothers.

You cannot be a feminist and go along with the White House’s newly announced domestic gag rule, a mandate that would withhold funding from any health care center that helps patients find abortion services.

.. Amassing professional power at the expense of other women isn’t feminism — it’s self-interest.

.. Now we have a different task: protecting the movement against conservative appropriation. We’ve come too far to allow the right to water down a well-defined movement for its own cynical gains. Because if feminism means applauding “anything a woman does” — even hurting other women — then it means nothing.

The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

Israel and Iran, at the exact same time, seem to be heading for a High Noon shootout in Syria over Iran’s attempts to turn Syria into a forward air base against Israel, something Israel is vowing to never let happen. This is not mere speculation. In the past few weeks — for the first time ever — Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria.

And this quiet phase may be about to end.

.. Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level — and if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out.

.. Round one occurred on Feb. 10, when an Iranian drone launched by a Revolutionary Guards Quds Force unit operating out of Syria’s T4 air base, east of Homs in central Syria, was shot down with a missile from an Israeli Apache helicopter that was following it after it penetrated Israeli airspace.

.. “the aircraft was carrying explosives” and that its mission was “an act of sabotage in Israeli territory.”

.. Israeli jets launched a predawn missile raid on the Iranian drone’s T4 home base last Monday. This would have been a huge story — Israel killed seven Iranian Quds Force members, including Col. Mehdi Dehghan, who led the drone unit — but it was largely lost in the global reaction to (and Trump tweets about) President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons two days earlier.

.. the Iranians not only openly announced their embarrassing losses through the semiofficial Fars news agency — they have played down previous indirect casualties from Israeli strikes in Syria — but then publicly vowed to take revenge.

.. Israeli defense officials have let it be known that if the Iranians were to strike back at Israeli targets, Israel may use the opportunity to make a massive counterstrike on Iran’s entire military infrastructure in Syria, where Iran is attempting to establish both a forward air base, as well as a factory for GPS-guided missiles that could hit targets inside Israel with much greater accuracy — inside a 50-meter radius

.. Iran claims it is setting up bases in Syria to protect it from Israel, but Israel has no designs on Syria; it actually prefers the devil it knows there — Assad — over chaos.

.. it has not intervened in the civil war there except to prevent the expansion of Iran’s military infrastructure there or to retaliate for rebel or Syrian shells that fell on Israel’s territory.

.. Tehran’s attempt to build a network of bases and missile factories in Syria — now that it has helped Assad largely crush the uprising against him — appears to be an ego-power play by Iran’s Quds Force leader Suleimani to extend Iran’s grip on key parts of the Sunni Arab world and advance his power struggle with President Hassan Rouhani.

Suleimani’s Quds Force now more or less controls — through proxies — four Arab capitals: Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Sana.

.. Iran has actually become the biggest “occupying power” in the Arab world today. But Suleimani may be overplaying his hand, especially if he finds himself in a direct confrontation with Israel in Syria, far from Iran, without air cover.

.. even before this, many average Iranians were publicly asking what in the world is Iran doing spending billions of dollars — which were supposed to go to Iranians as a result of the lifting of sanctions from the Iran nuclear deal — fighting wars in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

.. Iran’s currency is collapsing back home.

.. The rial has lost one-third of its value just this year

.. Israeli military officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin and Suleimani are no longer natural allies. Putin wants and needs a stable Syria where his puppet Bashar Assad can be in control and Russia can maintain a forward naval and air presence and look like a superpower again — on the cheap.

.. Iran’s President Rouhani probably also prefers a stable Syria, where Assad has consolidated his power and that is not a drain on the Iranian budget.

But Suleimani and the Quds Force seem to aspire to greater dominance of the Arab world and putting more pressure on Israel.

Unless Suleimani backs down, you are about to see in Syria an unstoppable force — Iran’s Quds Force — meet an immovable object: Israel.