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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Embargoes and Sanctions"

Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy

Westlake Legal Group 01dc-russia-assess-facebookJumbo Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Taliban State Department Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Putin, Vladimir V Pompeo, Mike North Atlantic Treaty Organization Group of Eight Embargoes and Sanctions Cyberwarfare and Defense Cold War Era Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

The intelligence finding that Russia was most likely paying a bounty for the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan has evoked a strange silence from President Trump and his top national security officials.

He insists he never saw the intelligence, though it was part of the President’s Daily Brief just days before a peace deal was signed with the Taliban in February.

The White House says it was not even appropriate for him to be briefed because the president only sees “verified” intelligence — prompting derision from officials who have spent years working on the daily brief and say it is most valuable when filled with dissenting interpretations and alternative explanations.

But it doesn’t require a high-level clearance for the government’s most classified information to see that the list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rivals some of the worst days of the Cold War.

There have been new cyberattacks on Americans working from home to exploit vulnerabilities in their corporate systems and continued concern about new playbooks for Russian actors seeking to influence the November election. Off the coast of Alaska, Russian jets have been testing American air defenses, sending U.S. warplanes scrambling to intercept them.

It is all part of what Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Monday was “the latest in a series of escalations from Putin’s regime.”

Yet missing from all this is a strategy for pushing back — old-fashioned deterrence, to pluck a phrase from the depths of the Cold War — that could be employed from Afghanistan to Ukraine, from the deserts of Libya to the vulnerable voter registration rolls in battleground states.

Officially, in Mr. Trump’s national security strategy, Russia is described as a “revisionist power” whose efforts to peel away NATO allies and push the United States out of the Middle East have to be countered. But the paper strategy differs significantly from the reality.

There are at least two Russia strategies in this divided administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, usually so attuned to Mr. Trump, speaks for the hawkish wing: He came to the State Department podium a few weeks ago to declare that Crimea, annexed by Russia six years ago, will never be recognized as Russian territory.

Then there is the president, who “repeatedly objected to criticizing Russia and pressed us not to be so critical of Russia publicly,” his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, notes in his recent memoir. A parade of other former national security aides have emerged, bruised, with similar reports.

Yet the nature of intelligence — always incomplete and not always definitive — gives Mr. Trump an opening to dismiss anything that challenges his worldview.

“By definition, intelligence means looking at pieces of a puzzle,” said Glenn S. Gerstell, who retired this year as the general counsel of the National Security Agency, before the Russian bounty issue was front and center. “It’s not unusual to have inconsistencies. And the President’s Daily Brief, not infrequently, would say that there is no unanimity in the intelligence community, and would explain the dissenting views or the lack of corroboration.”

That absence of clarity has not slowed Mr. Trump when it comes to placing new sanctions on China and Iran, who pose very different kinds of challenges to American power.

Yet the president made no apparent effort to sort through evidence on Russia, even before his most recent call with President Vladimir V. Putin, when he invited the Russian leader to a Group of 7 meeting planned for September in Washington. Russia has been banned from the group since the Crimea invasion, and Mr. Trump was essentially restoring it to the G8 over the objection of many of America’s closest allies.

The White House will not say whether he would have acted differently had he been aware of the Russian bounty for American lives.

“If you’re going to be on the phone with Vladimir Putin, this is something you ought to know,” said Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who managed the impeachment trial against Mr. Trump. “This is something you ought to know if you’re inviting Russia back into the G8.”

It is just the latest example of how, in Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach, he rarely talks about Russia strategy other than to say it would be good to be friends. He relies on his gut and talks about his “good relationship” with Mr. Putin, echoing a line he often uses about Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator.

So it is little surprise that after three and a half years, there is often hesitation to bring Mr. Trump damning intelligence about Russia.

And in this case, there was another element: concern inside the White House about any intelligence findings that might interfere with the administration’s announcement of a peace deal with the Taliban.

After months of broken-off negotiations, Mr. Trump was intent on announcing the accord in February, as a prelude to declaring that he was getting Americans out of Afghanistan. As one senior official described it, the evidence about Russia could have threatened that deal because it suggested that after 18 years of war, Mr. Trump was letting Russia chase the last American troops out of the country.

The warning to Mr. Trump appeared in the president’s briefing book — which Mr. Bolton said almost always went unread — in late February. On Feb. 28, the president issued a statement that a signing ceremony for the Afghan deal was imminent.

“When I ran for office,” Mr. Trump said in the statement, “I promised the American people I would begin to bring our troops home, and see to end this war. We are making substantial progress on that promise.”

He dispatched Mr. Pompeo to witness the signing with the Taliban. And as Mr. Trump noted in a tweet over the weekend, there have been no major attacks on American troops since. (Instead, the attacks have focused on Afghan troops and civilians.)

Russia’s complicity in the bounty plot came into sharper focus on Tuesday as The New York Times reported that American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account, according to officials familiar with the intelligence.

The United States has accused Russia of providing general support to the Taliban before. But the newly revealed information about financial transfers bolstered other evidence of the plot, including detainee interrogations, and helped reduce an earlier disagreement among intelligence analysts and agencies over the reliability of the detainees.

Lawmakers on Tuesday emerged from closed briefings on the matter to challenge why Mr. Trump and his advisers failed to recognize the seriousness of the intelligence assessment.

“I’m concerned they didn’t pursue it as aggressively or comprehensively as they should have,” said Representative Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat who heads the House Armed Services Committee. “Clearly there was evidence that Russia was paying the bounties.”

The oddity, of course, is that despite Mr. Trump’s deference to the Russians, relations between Moscow and Washington under the Trump administration have nose-dived.

That was clear in the stiff sentence handed down recently in Moscow against Paul N. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, after his conviction on espionage charges in what the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John J. Sullivan, called a “mockery of justice.”

Even Russian state television now regularly mocks Mr. Trump as a buffoon, very different from its gushing tone during the 2016 presidential election.

Andrew Higgins contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Halts High-Tech Exports to Hong Kong Over Security Concerns

Westlake Legal Group merlin_171420231_6a3f600b-2dcf-4afa-99c5-f9815cdb3442-facebookJumbo U.S. Halts High-Tech Exports to Hong Kong Over Security Concerns United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J State Department Ross, Wilbur L Jr Pompeo, Mike International Trade and World Market Embargoes and Sanctions Commerce Department

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration placed new restrictions on U.S. exports of defense equipment and certain high-technology products to Hong Kong on Monday, in response to a new Chinese law aimed at tightening Beijing’s control over the territory.

The administration determined in late May that Hong Kong no longer had significant autonomy under Chinese rule, and promised to begin stripping away Hong Kong’s privileged status with the United States if Beijing continued to crack down on civil liberties in Hong Kong.

Chinese lawmakers are poised to approve a national security law as soon as this week that could drastically curb protests and other criticisms of the Chinese government, infringing on an arrangement that has made Hong Kong, which China ceded to Britain in 1842 and which ceased being a British colony in 1997, autonomous in many respects.

In separate statements on Monday, the State Department said that it would end exports of U.S. military equipment to Hong Kong, while the Commerce Department said that Hong Kong would now be subject to the same types of controls on certain technology exports that apply to China. Those controls block American companies from selling certain types of sensitive, high-technology products that could threaten national security to China, Russia and other countries deemed to be a security risk.

The effect of the new restrictions announced Monday appear to be relatively limited in scope, given the small volume of trade the United States does with Hong Kong. Hong Kong represented just 2.2 percent of American exports in 2018, with defense and high-technology items making up a sliver of that.

But the export limitations announced Monday could have larger implications for some multinational companies, including some semiconductor firms, who now will be barred from sending products or sharing certain high-tech information with the territory. Some multinational companies that chose Hong Kong as a base for doing business with China have begun considering moves to other locations, including Singapore.

The Trump administration has said it would end an extradition treaty with Hong Kong and curtail some other commercial relations as a result of China’s new security law. It said it would cancel visas for thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to the Chinese military, and threatened to place sanctions on Chinese government officials and financial institutions involved in promulgating the security law.

But the Trump administration has stopped short of broader financial sanctions, which could be crippling for Chinese companies and the U.S.-China economic relationship, including President Trump’s Phase 1 trade deal.

In a statement, Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, said that China’s new security law undermined the territory’s autonomy and increased the risk that delicate American technology would be diverted to China’s military or security forces.

Mr. Ross said that further actions to eliminate Hong Kong’s differential treatment were “also being evaluated.”

“We urge Beijing to immediately reverse course and fulfill the promises it has made to the people of Hong Kong and the world,” he added.

“It gives us no pleasure to take this action,” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said in a separate statement. “But given Beijing now treats Hong Kong as ‘One Country, One System,’ so must we.”

Halting American high-tech exports to Hong Kong is not a new idea, as some American security experts have warned for years that China may be using purchases through Hong Kong to obtain products of military value that are prohibited for sale directly to mainland China. But Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary of commerce and economic development, said in an interview in his office in Hong Kong last year that the city has very tight controls on any re-export of high-tech gear that is subject to export controls by the United States or any other country.

Mr. Yau said at the time that the Hong Kong government was strongly opposed to any American move to apply export controls to Hong Kong, saying that Hong Kong retains a separate system in many ways from the mainland and has a history of close cooperation with the United States.

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Beijing.

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Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir

John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, plans to publish a damning book next week depicting President Trump as a corrupt, poorly informed, reckless leader who used the power of his office to advance his own personal and political needs even ahead of the nation’s interests.

The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” describes Mr. Bolton’s 17 turbulent months at Mr. Trump’s side through a multitude of crises and foreign policy challenges, but attention has focused mainly on his assertions that the president took a variety of actions that should have been investigated for possible impeachment beyond just the pressure campaign on Ukraine to incriminate Democrats.

Mr. Bolton, who did not testify during House proceedings and whose offer to testify in the Senate trial was blocked by Republicans, confirms many crucial elements of the Ukraine scheme that got Mr. Trump impeached in December. He also asserts that the president was willing to intervene in criminal investigations to curry favor with foreign dictators. And he says that Mr. Trump pleaded with China’s president to help him win re-election by buying American crops grown in key farm states.

Here are some of the highlights:

The book offers firsthand evidence that Mr. Trump linked his suspension of $391 million in security aid for Ukraine to his demands that Ukraine publicly announce investigations into supposed wrongdoing by Democrats, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — the heart of the impeachment case against the president.

If Mr. Bolton’s account is to be believed, it means that Mr. Trump explicitly sought to use taxpayer money as leverage to extract help from another country for his partisan political campaign, a quid pro quo that House Democrats called an abuse of power. At the time of the impeachment hearings, Republicans dismissed the accusation by saying that the witnesses offered only secondhand evidence. Mr. Bolton, by contrast, was in the room.

Mr. Bolton says that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper tried eight to 10 times to persuade the president to release the aid, which Ukraine desperately needed to defend itself against a continuing war with Russia-sponsored forces. The critical meeting took place on Aug. 20 when, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Trump “said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” referring to Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Bolton otherwise confirms testimony offered by his former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, that he objected to the “drug deal” being cooked up by Mr. Trump’s associates to force Ukraine to help and that he called Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer who was hip deep in the affair, “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.” He writes that he suspected that Mr. Giuliani had personal business interests at stake and adds that he had the matter reported to the White House Counsel’s Office.

“I thought the whole affair was bad policy, questionable legally, and unacceptable as presidential behavior,” Mr. Bolton writes. “Was it a factor in my later resignation? Yes, but as one of many ‘straws’ that contributed to my departure.”

As the book nears publication and details spill out, many congressional Democrats quickly assailed Mr. Bolton for not telling his story during the impeachment proceedings and instead saving it for his $2 million book.

Mr. Bolton explains his position in the epilogue, saying he wanted to wait to see if a judge would order one of his deputies to testify over White House objections. Once the House impeached Mr. Trump over the Ukraine matter, Mr. Bolton volunteered to testify in the Senate trial that followed if subpoenaed.

But Senate Republicans voted to block new testimony by him and any other witnesses even after The New York Times reported that his forthcoming book would confirm the quid pro quo. Some of those Republican senators said that even if Mr. Bolton was correct, it would not be enough in their minds to make Mr. Trump the first president in American history convicted and removed from office.

Mr. Bolton blames House Democrats for being in a rush rather than waiting for the court system to rule on whether witnesses like him should testify, and he faults them for narrowing their inquiry to just the Ukraine matter rather than building a broader case with more examples of misconduct by the president.

“Had a Senate majority agreed to call witnesses and had I testified, I am convinced, given the environment then existing because of the House’s impeachment malpractice, that it would have made no significant difference in the Senate outcome,” he writes.

The other episodes that Mr. Bolton says the House should have investigated include Mr. Trump’s willingness to intervene in Justice Department investigations against foreign companies to “give personal favors to dictators he liked.” Mr. Bolton said it appeared to be “obstruction of justice as a way of life.”

He singles out Halkbank of Turkey, a financial institution investigated for a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions on Iran. At a side encounter during a Buenos Aires summit meeting in late 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey handed Mr. Trump a memo by the law firm representing Halkbank, “which Trump did nothing more than flip through before declaring he believed Halkbank was totally innocent.” He then told Mr. Erdogan “he would take care of things.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172386801_35c241af-d1c4-4d04-aff7-498baa210452-articleLarge Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Book) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Putin, Vladimir V Presidential Election of 2020 Pompeo, Mike O'Brien, Robert C (1952- ) impeachment Embargoes and Sanctions Bolton, John R
Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Mr. Bolton also mentions ZTE, the Chinese telecommunications giant that was convicted of evading sanctions on Iran and North Korea and then faced new penalties for further violations during its follow-up consent decree. During a conversation on trade with President Xi Jinping of China, Mr. Trump offered to lighten the penalties.

“Xi replied that if that were done, he would owe Trump a favor and Trump immediately responded he was doing this because of Xi,” Mr. Bolton writes. He called himself “appalled” and “stunned” by the idea of intervening in a criminal investigation to let a sanctions buster off the hook. In the end, the Justice Department accepted a $1 billion fine and lifted a seven-year ban on buying American products, an act of lenience that saved the company from going out of business.

A new allegation in the book accuses Mr. Trump of “pleading” with Mr. Xi to help him win re-election by buying American agricultural products, which would help the president in farm states. Mr. Trump did not deny it when asked about the matter on Wednesday night by Sean Hannity on Fox News, but Robert Lighthizer, his trade representative, did on his behalf earlier in the day, saying it was not true.

Over a long career in and out of Republican administrations in Washington, Mr. Bolton has rarely shied from giving his opinions, usually born of strong conservative national security convictions that have made him one of the capital’s most outspoken hawks advocating the use of military power and sanctions.

While he agreed with Mr. Trump on issues like getting out of the nuclear accord with Iran, he found himself repeatedly trying to stop the president from making concessions to other rogue states or inviting the Taliban to Camp David for a peace deal while pushing for a more robust use of force against outliers like Iran or Syria. He considered Mr. Trump’s diplomacy to be folly.

To Mr. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s decision to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore was a “foolish mistake,” and the president’s desire to then invite Mr. Kim to the White House was “a potential disaster of enormous magnitude.” A series of presidential Twitter posts about China and North Korea were “mostly laughable.” Mr. Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki was a “self-inflicted wound” and “Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with in Helsinki.”

Mr. Bolton also describes an environment inside the administration marked by caustic infighting in which various players trash one another in a contest for the president’s ear — and the president trashes all of them.

When Mr. Bolton took over as national security adviser in 2018, John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff, disparaged the departing adviser, H.R. McMaster, by saying, “The president hasn’t had a national security adviser in the past year and he needs one.” Mr. Pompeo, the book says, disparaged Nikki R. Haley, then the ambassador to the United Nations, calling her “light as a feather.”

The Justice Department has gone to court to stop the book from being published, arguing that it has classified information in it and that it was not cleared by a prepublication review required of former government officials like Mr. Bolton.

In fact, according to his lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, Mr. Bolton participated in an extensive back-and-forth over the book and agreed to all of the revisions mandated by the career official who reviewed it or came up with acceptable alternatives. Only when the review was over did another official, Michael J. Ellis, a political appointee, step in to review it all over again at the instruction of Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Bolton’s successor as national security adviser.

If there is classified information still in the book, it is hard to figure out what it might be. There are not references to secret intelligence programs or espionage sources and methods. But Mr. Trump insisted this week that every conversation with him was “highly classified” and therefore could not be disclosed, an assertion that goes far beyond tradition.

In his epilogue, Mr. Bolton says that in a few cases, “I was prevented from conveying information that I thought was not properly classifiable, since it revealed information that can only be described as embarrassing to Trump or as indicative of possible impermissible behavior.” One example is the direct quote of what Mr. Trump said to Mr. Xi about helping him win re-election.

For the most part, though, Mr. Bolton explains in the epilogue that the career official who reviewed the book merely made him take quotation marks off things that the president said and otherwise generally left them in. And so Mr. Bolton offers a guide to readers: “In some cases, just put your own quotation marks around the relevant passages; you won’t go far wrong.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Administration to Block Chinese Airlines From Flying to the U.S.

Westlake Legal Group 03chinaflights2-facebookJumbo Trump Administration to Block Chinese Airlines From Flying to the U.S. United States Politics and Government United Airlines Trump, Donald J Transportation Department (US) Politics and Government Embargoes and Sanctions Delta Air Lines Inc Coronavirus Reopenings Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China Airlines and Airplanes

The Trump administration on Wednesday said it planned to block Chinese airlines from flying into or out of the United States starting on June 16, after the Chinese government effectively prevented U.S. airlines from resuming service between the countries.

The dispute stems from a March 26 decision by China’s aviation regulators that limited foreign carriers to one flight per week based on the flight schedules they had in place earlier that month. But all three American airlines that fly between China and the United States had stopped service to the country by then because of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the Chinese government had effectively banned them from flying there at all, even though airlines from that country continue to fly to American cities.

As ground zero of the pandemic, China was the first country to see aviation grind to a halt this year. In January, American and Chinese carriers operated about 325 weekly flights between the two countries. By mid-Feburary, only 20 remained, all of them run by Chinese airlines.

The March decision became a problem only in recent weeks, as Delta Air Lines and United Airlines had hoped to resume flights to China starting this month. Both carriers appealed to the Civil Aviation Authority of China, but did not receive a response. The U.S. also pressed Chinese officials to change their position during a call on May 14, arguing that the country was in violation of a 1980 agreement that governs flights between the two countries and aims to ensure that rules “equally apply to all domestic and foreign carriers” in both countries.

China’s aviation authority told American officials that it was considering amending its rule, but it has not said “definitively” when that might happen, the Transportation Department said in a statement. “In light of these facts, which present a situation in which the Chinese aviation authorities have authorized no U.S. carrier scheduled passenger operations between the United States and China, we conclude that these circumstances require the department’s action to restore a competitive balance.”

Tensions between the United States and China have escalated sharply in recent weeks as the countries scuffle over the origin of the pandemic and China’s recent move to tighten its authority over Hong Kong, a semiautonomous city. With the presidential election just five months away, President Trump and his campaign have taken a much tougher stand against China, blaming its government for allowing coronavirus to turn into a pandemic and wreck the American economy.

In mid-May, the Trump administration expanded restrictions on Huawei, the Chinese telecom firm, and blocked a government pension fund from investing in China. Last Friday, Mr. Trump announced that he was beginning the process of ending the American government’s special relationship with Hong Kong, and that his administration would place sanctions on officials responsible for Beijing’s rollback of liberties in the territory.


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  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 2, 2020

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      More than 40 million people — the equivalent of 1 in 4 U.S. workers — have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic took hold. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


“The Chinese government has continually violated its promises to us and so many other nations,” the president said at the time. “The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government.”

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

China’s Security Law Shakes Hong Kong’s Business World

Westlake Legal Group chinas-security-law-shakes-hong-kongs-business-world China's Security Law Shakes Hong Kong's Business World Stocks and Bonds Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Embargoes and Sanctions Economic Conditions and Trends Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China

HONG KONG — China’s desire to take a stronger hand in running Hong Kong has imperiled its status as Asia’s financial capital, sending its stock market into its sharpest plunge in five years and spurring predictions that money and business could soon leave the former British colony.

The threat does not come just from Beijing, which late on Thursday outlined its plan to bypass Hong Kong leaders and enact national security laws affecting the territory of roughly seven million people. That move puts Hong Kong squarely in the middle of the growing conflict between China and the United States, which is increasingly challenging Beijing on a number of fronts and could retaliate in ways that hobble its appeal as a place to do business.

Businesses and investors worry that a bruising clash between the superpowers could put an end to Hong Kong’s enviable position as a bridge between China’s powerful economic engine and the rest of the world.

“No matter what, they need to maintain Hong Kong’s unique status,” said Fred Hu, a prominent investor and the former chairman of Goldman Sachs’s Greater China business. His investment firm, Primavera Capital Group, has put billions of dollars in investments into China over the years.

“It’s not only crucial for Hong Kong’s future, but also really for China as a whole, in today’s highly uncertain and volatile political climate,” he added.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172724382_8e16353a-b8d4-4b63-9bba-e4f4721b54d0-articleLarge China's Security Law Shakes Hong Kong's Business World Stocks and Bonds Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Embargoes and Sanctions Economic Conditions and Trends Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China
Credit…Pool photo by Andy Wong

Investors expressed their fears in no uncertain terms. Hong Kong’s stock market tumbled 5.6 percent on Friday. Futures trading in the Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged to value of the American dollar, indicated that investors were expecting money to flood out of the territory.

At stake is Hong Kong’s status as a semiautonomous Chinese city with an independent judiciary, guarantees of free expression and assembly, loose business regulation and low financial and trade barriers with much of the world.

Though it benefits from China’s wealth, Hong Kong operates outside the authoritarian mainland, which offers none of those attributes. It is home to the regional headquarters of major global and Chinese companies alike.

Anti-Beijing protests last year, which led to pitched battles between protesters and police and sometimes filled its central financial district with fires and tear gas, raised questions about how long Hong Kong could remain appealing as a place to do business. Beijing’s move on Thursday gave those questions new urgency.

Brushing aside local leaders, Chinese officials announced that they planned to proceed with sweeping security measures for Hong Kong that could take effect later this year. The officials did not disclose details.

The sudden and unexpected move by Beijing has prompted fears that the Chinese Communist Party is willing to overstep freedoms that were promised to Hong Kong when Britain handed it back to China in 1997.

It raised questions about whether businesspeople could fall afoul of China’s traditionally broad definition of national security. Could banks break the law by publishing skeptical research about Chinese economic data or state-run companies? Could crimes considered ordinary elsewhere be considered national security threats, to be tried by secretive mainland courts?

Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

“How tightly would legislation be drafted to avoid ambiguity for business?” said Tara Joseph, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. “Would people who seem to be breaking national security law be tried in Hong Kong or in mainland China? Overall, this raises the risk factor for Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong officials moved quickly to assuage concerns. Carrie Lam, the territory’s chief executive, said that the security law would target “acts of secession, subverting state power and organizing and carrying out terrorist activities,” blights that she said the business sector had been “worrying about over the past year.”

Leung Chun-ying, a former chief executive of Hong Kong who is now a top Chinese adviser, said the national security measures were in the best interest of both Hong Kong society and investors.

“With such a law, it does not hinder foreign investors from investing locally, nor does it hinder the freedom enjoyed by local residents according to law,” Mr. Leung said in an interview with Chinese state media.

Officials in Washington may be an even more crucial audience. Hours after Beijing unveiled its plans, American lawmakers proposed legislation that would target Chinese officials and entities that trample on Hong Kong’s semiautonomous status. A proposed bill put forward by Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, and Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, would expose global banks to sanctions if they do business with entities that do the same.

“In many ways, Hong Kong is the canary in the coal mine for Asia,” Mr. Toomey said in an emailed statement. “Beijing’s growing interference could have a chilling effect on other nations struggling for freedom in China’s shadow.”

The State Department has delayed its annual report to Congress assessing the special status that it awards to Hong Kong while it waits to see details on Beijing’s new proposed security law in the coming days.

If the United States decided that Hong Kong’s relative autonomy was coming to an end, President Trump could take away certain privileges it grants the territory.

Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

Tens of billions of dollars in trade would suddenly be subject to tariffs and included in the tit-for-tat trade war between Washington and Beijing. American officials could curtain travel from Hong Kong and make it harder for its people to get American work visas. Hong Kong would also have a harder time buying technology deemed sensitive by the Washington. The convertibility of Hong Kong’s currency — which is freely exchange with the American dollar — could also be at stake.

“If they did abolish it, they are saying goodbye to Hong Kong,” said Ms. Joseph, of the chamber of commerce.

Some are already saying goodbye. Last summer, money began to flow out of the city and into Singapore, a regional safe haven.

The money appears to have started to flow out again this year. As of March, foreign currency deposits at both domestic and international banks operating in Singapore had nearly doubled since July, totaling $15 billion. The data do not say where the money is coming from, but economists point to the doubts over Hong Kong.

“Increasingly these concerns are seeping into business decisions,” said William Kaye, a longtime investor in China and founder of Pacific Group, the investment firm. “What is just a trickle could become a flood of capital out of Hong Kong.”

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China’s Hong Kong Crackdown Could Put Trump in an Unwelcome Spot

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-chinareact-facebookJumbo China’s Hong Kong Crackdown Could Put Trump in an Unwelcome Spot United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Embargoes and Sanctions Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Communist Party of China China

WASHINGTON — China’s plans to impose sweeping new security powers over Hong Kong could inflict even more damage on already fraught relations between Washington and Beijing, and force President Trump into uncomfortable decisions about whether to maintain his self-described friendly ties with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

The proposal announced in Beijing on Thursday provoked outrage in Congress, where bipartisan support grew quickly for new sanctions on Chinese officials and entities that Mr. Trump — who has shown limited interest in Hong Kong’s plight and a continued desire to carry out terms of a trade deal with Beijing — may not welcome.

Giving the government broad new powers to crack down on pro-democracy activists could effectively end Hong Kong’s limited independence and crush a protest movement that has agitated for nearly a year against China’s authoritarian Communist Party.

“This move by Beijing would rip away the remaining veneer of ‘one country, two systems.’ It would precipitate a crisis in U.S.-China relations,” said Evan Medeiros, a senior Asia director at the National Security Council under President Barack Obama and a professor at Georgetown University.

“Nationalist voices in the U.S. and China would have a party with this; 2020 is beginning to feel more and more like 1948 when the first crises of the Cold War broke out over Berlin,” Mr. Medeiros said, predicting that the United States and China would probably impose sanctions or other punishments on each other.

The Chinese government, which announced the move, is likely to put it in place by fiat during the National People’s Congress, which begins on Friday. How Mr. Trump will react is unclear.

Leaving the White House for a trip to Michigan on Thursday, he told reporters that he did not know “what it is,” but added, “If it happens, we’ll address that issue very strongly.”

The White House otherwise had no comment.

When mass demonstrations against Beijing took place in Hong Kong last summer, Mr. Trump — who has shown little interest in issues of democracy and human rights generally — had a muted response despite bipartisan pressure to show more support for a protest movement with open sympathies for the United States.

And even as he has lashed out at China’s government for its handling of the winter coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, helping to prompt the sharpest downturn in relations with Beijing in decades, Mr. Trump has taken care not to insult or offend Mr. Xi. Because of the pandemic’s economic toll, China has yet to meet purchasing demands outlined in a January trade agreement between the two nations. Mr. Trump and his economic advisers would like to see the deal fulfilled to aid his re-election prospects.

But in recent months the Trump campaign has increasingly focused on its message of China as a villainous threat to American economic and security interests, while portraying Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., as too conciliatory toward Beijing. Mr. Trump has repeatedly muddied that message with his deferential tone toward Mr. Xi.

“Any effort to impose national security legislation that does not reflect the will of the people of Hong Kong would be highly destabilizing, and would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the international community,” Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement on Thursday.

“We urge Beijing to honor its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration — including that Hong Kong will ‘enjoy a high degree of autonomy’ and that people of Hong Kong will enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms — which are key to preserving Hong Kong’s special status in international affairs and, consistent with U.S. law, the United States’ current treatment of Hong Kong,” she said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the State Department has yet to issue to Congress a mandatory report examining the autonomous status of Hong Kong in order to gauge continuing actions from Beijing before coming to a conclusion. The department might recommend that the United States no longer give Hong Kong preferential treatment as a territory that has autonomy under China.

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By midday Thursday, Senators Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, announced that they would propose legislation to impose sanctions on Chinese officials and entities that enforce the planned national security laws.

The measure would also impose sanctions on banks that do business with entities deemed to violate the Basic Law, a legal document that is supposed to guarantee Hong Kong significant autonomy until 2047.

“The communist regime in Beijing would like nothing more than to extinguish the autonomy of Hong Kong and the rights of its people,” Mr. Toomey said in a statement. “In many ways, Hong Kong is the canary in the coal mine for Asia. Beijing’s growing interference could have a chilling effect on other nations struggling for freedom in China’s shadow.”

China’s attempted crackdown on Hong Kong has been a rare cause for unity between the parties, with both liberals and conservatives rallying to the cause of democracy and condemning Mr. Xi’s increasingly authoritarian impulses.

“The USA cannot let this stand,” Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri and a staunch Trump ally and China hawk, wrote on Twitter. Mr. Hawley said he would introduce a Senate resolution “condemning this attempted crackdown” and calling on “all free nations to stand with” Hong Kong.

“This proposed legislation is a sign of Beijing’s weakness, not its strength,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Hong Kong’s special status is a benefit to China and the world. I don’t understand why Beijing continues to imperil that status with proposals such as this.”

Mr. Trump’s China policy has long been a battleground for dueling camps, usually featuring economic officials who favor a more conciliatory relationship and national security policymakers, led by Mr. Pompeo and senior National Security Council aides, who view China as a dangerous strategic rival that must be checked.

At the height of Mr. Trump’s trade negotiations with China in 2018 and 2019, the economy-centric view seemed to prevail and helped to explain Mr. Trump’s repeated fulsome praise of Mr. Xi as a “brilliant leader” and a “great man.”


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  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated May 20, 2020

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?

      There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • How can I help?

      Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.


But the emergence of the coronavirus from Wuhan, and the Chinese government’s initial efforts to conceal it, enraged Mr. Trump, who saw his re-election imperiled as a result, and in recent weeks the hawkish camp has pressed the sinister theory, with no evidence, that the virus escaped from a Chinese lab.

On Wednesday, the National Security Council released a White House strategy document detailing a “competitive” American approach devised in part to “to compel Beijing to cease or reduce actions harmful to the United States’ vital, national interests and those of our allies and partners.”

The same day, the Trump administration angered Beijing by approving as much as $180 million in torpedo sales to Taiwan, whose de facto independence mainland China rejects but which the Trump administration strongly supports.

Mr. Trump did not give any indication on Thursday how he will react to the congressional effort to impose sanctions.

After Congress passed legislation last fall, Mr. Trump was noncommittal about whether he would sign the measure. But he eventually did on the evening before Thanksgiving, ensuring it gained minimal publicity.

This time his conservative allies are more adamant than ever that Mr. Trump must not look the other way. “I think this has absolutely got to be a line in the sand,” said Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump White House strategist who now devotes much of his time to rallying conservatives to fight China’s communist leadership.

Regardless, experts said Beijing’s move would inevitably worsen a relationship that many already believe has become a kind of new Cold War.

“Beijing seems to have made the calculation that there is no financial price it won’t pay in order to eliminate the sight of millions of Chinese clamoring for democracy on a daily basis,” said Elizabeth Economy, the director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“The Trump White House, unfortunately, has little leverage and even less influence with the Xi administration at this point,” she added. “Relations between the United States and China are essentially in a free fall.”

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To Pressure Iran, Pompeo Turns to the Deal Trump Renounced

Westlake Legal Group 26dc-iransanctions-facebookJumbo To Pressure Iran, Pompeo Turns to the Deal Trump Renounced United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Security Council (UN) Russia Pompeo, Mike Nuclear Weapons Iran Europe Embargoes and Sanctions Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Arms Trade

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is preparing a legal argument that the United States remains a participant in the Iran nuclear accord that President Trump has renounced, part of an intricate strategy to pressure the United Nations Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Tehran or see far more stringent sanctions reimposed on the country.

The strategy has been described in recent days by administration officials as they begin to circulate a new resolution in the Security Council that would bar countries from exporting conventional arms to Iran after the current ban expires in October. Any effort to renew the arms embargo is almost certain to be opposed by Russia and, publicly or quietly, by China. The Russians have already told American and European officials they are eager to resume conventional arms sales to Iran.

In an effort to force the issue, Mr. Pompeo has approved a plan, bound to be opposed by many of Washington’s European allies, under which the United States would, in essence, claim it legally remains a “participant state” in the nuclear accord that Mr. Trump has denounced — but only for the purposes of invoking a “snapback” that would restore the U.N. sanctions on Iran that were in place before the accord.

If the arms embargo is not renewed, the United States would exercise that right as an original member of the agreement. That step would force a restoration of the wide array of the sanctions that prohibited oil sales and banking arrangements before the adoption of the agreement in 2015. Enforcing those older sanctions would, in theory, be binding on all members of the United Nations.

European diplomats who have learned of the effort maintain that Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo are selectively choosing whether they are still in the agreement to fit their agenda.

The entire drama could play out this autumn in the weeks before the presidential election, setting up a potential confrontation with Iran in the midst of the contest.

Political calculations aside, the administration’s larger plan may go beyond imposing harsher sanctions on Iran. It is also to force Tehran to give up any pretense of preserving the Obama-era agreement. Only by shattering it, many senior administration officials say, will Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani be forced to negotiate an entirely new agreement more to Mr. Trump’s liking.

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Iran has resisted even opening talks with the Trump administration, saying that before it would sit down Mr. Trump to amend the previous agreement, the United States would have to re-enter the accord and fully abide by its terms. Mr. Trump has refused.

The intricate strategy has been described by senior administration officials involved in devising it. Asked about it, Mr. Pompeo said in a statement to The New York Times: “We cannot allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to purchase conventional weapons in six months. President Obama should never have agreed to end the U.N. arms embargo.”

“We are prepared to exercise all of our diplomatic options to ensure the arms embargo stays in place at the U.N. Security Council,” he added.

A draft of the American resolution to extend the arms embargo indefinitely has been shared with some members of the Security Council by Brian H. Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, who is carrying out the new strategy.

In trips to New York and Paris, he has described the administration’s insistence that Tehran never receive even small conventional arms, much less missiles. But he did not explain the next step if the arms embargo lapses: an effort to unilaterally force the imposition of even more crushing sanctions.

The timing is critical for Iran, which has been ravaged by the coronavirus. A month ago, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, wrote to the world’s largest economic powers and urged a lifting of economic sanctions on Iran, along with Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Zimbabwe. “I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and Covid-19 medical support,” he wrote. “This is the time for solidarity not exclusion.”

He did not say how long that waiver should last, and his appeal has made little progress.

Mr. Trump said that he would be willing to give some medical equipment to Iran to combat the virus, such as ventilators, “if they ask for it.” Iran’s leaders have not asked.

Trump administration officials say their threat to return to the far harsher sanctions — which blocked virtually all oil sales and drove Iran to the negotiating table — would not come until fall, presumably after the first phase of the coronavirus response has passed. They maintain it is separate from any relaxation of restrictions on medical supplies, some of which are exempted already from U.S. sanctions.

The arms embargo at the center of the dispute was something of a sideshow to the main nuclear agreement. The agreement covers only Iran’s nuclear activity: It required Iran to ship about 97 percent of its nuclear fuel out of the country — moved to Russia, in early 2016 — and to observe sharp limits on its production of nuclear material for 15 years.

Iran abided by those limits for a year after Mr. Trump pulled out of the agreement. But since last summer, it has gradually violated the limitations on both how much nuclear fuel it is allowed to stockpile and the level to which it can enrich its fuel. As a result, experts agree that it has greatly shortened its “breakout time,” the period needed to make enough fuel for a single nuclear weapon. Iran insists it would return to the agreed-upon levels as soon as Mr. Trump came back into compliance with the agreement by lifting unilateral sanctions.

The arms embargo — along with limits on missile launches — was part of a United Nations Security Council resolution that enshrined the nuclear accord, and suspended years of U.N.-imposed sanctions. That is what begins to expire in October. (The limits come off in stages: Small arms restrictions end this year, but restrictions on missiles and their components remain in place for another three years.)

Wendy R. Sherman, who served as the negotiation team leader of the Iran accord during the Obama administration and now directs the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard, recalled that the Russians and Chinese never wanted a conventional arms embargo on Iran, and only agreed to one of limited duration.

In an interview, Ms. Sherman predicted that if the United States argues that it remains a participant in the agreement for the purposes of dismantling the accord, “I think they will get tremendous pushback, because the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement.” She predicted that any move to impose the snapback provisions “will be strongly resisted, and should be.” But she added, “That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t succeed.”

Under Mr. Pompeo’s plan, an American-drafted resolution, which has already been given to the Europeans, the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, would propose extending the conventional arms embargo, according to a copy reviewed by The New York Times.

The American draft says that “Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer, directly or indirectly, from its territory, by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft, any arms or related matériel, and that all member states shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flagged vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran.”

Russia, the U.S. expects, would veto the resolution in the Security Council.

In response, the United States would then attempt to declare that it remains a participant state in the agreement, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that he was abandoning it.

As a participant state, the United States would declare that Iran is violating the agreement because it is now producing nuclear fuel above the limits in the accord — and impose the snapback of U.N. sanctions that Mr. Obama referred to in his 2015 speech, when he was trying to reassure critics of the agreement.

Relying on a legal opinion developed by lawyers within Mr. Pompeo’s department, the United States would dispute the arguments of the other signatories that Mr. Trump gave up all rights to invoke the snapback when he declared that the United States was reimposing its own sanctions on Iran, despite Washington’s obligations under the agreement.

A senior European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, dismissed the strategy as pushing the words of the agreement far beyond their logical context.

But the administration’s strategy could well work, even if other members of the United Nations ignored the move. At that point, on paper at least, the United Nations would be back to all the sanctions on Iran that existed before Mr. Obama reached the accord with Tehran.

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Jailed Huawei Workers Raised a Forbidden Subject: Iran

Westlake Legal Group 25huawei-2-facebookJumbo Jailed Huawei Workers Raised a Forbidden Subject: Iran WeChat (Mobile App) Ren Zhengfei Meng Wanzhou Iran Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Embargoes and Sanctions China

The five men were all locked in disputes with their onetime employer, the Chinese technology giant Huawei. And they had all joined a group on the social app WeChat to organize.

Then, one of them wrote a message to the group that would upend their lives:

“I can prove that Huawei sold to Iran.”

The message, and the brief discussion that followed, touched on an explosive issue for the company. Huawei had just begun fighting allegations by the U.S. government that it had committed fraud to bypass sanctions against Iran. The company’s chief financial officer, a daughter of its founder, had been arrested less than two weeks earlier as part of the case.

The employees’ messages in the chat group included no hard evidence that Huawei’s activities in Iran were unlawful. Yet within weeks, the Chinese police had arrested all five men, two of them told The New York Times.

The two former employees — Li Hongyuan, 42, and Zeng Meng, 39 — said officers had questioned them about Iran and asked why they had been in contact with foreign news outlets, both topics they had discussed on WeChat.

Mr. Li eventually spent more than eight months in detention. Mr. Zeng spent three.

For over a year now, Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment and a leading smartphone brand, has been the target of an intense clampdown by the Trump administration. The Justice Department has charged Huawei with stealing trade secrets and lying about its business in Iran. The company denies wrongdoing. American officials say Huawei answers to the Chinese state, which the company also denies.

But even if Huawei is not government controlled, Chinese officials often defend it as if it were a strategically vital state asset.

Beijing has vowed to retaliate for the U.S. government’s restrictions on Huawei. China’s ambassador to Germany threatened consequences if that nation’s government excluded the company from its telecom market. State propaganda outlets cast supporting Huawei as a patriotic act.

And in the case of the jailed employees, Mr. Li and Mr. Zeng said, the police appear to have arrested them in part to stop them from speaking out about Huawei’s activities in Iran.

Huawei declined to comment. It referred to an earlier statement saying that Mr. Li’s case was not a labor dispute, and that the company had reported suspected illegal conduct to the authorities. Huawei also reiterated that it was committed to complying with the law wherever it operates.

The police in the city of Shenzhen, who seized the men, didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment.

News of Mr. Li’s detention set off a wave of anger at Huawei in China last year. Internet users were outraged at what seemed to be a case of a vindictive corporation’s punishing an employee who dared to demand the pay he was owed. Censors quickly erased critical comments and articles. But at the time, the police’s interest in the employees’ discussions about Iran was not reported.

Mr. Li, Mr. Zeng and the three others were first detained in December 2018, not long after the world learned that Washington was accusing Huawei of fraud related to its Iranian business. The five men were embroiled in labor disputes with the company, and they chatted and commiserated in a WeChat group.

The discussion about Iran took place on Dec. 11, according to screenshots seen by The Times. Days later, Mr. Li was arrested in Shenzhen, where Huawei has its headquarters. Mr. Zeng was arrested shortly thereafter in Thailand, where he was vacationing, and taken back to China.

For Huawei, not all sales to Iran would have been illegal. In principle, only those involving U.S.-origin goods, technology or services would have fallen afoul of American sanctions. The company has said its sales in Iran were for commercial civilian use and did not violate sanctions.

Even so, Mr. Li said, the police asked him about his involvement in Iran, which he had mentioned on WeChat. As a former global manager in Huawei’s electrical inverter business, Mr. Li naturally had contact with colleagues in Iran, he told The Times. But he said he had never been there himself.

“I only knew so much. Whatever I knew, I told them all of it,” Mr. Li said. The police did not say why they were questioning him about Iran, he said.

The police also knew that he had been arranging to meet with a reporter for a Hong Kong news outlet that month, Mr. Li said. But he had planned to talk with the reporter about Huawei’s labor and tax practices, not Iran, he said.

“I said, ‘There’s nothing illegal about that,’” Mr. Li recalled.

Mr. Zeng said the police had explained it clearly to him: By discussing Huawei’s Iranian business and communicating with foreign news outlets, the former employees had crossed a line.

China and the United States were in a trade war, Mr. Zeng said one officer had told him. At a delicate time, weren’t they just making trouble?

It was the equivalent, Mr. Zeng said the officer had told him, of supporting Japan after it invaded China in the 1930s.

“At the time, the Meng situation was too hot,” Mr. Li said, referring to the arrest of Huawei’s finance chief, Meng Wanzhou. “They might have been afraid that we were making these noises and would cause problems for Boss Meng.”

The three other employees who were jailed couldn’t be contacted.

Mr. Zeng said he had been working as a product manager for Huawei in Morocco when the company began hinting, in 2017, that it was dissatisfied with his performance. In May the next year, he was let go, but his severance package did not include his year-end bonus, and he sued.

During that time, Mr. Zeng looked for other disgruntled Huawei workers to add to a WeChat group. Word reached Mr. Li, who was suing Huawei for his own bonus after his contract wasn’t renewed. The group eventually swelled to more than 60 people.

They knew they were probably being monitored. Huawei has a habit of infiltrating unhappy employees’ chat groups, Mr. Zeng said.

In November 2018, a WeChat group consisting of Mr. Li, Mr. Zeng and a few others split off from the larger one. They discussed how to draw the international news media’s attention to Huawei’s labor practices.

On Dec. 11, the larger WeChat group was discussing Huawei’s political troubles when someone in the group brought up Iran, screenshots of the messages show.

“I worked on IranCell projects from 2012 to 2014,” the person wrote, referring to an Iranian telecom operator. “I went on business trips.”

“I can also confirm,” Mr. Li replied. “Internally, it’s an open secret that Huawei sells to Iran.”

The police arrested Mr. Li on Dec. 16, according to a document from Shenzhen prosecutors. He was initially accused of leaking trade secrets, he said. Mr. Zeng said he was arrested two weeks later on the same accusation.

The three other employees were also in the smaller WeChat group, Mr. Zeng said. He said one was the person who had first spoken up about Iran in the larger group.

When the police took Mr. Zeng back to his Thai hotel, one officer demanded his phone, he recalled. The officer saw that he had been in contact with international news outlets, including The Times, about his colleagues’ arrests.

The officer uttered an expletive, Mr. Zeng said. Did he really have to go to the foreign media? the officer asked.

Mr. Zeng said his damp cell in Shenzhen had held more than 30 detainees. Only at midday would it get some sunlight, on a patch of wall near the toilet. They would crowd around, basking in the warmth and holding their noses.

After Mr. Zeng had spent a few weeks in detention, the police changed the accusation against him to fraud, he said. He denied wrongdoing, and in March 2019, he was released. But he said the police had first made him write a statement promising that he would not publicly go against Huawei’s company line on Iran or be manipulated by foreign forces with ulterior motives, a reference to the international news media.

The accusation against Mr. Li ended up being extortion. He was freed in August with no charges.

“China is still some distance away from having rule of law,” he said.

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Uniting Trumpers, Never Trumpers and Democrats With a New Deputy at the State Dept.

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-biegun1-facebookJumbo Uniting Trumpers, Never Trumpers and Democrats With a New Deputy at the State Dept. United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty State Department Russia North Korea Embargoes and Sanctions Biegun, Stephen E Arms Control and Limitation and Disarmament

WASHINGTON — When Stephen E. Biegun was sworn in as deputy secretary of state, it was in front of an unusual crowd at the State Department — one that included loyalists to President Trump, but also a mix of Never Trumpers and Democrats.

Denis R. McDonough, President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff and deputy national security adviser, was there that day in December. So was John D. Negroponte, a former director of national intelligence under President George W. Bush who in 2016 refused to vote for Mr. Trump. There were career diplomats, congressional officials and national security experts from both parties who had worked with Mr. Biegun in his various roles in the Senate, the National Security Council and Ford Motor.

Which gave rise to some crucial questions: How had Mr. Biegun navigated Trump world to land such a senior position, No. 2 at the State Department? Could he calm a simmering revolt among career State Department employees who have accused Mr. Biegun’s immediate boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, of abandoning veteran diplomats and letting the president’s personal political agenda infect foreign policy?

More to the point, would he even survive?

The job is a risk — Washington is full of people who have catapulted from the Trump administration with reputations diminished — but friends say they are betting on Mr. Biegun.

“If anyone can figure out how to navigate it, I think it can be Steve,” said Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s second national security adviser.

It helps, friends say, that Mr. Biegun has the even temperament of a man who thrives in the background. Never one to upstage the boss, be it the president or secretary of state, Mr. Biegun is mild-mannered and deferential, the anti-Pompeo.

While Mr. Pompeo is prone to profanity-laced rants, Mr. Biegun is a Republican of another era who projects calm. “He listens,” said Mr. McDonough, who was Mr. Biegun’s Democratic counterpart when the two men served as the chief foreign policy advisers to their parties’ Senate leaders in the mid-2000s.

While Mr. Pompeo has sought to bring back “swagger” to diplomacy, Mr. Biegun is described as a careful negotiator. And while Mr. Pompeo allowed a shadow foreign policy campaign to undermine the United States Embassy in Ukraine, Mr. Biegun has insisted that, in diplomacy, “politics best stop at the water’s edge.”

John R. Beyrle, who was one of Mr. Obama’s ambassadors to Moscow, said that Mr. Pompeo most likely viewed Mr. Biegun as “somebody who could help ameliorate that almost toxic situation” at the State Department.

“So if there is that vacuum or deficit of trust, which I think there is, Steve is well placed to fill it,” said Mr. Beyrle, who worked with Mr. Biegun on the board of the U.S.-Russia Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurship and education with Moscow.

Notably, Mr. Biegun has described Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador in Kyiv who was ordered back to Washington and accused of being disloyal to Mr. Trump, as “a very capable foreign service officer.”

Since first meeting Ms. Yovanovitch years ago, when they were both working on Russia policy, “my esteem has done nothing but grown for her,” Mr. Biegun told senators at his confirmation hearing in November.

Colleagues say the secret to Mr. Biegun’s success, so far, is that he gained the trust of Mr. Trump by enabling the president’s bromance with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. Officials said the president twice considered appointing Mr. Biegun as national security adviser, but made him the chief envoy to North Korea instead. In that job Mr. Biegun has tried to move talks between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim forward when other administration officials wanted to shut them down.

Mr. Biegun also declined to join the so-called Never Trumper movement in 2016, putting him among a relatively small number of Republicans with high-level foreign policy experience who were not blacklisted by the White House after Mr. Trump won the presidential election.

“He’s friends with Republicans and Democrats, he treats people well, he knows how to operate in Washington, he knows the think tanks, he knows the press, he knows the diplomatic community,” said John B. Bellinger III, the State Department’s former top lawyer who worked with Mr. Biegun on Mr. Bush’s National Security Council.

Born in Detroit to a large family — more than 30 relatives attended his December swearing-in ceremony — Mr. Biegun was in high school in Pontiac, Mich., when a history teacher wrote the word “czar” on the chalkboard in the Cyrillic alphabet. He was immediately fascinated and went on to study Russian at the University of Michigan.

Mr. Biegun lived in Moscow in the early 1990s, when he worked for the International Republican Institute, which promotes democracy with some funding from the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development. But he mostly developed his national security credentials on Capitol Hill — first as a top Republican staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later to Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, then the majority leader — and at the White House as a top aide to Condoleezza Rice, who was the first national security adviser in the Bush administration.

He traveled to Russia as a vice president at Ford, negotiating new business ventures, but also took time off to briefly advise Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2008. That position, according to colleagues, revealed his ability to maintain patience under pressure and to avoid a condescending tone — even when having to explain the most basic foreign policy axioms to his boss.

In his new job, Mr. Biegun will also remain the lead negotiator with North Korea — a dual role, he has said, that elevates “the priority on North Korea to the deputy secretary position, and I think that’s very important.”

But the diplomacy has fizzled since Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim abruptly left a summit meeting in Vietnam a year ago, unable to agree on a path for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Critics say the Trump administration was too willing to keep the talks going — and the president too eager to meet with Mr. Kim — even as North Korea was busily building up its arsenal.

Mr. Biegun was not only trying to negotiate with the North Koreans, but he was also engaged in a behind-the-scenes fight with Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, John R. Bolton, who believed Mr. Biegun was pursuing a useless mission.

“This idea that they can be coaxed into giving up” their nuclear program “was flawed from the start,” Mr. Bolton said on Monday in remarks at Duke University.

Still, Joseph Y. Yun, a career diplomat who negotiated with North Korean officials until he retired in March 2018, said Mr. Biegun’s new status could convince Pyongyang that the United States was serious enough about restarting the discussions that it had promoted one of its most senior officials to devote to the details.

“It’s a very good signal to North Korea,’’ said Mr. Yun, who retired in part out of frustration with the State Department’s diminished role in the talks. “This will elevate the negotiations.”

Mr. Biegun’s greatest challenge, however, is the diplomatic morass of Russia and Ukraine.

No one senior official has run the policy since Mr. Bolton left the White House as national security adviser in September, and few have been eager to embrace the portfolio.

But Mr. Biegun has told colleagues he is eager to try to resolve Russia’s undeclared war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The conflict has killed more than 13,000 Ukrainian troops and civilians and threatened Kyiv’s sovereignty since it began in 2014, the same year that Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Ukrainian officials have anxiously looked to Washington for more help as Kyiv broadens talks with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to ratchet back tensions. Mr. Pompeo visited Kyiv last month to signal continued American commitment to Ukraine. But the country’s leaders have not yet been invited to meet with Mr. Trump at the White House, even though the president has been acquitted of impeachment charges that he demanded that Ukraine announce an investigation into his political rivals before releasing security aid for Donbas.

Eric Rubin, a former ambassador to Bulgaria who is now president of the union that represents career diplomats, noted that during his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Biegun committed to work “to bridge whatever divides may exist” at the State Department.

“This is not an easy time for our country or our profession,” Mr. Rubin said. “We wish him well.”

Mr. Biegun faces another source of tension with the 2011 New START arms control treaty with Russia, which drove American and Russian nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in nearly 60 years. The treaty is set to expire in February 2021, and people who have spoken to Mr. Biegun believe he wants to extend it. But Mr. Trump and his aides have signaled repeatedly that they intend to let the treaty expire unless it can be broadened to include other nations with strategic weapons, chiefly China — and the Chinese are not interested.

In his confirmation hearing, Mr. Biegun summed up his approach in a single line that somehow conveyed both optimism for diplomacy and cleareyed realism about the Trump administration’s view of the world, given its “Make America Great Again” mantra.

“I’ve long thought America was great,” Mr. Biegun said.

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Iran’s Economy Is Bleak. Its Stock Market Is Soaring.

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LONDON — He looked past Iran’s cratering economy, ignored the unraveling nuclear deal and tuned out the bellicose threats of war from President Trump. Maciej Wojtal was focused on a mundane yet crucial question: Where were Iran’s people going to buy their chocolate biscuits?

Iranians were being forced to economize, trading lunch at kebab restaurants for cheap pleasures like sugary snacks. Mr. Wojtal, who runs an investment fund devoted to Iranian stocks, identified a company that was poised to benefit: Gorji Biscuit was well positioned to raise prices, given that foreign competitors were forced to steer clear of Iran because of American sanctions that restricted commerce with the country. He bought its shares and watched their value multiply more than fivefold over the course of 2019.

“You have companies that actually benefit from sanctions,” Mr. Wojtal said. “Whoever had to compete with imported goods, he’s better off.”

Born and raised in Poland, Mr. Wojtal, 36, oversees the only foreign fund that is focused on buying stocks that trade on two exchanges in Tehran. This may seem a forbidding realm of finance, a marketplace overseen by an Iranian government under siege by sanctions. To avoid American-enforced prohibitions on using the dollar to transact with Iran, Mr. Wojtal’s fund is administered in the Netherlands and operates entirely in euros.

A fund centered on Iranian equities may also seem frivolous. Who wants to buy into a country that is, by most indications, devastated by sanctions, cut off from the rest of the world economy and seething with public anger over rising prices and declining living standards?

Mr. Wojtal does. As he portrays it, obsession over sanctions misses the breadth of Iran’s economy. Sanctions have barred sales of Iranian oil, a major source of revenue for the Iranian government, though unknown volumes continue to be smuggled out of the country. Oil is such a large piece of the economy that a hit to that sector is guaranteed to produce a downturn.

But beneath that headline reality is an enticing emerging market — a nation of more than 80 million people, many highly educated, intent on transcending decades of isolation to integrate with the rest of the world. Iranians have forged fast-growing businesses in an array of industries, from petrochemicals and automotive to mining and agriculture.

These are the sorts of companies that trade on the Tehran stock market, now the bearer of an unlikely distinction: Last year, it was the best performing equity market on earth, more than doubling in dollar terms.

The run-up in Iranian equities perversely stems from the country’s status as an international pariah. With hardly any outside investment trickling into the country, and with an overall economy that has been rapidly contracting, stocks have been stuck at rock-bottom values. Even after soaring last year, many companies’ stocks still look cheap when compared with their profits.

It is worth noting that the title of world’s best performing stock market tends to be captured by nations with alarming proximity to calamity, where even tentative shifts toward normalcy can drastically alter a company’s fortunes. In 2018, the IBC Caracas exchange in Venezuela produced the world’s best returns, according to countryeconomy.com. Last year, the list of contenders included Athens.

Still, the doubling of Tehran stock prices speaks to the resourcefulness of Iranian companies in evading the bite of the Trump administration’s sanctions while, in many instances, profiting precisely because of them.

“It’s an important barometer of confidence in the private sector,” said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, publisher of Bourse & Bazaar, a news and analysis website in London that focuses on the Iranian economy and business world. “It shows you there is a lot of wealth in Iran.”

The Iranian economy is contracting at a 9.5 percent annual rate, according to the International Monetary Fund. Protests choked Iranian cities in November after an increase in fuel prices. Demonstrations exploded again last month amid anger over the government’s cover-up of its culpability in shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet.

Some say the stock market is an aberration in a story of strife, the product of Iranian leadership’s exhorting people to entrust their savings to equities in a time of scant alternatives.

“My fear is that this doesn’t end well,” said Adnan Mazarei, a former International Monetary Fund deputy director and now a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “This thing becomes a bubble.”

Mr. Wojtal revels in telling stories that challenge conventional views about Iran. On a recent day, he went snowboarding at a mountaintop resort built in the 1960s by the later-deposed shah of Iran.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said by phone from Iran. “This will be the major destination for skiing and snowboarding in the Middle East and Central Asia.”

An unapologetic devotee to the bottom line, Mr. Wojtal betrays no squeamishness about investing in a country run by a government that imprisons political dissenters, supports an authoritarian government in Syria and fuels by proxy a brutal war in Yemen.

“We just buy and sell shares,” he said.

He rattles off the last frontiers for global capitalism — Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea. Iran is bigger and more promising, he said.

In Poland in the 1980s, as the country threw off the strictures of Communism, his father ran one of the first international-standard restaurants in Warsaw.

Mr. Wojtal’s career began in banking — first as an equity researcher at Citigroup in Warsaw and later as a trader focused on stocks and derivatives at JPMorgan Chase in London. He worked at a hedge fund, then returned to Poland to manage an investment fund.

The trigger for his interest in Iran was the nuclear deal brokered by President Barack Obama in 2015. Iran promised to restrict its nuclear development plans while submitting to international inspections in exchange for relief from years of stifling sanctions.

With an anticipated surge of international investment, Mr. Wojtal flew to Tehran to have a look. He found a stock market that had been operating for more than two decades. Its two exchanges included some 600 companies, among them makers of everyday staples like food and cleaning products.

Many companies were recording revenue growth of 30 and 40 percent per year, but their stock prices were not reflecting this. The market was full of bargains.

“It had the lowest valuations in the world,” he said.

Mr. Wojtal started his fund, Amtelon Capital — which stands for Amsterdam, Tehran, London — in July 2017, stocking it with money drawn from friends and relatives. He operates out of a glass-enclosed cubicle inside a WeWork space in central London. He travels every other month to Iran, where he has another office.

Among his first buys was a glass producer. With abundant energy and seemingly endless supplies of sand — the key raw material — Iran beckoned as the best place on earth to make glass. He heard stories about Iranian producers trucking glass bottles through Turkey and on to Italy, still undercutting the price of competing products sold there. He took a stake in a company that made glass bottles for the pharmaceutical industry and was exporting them across Europe.

He bought shares in a software producer that was making inventory management systems for Iranian companies, replacing the crude spreadsheets many were using. He bought into an Iranian copper miner.

Then, in May 2018, President Trump revoked American participation in the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions. Mr. Wojtal was forced to sell his largest holding, a utility that had a monopoly on selling water and natural gas in southwestern Iran. It appeared on the sanctions list.

Ordinary Iranians raced to exchange the domestic currency, the rial, into dollars, pushing its value down by about 70 percent in 2018.

For Iranian exporters, a weak currency was good news. They used rials to pay their workers and buy materials, but earned dollars on their sales. Their profits skyrocketed. So did their stock prices.

Mr. Wojtal bought shares in petrochemical companies that exported urea, an element in agricultural fertilizer, and methanol, which is used in fuel and antifreeze. He bought into companies that mined zinc and iron ore. They sold their wares in dollars to domestic producers of steel.

After losing 20 percent in 2018, Mr. Wojtal’s portfolio soared by nearly 170 percent last year.

Mr. Wojtal bought shares in an Iranian company that makes toothpaste and soap. He took a stake in a manufacturer of dishwashing liquid. Both had previously competed against Chinese brands. Their earnings grew fourfold.

His most successful bet was Gorji Biscuit. Not only were Iranians snapping up its snacks, but the company was exporting one-fourth of its wares to Iraq, earning dollars.

The roughly nine million euros (close to $10 million) he now manages comes from 20 wealthy individuals from Britain, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and Poland. He aims to increase the fund 10 times over “as soon as possible,” he said.

Realizing that goal will entail much evangelizing about Iran.

It may also require continued adjustment to circumstances beyond his control.

“The risks are obvious,” he said. “It’s geopolitics.”

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