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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 32)

Trump Careens Toward a Confrontation With Iran

WASHINGTON — After coming to office vowing to solve two very different nuclear crises, President Trump finds himself in a bind familiar to his predecessors: careening toward a confrontation with Iran and stalemated with North Korea.

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it expects within 10 days to blow past the limits on how much nuclear fuel it can stockpile opens a new and perilous phase of its confrontation with the West.

After a year of restraint, during which Iran complied with the terms of an agreement that Mr. Trump very publicly abandoned, there is a greater sense than at any time in recent years that what began as an effort to drive Iran to the negotiating table may instead push the two countries into a conflict leaders on both sides insist they do not want.

Iran is still well more than a year away from being able to build a weapon — perhaps much longer. North Korea, by contrast, already has dozens, and appears to be adding to its arsenal at a rapid clip, according to American intelligence experts, despite Mr. Trump’s insistent wooing of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

It is not clear yet what Mr. Trump is getting in return. On Monday, President Xi Jinping of China, whose government has kept the North alive with fuel and aid, announced that he would make his first state visit to Pyongyang, a huge propaganda victory for Mr. Kim. Mr. Kim also met recently with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The message seems clear: Even if he cannot reach an agreement with Washington, Mr. Kim has other cards to play, keeping trade and relationships alive with the two powers that helped his grandfather fight the Americans nearly seven decades ago.

But while Mr. Trump sees Iran’s threats to resume nuclear production as an urgent crisis, one leading to the decision on Monday to send another 1,000 troops to the region, he is so invested in his newfound relationship with Mr. Kim that he actively dismisses evidence that North Korea’s collection of weapons and missiles is expanding.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Trump told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News over the weekend, appearing not to know about those assessments, or not to believe them. “I hope not. He promised me he wouldn’t.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 17dc-assess1-articleLarge Trump Careens Toward a Confrontation With Iran United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Obama, Barack Nuclear Weapons North Korea Middle East Kim Jong-un Iran Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Gulf of Oman Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces

President Trump’s gamble that Iran would crack once he abandoned the Obama-era nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions has failed to pay off, at least for now.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Broken promises — real, imagined and misunderstood — are at the core of both standoffs. The Iranians believe they agreed in 2015 to a 15-year moratorium on producing new nuclear fuel — and that in return they would be able to integrate themselves into the global economy.

But Mr. Trump declared the accord a “disaster” and abandoned it over the objections of many of his top advisers, his European allies, and Russia and China.

If the Iranians make good on their threat to break through the restrictions on how much nuclear fuel they will produce, by next month Tehran may have enough fuel for a single bomb in less than a year, for the first time since the 2015 agreement went into effect. (It would take it significantly longer, experts estimate, to build a deliverable weapon.)

The one-year buffer is the safety threshold that the Obama administration set years ago and that the Trump administration has adopted to impede Iran from gaining the capability to build a nuclear weapon. But leaders appear to be testing whether the rest of the coalition that negotiated the nuclear deal — especially the big European powers — will stick with Washington.

Should the Europeans break with the Trump administration and agree to help Iran weather harsh economic sanctions imposed by the United States, Tehran said, it could avoid breaking out of the 2015 agreement. That seems unlikely.

Nonetheless, the Europeans blame Mr. Trump for pushing Iran into violating an accord they all thought was working. And despite calls from some hawks in Washington for military action — most recently Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, who said on Sunday that attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman “warrant a retaliatory military strike” — Iran is betting that this time Washington will find few allies willing to escalate the confrontation, either in the Persian Gulf or through attacks on the country’s nuclear facilities.

It is a huge game of chicken, and a miscalculation on either side could easily provoke a conflict.

Now Mr. Trump faces two immediate challenges when it comes to Iran: making the Persian Gulf safe for oil shipments and keeping Iran from edging toward the bomb-making capability that incited the crisis of a decade ago. Neither will be easy.

“Unfortunately, we are heading toward a confrontation,” Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, warned CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

That view may be a calculated one, intended to peel the Europeans away from Mr. Trump. But the past few weeks have cast doubt on Mr. Trump’s campaign promise that his occupancy of the Oval Office would so restore respect for American power that adversaries would give up their nuclear weapons programs.

The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln was sent to the Middle East over a perceived threat from Iran.CreditJon Gambrell/Associated Press

On Iran, the theory was that once he abandoned the Iran deal and reimposed sanctions, Iran would crack. By some measures the sanctions worked: Iran’s economy has shrunk 4 percent, its currency has cratered and its inflation rate soared.

But rather than crack, the Iranians escalated, leaving Mr. Trump without any easy options.

“The U.S. seems to have embarked on its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign with few allies and little forethought as to unintended consequences or how to respond if key assumptions — e.g., that Iran will implode or succumb and enter talks on U.S. terms — prove false,” Brett McGurk, Mr. Trump’s former special envoy for the global coalition against the Islamic State, wrote recently.

He added: “Those assumptions are now highly questionable at best, which means the entire policy foundation as articulated by Trump has eroded. Iran appears to have made the strategic decision (not surprising) to resist economic pressure and respond asymmetrically, not directly against us.”

Compounding the problem is the emerging confrontation in the gulf. Even the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff, no friend of Mr. Trump’s, says the evidence is overwhelming that Iran was responsible for the attacks on the tankers.

Securing the gulf for oil tankers would require enough naval vessels and reconnaissance capability to monitor just about every ship passing close to Iran’s shores.

“That requires a coalition,” said John F. Kirby, a retired rear admiral who participated in the tanker wars of the 1980s and served as the State Department spokesman during the negotiation of the Iran deal. “We don’t have enough ships to do it ourselves.”

Whether the United States can convince allies to supply additional ships may be a test of how big a price Mr. Trump has paid for alienating the other nations that were part of the 2015 agreement and that also fear Iran’s move to a bomb.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested on Sunday that China, among others, should help with that task, since it is so dependent on oil from the Middle East. But it is far from clear that China, Russia or the three European powers that negotiated the nuclear accord alongside the United States — Britain, France and Germany — are willing to join in that effort.

As these dramas play out, no one is watching the Iran confrontation more carefully than Mr. Kim in North Korea. He has played Mr. Trump much more skillfully than the Iranians have, engaging him first in a feel-good summit meeting and then, for a year, rejecting the administration’s definitions of “denuclearization.”

Mr. Trump, for his part, turned down a request from Mr. Kim to end sanctions in return for dismantling only a part of the North’s nuclear infrastructure. But he has backed away from threatening what he once called fire and fury, and Mr. Kim may well be betting that as long as Iran dominates the headlines and the White House’s attention, he can keep producing missiles, fuel and weapons.

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

Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops

WASHINGTON — Tensions between the United States and Iran flared on Monday as Tehran said it would soon breach a key element of the 2015 international pact limiting its nuclear program, while President Trump ordered another 1,000 troops to the Middle East and vowed again that Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Pentagon’s announcement of the troop deployment came three days after attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the administration has blamed Iran for. And it came hours after Iran said it was within days of violating a central element of the landmark 2015 agreement — intended to curb its ability to develop a nuclear weapon — unless European nations agreed to help it blunt crippling American economic sanctions.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said that within 10 days the country will have produced and kept in its stockpiles more low-enriched uranium — the sort used to fuel power plants — than allowed by the 2015 containment deal. The agency also left open the possibility that it might soon begin enriching the uranium to higher levels of purity, edging it closer to what would be necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Trump pulled out of the 2015 pact last year, saying that it was not tough enough on Iran. In doing so, he put intense strain on the international coalition that had backed the agreement and wanted to keep it alive. And he left Iran trapped between continuing to abide by the deal’s provisions without getting any of its benefits or abandoning it and provoking a more intense conflict with the United States.

With Iran now on the verge of breaching the deal, the White House called for greater international pressure on the country, even as European officials urged restraint between the two longtime adversaries.

Video

Westlake Legal Group 17iran-vid-videoSixteenByNine3000 Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said that the country would soon exceed the limits on nuclear fuel it is permitted to have under the 2015 nuclear deal.CreditCreditAtta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“President Trump has made it clear he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons,” the National Security Council said in a statement.

The additional 1,000 troops being sent to the region comes on top of 1,500 dispatched in May. They will be used mainly for surveillance of Iranian activities and protecting American forces already in the Middle East. The Pentagon had considered plans for deployment of up to 6,000 additional troops.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, said in a statement.

The announcement from Tehran was Iran’s latest signal that it would abandon the 2015 pact unless other signatories help it offset economic sanctions imposed by Mr. Trump. The threat seemed aimed primarily at European countries to persuade them to break with Washington and restore to Tehran some of the economic benefits of the deal.

Iran had been abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal, negotiated under President Barack Obama, before Mr. Trump pulled out, and has continued to do so since the withdrawal by the United States. But as American sanctions have squeezed the Iranian economy, Tehran has warned that it could not remain in the deal without getting European help to find workarounds to the sanctions.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_155321514_3b1d8eec-9004-4c4b-b7be-5c1c34d539f5-articleLarge Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran last month in Tehran.CreditOffice of the Iranian Presidency

“This was an entirely predictable consequence of the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and maximum pressure strategy,” said Ali Vaez, the director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group, a conflict-resolution organization. “In practice, maximum pressure has produced maximum peril and minimum strategic results.”

[The U.S. has turned up the pressure on Iran. See the timeline of events.]

The mechanism of American sanctions may actually have sped Iran to the point where its stockpile of uranium is on the verge of violating the 2015 agreement’s terms. In May, the State Department announced that it might penalize countries that transfer enriched uranium out of Iran.

Until now, Iran has shipped most of the low-enriched uranium it produces out of the country, swapping it for natural uranium. That allows it to continue producing small amounts of nuclear fuel for civilian power plants without building up a stockpile for potential use in weapons.

During a news conference announcing Tehran’s decision, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran might also enrich its uranium up to 20 percent purity for use in reactors, the Iranian state-run news organization Press TV reported.

He said that uranium would be used as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which the United States supplied to Iran in 1967 and that Iranian officials say is used to create medical isotopes for use in cancer treatment.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week held Iran responsible for the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.CreditWin Mcnamee/Getty Images

The nuclear agreement limits the level of enrichment to 3.67 percent, but if Iran began producing 20 percent enriched uranium, it would put the country much closer to weapons-grade levels.

Members of Congress braced themselves for a potential fight with Mr. Trump over authorization for military action.

“Now we are stumbling to the brink of war without the support of our allies,” said Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Congress must step up and prevent an unconstitutional war with Iran and avert one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in decades.”

Over the past year, the Trump administration imposed severe economic sanctions that have discouraged most outside companies from doing business with Iran, and followed that up with measures to cut off Iran’s oil revenues, the lifeblood of its economy. The sanctions have had a great effect on Iran, including leading to a shortage of critical medicine, despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertions that humanitarian aid would not be affected.

Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, touring the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in 2008.CreditOffice of the Iranian Presidency

Recent attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which the Trump administration has blamed on Iran, have further inflamed matters. Mr. Pompeo plans to travel on Tuesday to Central Command in Florida to discuss Middle East security with commanders.

The Pentagon released additional pictures on Monday that it said bolstered its case that Iran was responsible for the attack on the tankers last week. Tehran has denied responsibility.

Defense Department officials said one of the images shows sailors with the Revolutionary Guards removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the tankers, the Kokuka Courageous, in the hours after an initial explosion. Another photograph, the Pentagon said, shows the “remnants of the magnetic attachment device of unexploded limpet mine” placed on one of the tankers.

The officials said the limpet mines were placed above the water line of the ships, where they would be visible but would do relatively limited damage, and not below the water line, where they could actually cause the ships to take on water. One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence issues, said that the Pentagon interpreted this as Iran trying to send a message of what its abilities are in the gulf, without doing real damage to shipping.

The official described it as a “nuisance attack.”

A National Security Council spokesman, Garrett Marquis, said Monday that Iran’s announcement on its uranium was “nuclear blackmail” that “must be met with increased international pressure.”

The Paths of the Oil Tankers

Two oil tankers, the Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair, were attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

Westlake Legal Group oman-1100 Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

Bandar Abbas

Paths of ships that

appeared to respond

to the incidents

Area shown at right

Kokuka Courageous

Bandar-e-Jask

Front Altair

Gulf of Oman

Persian Gulf

Gulf of Oman

Approx. areas where

distress calls were

made on June 13

UNITED

ARAB

EMIRATES

Locations at about

5 p.m. on June 14,

Iran time

Westlake Legal Group oman-720 Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

Bandar Abbas

Kokuka Courageous

Area shown below

Front Altair

Persian Gulf

Gulf of Oman

UNITED

ARAB

EMIRATES

Locations at about

5 p.m. on June 14,

Iran time

Paths of ships that

appeared to respond

to the incidents

Bandar-e-Jask

Approx. areas where

distress calls were

made on June 13

Gulf of Oman

Westlake Legal Group oman-460 Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

Bandar Abbas

Kokuka Courageous

Area shown below

Front Altair

Persian Gulf

Gulf of Oman

Locations at about

5 p.m. on June 14,

Iran time

UNITED

ARAB

EMIRATES

Paths of ships that

appeared to respond

to the incidents

Bandar-e-Jask

Approx. areas

where distress

calls were

made on

June 13

Gulf of Oman

Westlake Legal Group oman-300 Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

Bandar Abbas

Kokuka Courageous

Area shown

below

Front Altair

Persian Gulf

Gulf

of Oman

Locations at about

5 p.m. on June 14,

Iran time

UNITED

ARAB

EMIRATES

Paths of ships that

appeared to respond

to the incidents

Bandar-e-Jask

Gulf of Oman

Approx. areas where distress calls were

made on June 13

Source: MarineTraffic

By Anjali Singhvi

The White House national security adviser, John R. Bolton, has been a longtime advocate for regime change in Iran.

China and Russia were both signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement and have opposed Mr. Trump’s Iran policies. Beijing has said it intends to continue buying oil from Iran despite American sanctions.

Germany, Britain and France have worked to set up a system to allow European companies to take part in a kind of barter trade with Iran.

On Sunday, Helga Schmid, a senior European Union diplomat, visited Tehran for meetings on the nuclear deal.

The Netherlands’ foreign minister, Stef Blok, said Monday that European support for the nuclear deal depended on Iran adhering to the pact’s terms.

“As long as Iran is fulfilling these criteria,” he said, “we should stick to this deal.”

Iranian officials on Monday also taunted Washington over the exposure of a C.I.A. informant network in Iran years ago. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said that “one of the most complicated C.I.A. cyberespionage networks that had an important role in the C.I.A.’s operations in different countries was exposed by the Iranian intelligence agencies” and was “dismantled,” according to state-run broadcast network IRIB. He added that the Iranians shared their information with “allies,” which led to arrests of C.I.A. “agents.”

Mr. Shamkhani appeared to be referring to an operation that broke into the C.I.A.’s covert communications system, or “covcom,” and uncovered informants in Iran around 2012 and 2013. That operation may also have contributed to the extraordinary crippling of the C.I.A. informant network in China. Iranian officials made a similar claim in April, and a former C.I.A. official said they may be reviving the taunt now to try to portray the United States as an aggressor.

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

Four Years Ago Trump Was Seen as a Sideshow. Now He Is the Show.

WASHINGTON — As he rode down that escalator in June 2015, it felt like a lark, a curiosity, just another staged television spectacle. At most, many assumed that Donald J. Trump’s candidacy would be a sideshow, sure to be entertaining but hardly decisive.

Four years later, as President Trump kicks off his campaign for a second term on Tuesday with an eardrum-pounding, packed-to-the-rafters rally in Florida, no one doubts that he is the dominant force in the arena today, the one defining the national conversation as no president has done in generations.

But the coming election is shaping up as a test — not just of the man but of his country. Was Mr. Trump’s victory the last time around a historical fluke or a genuine reflection of America in the modern age? Will the populist surge that lifted him to the White House run its course or will it further transform a nation and its capital in ways that will outlast his presidency? What kind of country do Americans really want at this point?

Whatever voters thought about Mr. Trump in 2016, they have now had more than enough time to take their measure of him, and their judgment arguably will say more about the mood of the world’s last superpower than whatever roll-the-dice decision may have been made last time. Mr. Trump promised to blow up the system; voters will decide if more disruption is still needed.

“You go from what was probably a pretty low-stakes election to a high-stakes one,” said Brendan Buck, a former counselor to Paul D. Ryan, the last Republican speaker of the House. “When there were so many people who didn’t think he was going to win, who didn’t think it was even possible, your vote didn’t seem as important. That today has totally shifted.”

For Mr. Trump himself, the next year and a half will be a chance to prove that he was not just an aberration who managed to slide into office with an Electoral College victory even though nearly three million more voters cast ballots for the other candidate. Ever since taking the oath, Mr. Trump has been sensitive to perceived attacks on his legitimacy, especially the investigations into Russia’s role in helping to elect him. Nothing would do more to validate that legitimacy than winning a second term.

He starts from a stronger position in many ways than that day in 2015, fully in command of the advantages of incumbency — the gushing fund-raising spigot, the unparalleled media bullhorn, the tools of government to reward or punish, the big plane with “United States of America” stenciled on its side conveying power and respect.

And he has firmly seized control of his party in a way that was almost unimaginable in 2016 when Republican elders plotted ways to take the nomination away from him at the convention, then later urged him to drop out just weeks before the November election on the assumption that he would crash and burn.

The Never Trumpers have since faded, the dissenters purged. While elected Republicans push back from time to time, they have largely fallen in line when it really counted. The only challenger to Mr. Trump for his party’s nomination, former Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts, poses no evident threat.

“Trump is president because ‘the deplorables’ rejected the decline of America sanctioned by the elites,” said Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist. “The established order from Day 1 has fought a rear-guard action to nullify his election. This campaign is a continuation of the first — in all its vitriol and promise.”

Yet Mr. Trump remains more vulnerable than many presidents heading into a re-election year. Even with a strong economy, he is the only president in the history of polling who has never once, not for a single day, earned the support of a majority of Americans surveyed by Gallup. His own internal polls this spring showed him losing badly in key states, prompting him to first deny their existence and later to fire some of his pollsters.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_154583706_ba0cb320-27eb-415b-b51a-2ad17bb6b8a8-articleLarge Four Years Ago Trump Was Seen as a Sideshow. Now He Is the Show. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020

A Trump rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., last month. Mr. Trump has never expanded his support beyond the people who elected him — and never really tried.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Trump has never expanded his support beyond the people who elected him — and never really tried. He has remained focused intently on retaining the support of his base to the exclusion of reaching out to those who have opposed him. Whether by inclination or calculation, it is a strategy for a divided era when Americans are less interested in getting along.

There is, of course, something of a chicken-or-the-egg quality to the debate over Mr. Trump — is he the cause of America’s polarization or the result? The election may provide more clues.

“We’re very divided,” said Michael Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown University and co-editor of Dissent magazine, a left-of-center intellectual journal, “and we’ll learn whether the division is more about Trump or about something deeper in our ideological politics.”

Democrats have sought to treat Mr. Trump as if he were an outlier in the American story, one that can be corrected in the next election. “History will treat this administration’s time as an aberration,” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has predicted on the campaign trail. The nation “can overcome four years of this presidency,” Mr. Biden has said, while a two-term Trump administration would pose an “existential threat” to “the character of this nation.”

At least some Republicans argue that Mr. Trump represents the delayed recalibration of a party that defined itself for decades by its opposition to the Soviet Union. Without that unifying belief system, the party has begun to drift back to some of its historic roots before World War II, the last time the phrase “America First” was popular.

“He’s really broken the mold in a lot of ways, and he’s really moved the Republican Party away from the traditional Reagan stool,” said Antonia Ferrier, a Republican consultant who worked for Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other party leaders on Capitol Hill. “But whether it’s him or it’s history, the reality is the post-Cold War paradigm for the Republican Party was going to be changed one way or the other.”

Richard Norton Smith, the historian and former director of presidential libraries of five Republican chief executives, suggested there could be a parallel with Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, which, he noted, was “widely viewed as a one-time reaction against the Carter years” while “1984 was to demonstrate that the 40th president was far more transformational a figure than he appeared to his critics.”

At the same time, Mr. Smith hastened to distinguish “Reagan’s politics of multiplication from Trumpian division.” The parallel, he said, is not between the men but between re-election campaigns that may serve as a referendum on profound, even radical changes in national priorities.

Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign may also reveal more about how much the nation’s politics are driven by policy or personality. The support for and opposition to Mr. Trump often seems tied less to his specific policy prescriptions than to evaluations of who he is — a fighter taking on elites on behalf of those left behind or a vulgarian narcissist with no respect for the rule of law.

“I can’t imagine this is anything but a conversation about his persona,” Mr. Buck said. “To this day, everyone plays on his home turf. He defines what we talk about, he defines everything.”

Indeed, America is so divided into camps that few have moved since Mr. Trump’s election, and it remains unclear whether there is a sizable share of voters in the middle who are actually open to persuasion.

“His numbers have been remarkably stable for how unstable this presidency is, because it is so much more than do you support him,” Mr. Buck said. “There is a palpable belief among a lot of people — and it crosses both ways — that the other side hates you and is out to get you, and that keeps you firmly in whatever camp you’re in.”

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

Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops

WASHINGTON — Tensions between the United States and Iran flared on Monday as Tehran said it would soon breach a key element of the 2015 international pact limiting its nuclear program, while President Trump ordered another 1,000 troops to the Middle East and vowed again that Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Pentagon’s announcement of the troop deployment came three days after attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the administration has blamed on Iran. And it came hours after Iran said it was within days of violating a central element of the landmark 2015 agreement — intended to curb its ability to develop a nuclear weapon — unless European nations agreed to help it blunt crippling American economic sanctions.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said that within 10 days the country will have produced and kept in its stockpiles more low-enriched uranium — the sort used to fuel power plants — than allowed by the 2015 containment deal. The agency also left open the possibility that it might soon begin enriching the uranium to higher levels of purity, edging it closer to what would be necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Trump pulled out of the 2015 pact last year, saying that it was not tough enough on Iran. In doing so, he put intense strain on the international coalition that had backed the agreement and wanted to keep it alive. And he left Iran trapped between continuing to abide by the deal’s provisions without getting any of its benefits or abandoning it and provoking a more intense conflict with the United States.

With Iran now on the verge of breaching the deal, the White House called for greater international pressure on the country, even as European officials urged restraint between the two longtime adversaries.

Video

Westlake Legal Group 17iran-vid-videoSixteenByNine3000 Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said that the country would soon exceed the limits on nuclear fuel it is permitted to have under the 2015 nuclear deal.CreditCreditAtta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“President Trump has made it clear he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons,” the National Security Council said in a statement.

The additional 1,000 troops being sent to the region comes on top of 1,500 dispatched in May. They will be used mainly for surveillance of Iranian activities and protecting American forces already in the Middle East. The Pentagon had considered plans for deployment of up to 6,000 additional troops.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, said in a statement.

The announcement from Tehran was Iran’s latest signal that it would abandon the 2015 pact unless other signatories help it offset economic sanctions imposed by Mr. Trump. The threat seemed aimed primarily at European countries to persuade them to break with Washington and restore to Tehran some of the economic benefits of the deal.

Iran had been abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal, negotiated under President Barack Obama, before Mr. Trump pulled out, and has continued to do so since the withdrawal by the United States. But as American sanctions have squeezed the Iranian economy, Tehran has warned that it could not remain in the deal without getting European help to find workarounds to the sanctions.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_155321514_3b1d8eec-9004-4c4b-b7be-5c1c34d539f5-articleLarge Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran last month in Tehran.CreditOffice of the Iranian Presidency

“This was an entirely predictable consequence of the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and maximum pressure strategy,” said Ali Vaez, the director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group, a conflict-resolution organization. “In practice, maximum pressure has produced maximum peril and minimum strategic results.”

[The U.S. has turned up the pressure on Iran. See the timeline of events.]

The mechanism of American sanctions may actually have sped Iran to the point where its stockpile of uranium is on the verge of violating the 2015 agreement’s terms. In May, the State Department announced that it might penalize countries that transfer enriched uranium out of Iran.

Until now, Iran has shipped most of the low-enriched uranium it produces out of the country, swapping it for natural uranium. That allows it to continue producing small amounts of nuclear fuel for civilian power plants without building up a stockpile for potential use in weapons.

During a news conference announcing Tehran’s decision, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran might also enrich its uranium up to 20 percent purity for use in reactors, the Iranian state-run news organization Press TV reported.

He said that uranium would be used as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which the United States supplied to Iran in 1967 and that Iranian officials say is used to create medical isotopes for use in cancer treatment.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week held Iran responsible for the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.CreditWin Mcnamee/Getty Images

The nuclear agreement limits the level of enrichment to 3.67 percent, but if Iran began producing 20 percent enriched uranium, it would put the country much closer to weapons-grade levels.

Members of Congress braced themselves for a potential fight with Mr. Trump over authorization for military action.

“Now we are stumbling to the brink of war without the support of our allies,” said Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Congress must step up and prevent an unconstitutional war with Iran and avert one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in decades.”

Over the past year, the Trump administration imposed severe economic sanctions that have discouraged most outside companies from doing business with Iran, and followed that up with measures to cut off Iran’s oil revenues, the lifeblood of its economy. The sanctions have had a great effect on Iran, including leading to a shortage of critical medicine, despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertions that humanitarian aid would not be affected.

Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, touring the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in 2008.CreditOffice of the Iranian Presidency

Recent attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which the Trump administration has blamed on Iran, have further inflamed matters.

The Pentagon released additional pictures on Monday that it said bolstered its case that Iran was responsible for the attack on the tankers last week. Tehran has denied responsibility.

Defense Department officials said one of the images shows sailors with the Revolutionary Guards removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the tankers, the Kokuka Courageous, in the hours after an initial explosion. Another photograph, the Pentagon said, shows the “remnants of the magnetic attachment device of unexploded limpet mine” placed on one of the tankers.

The officials said the limpet mines were placed above the water line of the ships, where they would be visible but would do relatively limited damage, and not below the water line, where they could actually cause the ships to take on water. One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence issues, said that the Pentagon interpreted this as Iran trying to send a message of what its abilities are in the gulf, without doing real damage to shipping.

The official described it as a “nuisance attack.”

A National Security Council spokesman, Garrett Marquis, said Monday that Iran’s announcement on its uranium was “nuclear blackmail” that “must be met with increased international pressure.”

The Paths of the Oil Tankers

Two oil tankers, the Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair, were attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

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Paths of ships that

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Persian Gulf

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Locations at about

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Bandar Abbas

Kokuka Courageous

Area shown below

Front Altair

Persian Gulf

Gulf of Oman

UNITED

ARAB

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Locations at about

5 p.m. on June 14,

Iran time

Paths of ships that

appeared to respond

to the incidents

Bandar-e-Jask

Approx. areas where

distress calls were

made on June 13

Gulf of Oman

Westlake Legal Group oman-460 Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

Bandar Abbas

Kokuka Courageous

Area shown below

Front Altair

Persian Gulf

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Locations at about

5 p.m. on June 14,

Iran time

UNITED

ARAB

EMIRATES

Paths of ships that

appeared to respond

to the incidents

Bandar-e-Jask

Approx. areas

where distress

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Westlake Legal Group oman-300 Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

Bandar Abbas

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below

Front Altair

Persian Gulf

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of Oman

Locations at about

5 p.m. on June 14,

Iran time

UNITED

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Paths of ships that

appeared to respond

to the incidents

Bandar-e-Jask

Gulf of Oman

Approx. areas where distress calls were

made on June 13

Source: MarineTraffic

By Anjali Singhvi

The White House national security adviser, John R. Bolton, has been a longtime advocate for regime change in Iran.

China and Russia were both signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement and have opposed Mr. Trump’s Iran policies. Beijing has said it intends to continue buying oil from Iran despite American sanctions.

Germany, Britain and France have worked to set up a system to allow European companies to take part in a kind of barter trade with Iran.

On Sunday, Helga Schmid, a senior European Union diplomat, visited Tehran for meetings on the nuclear deal.

The Netherlands’ foreign minister, Stef Blok, said Monday that European support for the nuclear deal depended on Iran adhering to the pact’s terms.

“As long as Iran is fulfilling these criteria,” he said, “we should stick to this deal.”

Iranian officials on Monday also taunted Washington over the exposure of a C.I.A. informant network in Iran years ago. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said that “one of the most complicated C.I.A. cyberespionage networks that had an important role in the C.I.A.’s operations in different countries was exposed by the Iranian intelligence agencies” and was “dismantled,” according to state-run broadcast network IRIB. He added that the Iranians shared their information with “allies,” which led to arrests of C.I.A. “agents.”

Mr. Shamkhani appeared to be referring to an operation that broke into the C.I.A.’s covert communications system, or “covcom,” and uncovered informants in Iran around 2012 and 2013. That operation may also have contributed to the extraordinary crippling of the C.I.A. informant network in China. Iranian officials made a similar claim in April, and a former C.I.A. official said they may be reviving the taunt now to try to portray the United States as an aggressor.

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Businesses Plead to Stop More China Tariffs. They Expect to Be Ignored.

WASHINGTON — Nervous business owners are spending seven days trying to persuade the Trump administration not to impose tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods. Most are bracing for disappointment.

After several previous hearings where company officials testified against tariffs only to see them go into effect, many business leaders are becoming resigned to the idea that President Trump will do what he wants, regardless of their concerns.

The Trump administration says tariffs are necessary to change China’s longstanding practices of violating international trading rules and forcing American companies to hand over valuable technology.

While the two countries had been working toward a trade deal to resolve the administration’s concerns, those discussions fell apart last month. Mr. Trump, who is expected to meet with President Xi Jinping of China this month in Japan, has since escalated his trade war, raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports and threatening 25 percent tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth.

Toymakers, telecom officials, port workers and shoemakers kicked off a seven-day hearing in Washington on Monday warning that Mr. Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on nearly all Chinese imports would raise costs for consumers, disrupt supply chains and potentially force them to lay off employees or go out of business.

For some, this was a repeat appearance before Trump administration officials, having testified previously about the effects of Mr. Trump’s first and second rounds of tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods. While many said they were holding out hope for a solution to the next round of levies, they sounded increasingly desperate and exasperated with the protracted trade war.

Rebecca Mond, a lobbyist for the toy industry, clutched an 18-inch bright yellow plush toy of the Pokémon character Pikachu. Like 85 percent of the toys sold in the United States, the stuffed animal was made in China, she said, and could cost 25 percent more as early as next month if the new tariffs go into effect.

“This guy is not a national security threat,” Ms. Mond said, gesturing to the Pikachu. She said the mood of the toymakers she was representing was “not optimistic” because the pain from tariffs would be so sharp for the industry. The tariffs are expected to hit just as companies begin stocking up products for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

With its earlier tariffs, the Trump administration had tried to shield consumers and target more advanced goods that China is seeking to dominate, like driverless cars, planes and advanced medical devices.

But as the president has announced tariffs first on $50 billion of goods from China, then an additional $200 billion of goods and now potentially the remaining roughly $300 billion of products China ships to the United States, consumer goods have increasingly crept into the mix. The latest tranche of goods subject to tariffs would include shoes, toys, jewelry, mobile phones and many other items Americans find in their shopping carts and under their Christmas trees.

“Folks are nervous,” said Jonathan Gold, a vice president of the National Retail Federation, which lobbies for companies like Sam’s Club, Macy’s and Modell’s Sporting Goods. “There is a lot of uncertainty. Are we going to have tariffs on China? Are we going to have tariffs on Mexico? Tariffs elsewhere?”

“This is all kind of a circus,” said Jean Kolloff, the president of Quinn Apparel, which makes clothes and cashmere sweaters in China. While she is holding out hope that more tariffs will not be imposed, she said her partners in China were “working around the clock” to try to ship their goods to the United States before they would go into effect.

Administration officials have said Mr. Trump will decide whether to impose the new tariffs after he talks with Mr. Xi at a summit meeting of the Group of 20 industrialized nations in Osaka, Japan. But officials have been playing down the prospect of securing a deal at the meeting, and it remains unclear what would persuade Mr. Trump not to proceed with the tariffs.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 17DC-TRADE--articleLarge Businesses Plead to Stop More China Tariffs. They Expect to Be Ignored. United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Economy Trump, Donald J Shopping and Retail Relocation of Business Office of the United States Trade Representative International Trade and World Market Factories and Manufacturing Customs (Tariff) China

Rebecca Mond, a lobbyist for the toy industry, told the Office of the United States Trade Representative at the hearing on Monday that a plush Pikachu made in China “is not a national security threat.”CreditAna Swanson/The New York Times

American officials have accused China of reneging on a prospective trade deal and insist that it must return to that deal. The two sides also have other areas of disagreement, including when — and whether — all of Mr. Trump’s existing tariffs would be removed.

“We’re going to find out pretty soon in Osaka whether the two governments are committed to getting this relationship back on track, because right now the relationship is off track and heading in the wrong direction,” said Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president and head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The prospect of long-run tariffs on China, an important source of products and a significant market for many American products, has companies scrambling. Mr. Trump, who has presented himself as an ally to business, has discounted their concerns about the trade war.

The president has maintained that if companies like Apple and Harley-Davidson do not like tariffs, they should move their operations back to the United States. Businesses have argued that to compete in a global economy, they must source products from abroad and sell them globally.

“The ancien regime likes to defend what it has,” Larry Kudlow, a top White House economic adviser, said in remarks at the Peterson Institute for International Economics last week, as he accused the Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business group, of “ankle biting.”

“You either want change or you don’t,” Mr. Kudlow said.

Mr. Brilliant, along with many corporate officials testifying this week, said his organization supported Mr. Trump’s goal of addressing China’s unfair trade practices.

“But we’ve also been clearheaded that tariffs are a tax on American consumers, they are hurting American businesses, and are creating a great deal of uncertainty, not just in the bilateral economic relationship but in global economic growth,” he said.

Several officials testified that their companies had moved to China because it was the best and cheapest place to produce goods, and that they had no way to relocate such manufacturing back to the United States.

Mark Corrado, the president of Leading Lady, which makes women’s underwear, dangled a brassiere as he testified before a panel of government officials. “It’s a very difficult garment to make, and it takes a lot of precision to make it as well as they make it in China,” he said, pointing to the lace, the elastic shoulder straps and the metal hooks.

Decades ago, his company had five factories in the United States. But it gradually moved operations to Central America, and then to China. Now, Americans have lost that expertise, he said.

“Most women in the rural areas grew up sewing,” Mr. Corrado said. “That situation has totally changed.”

Bradley Mattarocci, the vice president of Baby Trend, which makes strollers, high chairs, car seats and other baby products for Walmart, Target and other stores, had come to Washington to testify against a previous round of tariffs last year. He was relieved to have some of his products receive an exemption — and then alarmed when he saw them reappear on the tariff list this year.

“It’s a yo-yo,” Mr. Mattarocci said. “How do you plan?”

His company makes all its products in China, except one — a diaper pail made in California. When Mr. Trump threatened tariffs on China, his company looked into moving production to Vietnam instead, but said that the shift would take at least two years and that the product would cost more to make.

Mr. Mattarocci said factories in Vietnam had raised prices in response to a rush from companies seeking to export to America. “Everybody around the world knows we’re all out looking for somewhere else other than China,” he said, “so they’re taking advantage of it.”

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With a New Threat, Iran Tests the Resolve of the U.S. and Its Allies

WASHINGTON — Iran’s announcement on Monday that it expects to breach the terms of the 2015 agreement that was intended to slow its ability to develop a nuclear weapon opens a new and perilous phase of its confrontation with the West.

If the Iranians make good on their threat to break through the restrictions on how much nuclear fuel they will produce, Tehran will have enough fuel to make a single bomb in less than a year for the first time since the 2015 agreement went into effect. The one-year buffer is the safety threshold that the Obama administration set and that the Trump administration has adopted to impede Iran from gaining the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

Iranian leaders appear to be testing whether the rest of the coalition that negotiated the nuclear deal — especially the big European powers — will stick with Washington.

Should the Europeans break with the Trump administration and agree to help Iran weather harsh economic sanctions imposed by the United States, Tehran said, it could avoid breaking the 2015 agreement. That seems unlikely.

Nonetheless, the Europeans blame President Trump for pushing Iran into breaking out of an agreement that was working, as do China and Russia. And despite calls from some hawks in Washington for military action — most recently Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, who said on Sunday that attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman “warrant a retaliatory military strike” — Iran is betting that this time Washington will find few allies willing to escalate the confrontation, either in the Persian Gulf or by attacking the country’s nuclear facilities.

It is a huge game of chicken, and a miscalculation on either side could easily provoke a conflict.

Now Mr. Trump faces two immediate challenges: making the Persian Gulf safe for oil shipments and keeping Iran from edging toward the bomb-making capability that incited the crisis of a decade ago. Neither will be easy.

“Unfortunately, we are heading toward a confrontation,” Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, warned CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 17dc-assess1-articleLarge With a New Threat, Iran Tests the Resolve of the U.S. and Its Allies United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Obama, Barack Nuclear Weapons North Korea Middle East Kim Jong-un Iran Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Gulf of Oman Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces

President Trump’s gamble that Iran would crack once he abandoned the Obama-era nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions has failed to pay off, at least for now.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

But it is also part of the unwinding of Mr. Trump’s promise that he would restore respect for American power to the degree that adversaries would give up their nuclear weapons programs, starting with North Korea, to be followed by Iran.

Nearly two and a half years into his presidency, Mr. Trump’s high-profile diplomatic effort with North Korea has stagnated, and Kim Jong-un, whom the president improbably declared a friend who will make good on his promises, is assessed by American intelligence agencies to be adding to the North’s arsenal while the clock ticks. On Monday, President Xi Jinping of China announced that he plans to visit North Korea this week, his first trip there as president.

At the same time, Mr. Trump’s gamble that Iran would crack once he abandoned the Obama-era nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions has failed to pay off, at least for now.

Instead the Iranians escalated, leaving Mr. Trump without any easy options. That is in part because the confrontation erupted so quickly, and in part because Mr. Trump is paying the price for having alienated so many other participants in what was once an international coalition to isolate Iran’s leaders.

“The U.S. seems to have embarked on its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign with few allies and little forethought as to unintended consequences or how to respond if key assumptions — e.g., that Iran will implode or succumb and enter talks on U.S. terms — prove false,” Brett McGurk, Mr. Trump’s former special envoy for the global coalition against the Islamic State, wrote recently.

He added: “Those assumptions are now highly questionable at best, which means the entire policy foundation as articulated by Trump has eroded. Iran appears to have made the strategic decision (not surprising) to resist economic pressure and respond asymmetrically, not directly against us.”

Iran has almost never directly taken on American forces, knowing what the result would be. Instead, it has used proxies like Hamas, the Palestinian organization judged by the United States to be a terrorist operation, while also launching cyberattacks and building missiles that could reach American allies but not the United States.

In striking the 2015 nuclear agreement, President Barack Obama was betting that he could gradually encourage Iran to moderate that behavior. The effort failed — the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, keeper of the nuclear program, turned its attentions elsewhere. But the agreement deprived Iran of a pathway to a nuclear weapon for another 15 years or so.

The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln was sent to the Middle East over a perceived threat from Iran.CreditJon Gambrell/Associated Press

Mr. Trump has taken the opposite approach, trying to force change by choking off every last source of oil revenue. He abandoned the nuclear accord so that he could reimpose sanctions — while his administration insisted that Iran must still adhere to the accord. And Mr. Trump has prematurely claimed victory, declaring that Iran is “a different country” since he began to crack down.

Mr. Trump has few easy options as he confronts the challenge of keeping tanker traffic moving through the Persian Gulf while also facing Iran’s provocative nuclear stance.

Securing the gulf requires enough naval vessels and reconnaissance capability to monitor just about everything passing close to Iran’s shores.

“That requires a coalition,” said John F. Kirby, a retired rear admiral who participated in the tanker wars of the 1980s and served as the State Department spokesman during the negotiation of the Iran deal. “We don’t have enough ships to do it ourselves.”

Whether the United States can convince allies to supply additional ships may be a test of how big a price Mr. Trump has paid for alienating the other nations that were part of the 2015 agreement and that also fear Iran’s move to a bomb.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested on Sunday that China, among others, should help with that task, since it is so dependent on oil from the Middle East. But it is far from clear that China, Russia or the three European powers that negotiated the nuclear accord alongside the United States — Britain, France and Germany — are willing to join in that effort.

But the longer-term challenge is whether the world will still unite around the idea that Iran cannot be trusted with anything more than a token nuclear capability.

With Monday’s announcement, Iran has made it clear that it plans to increase the pressure, first by producing more uranium, then by gradually ramping up the enrichment level of the nuclear fuel, pushing it closer and closer to bomb grade.

Tehran appears to be betting it can do that, gaining leverage over the West, without prompting a military response. That was a close call in Mr. Obama’s time, when plans were drawn up for such an attack. In the Trump era, it is as unpredictable as a president who says he does not want another war in the Middle East, but periodically threatens one.

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The Iran Crisis, Explained

Westlake Legal Group 17dc-assess2-facebookJumbo The Iran Crisis, Explained Uranium United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces United States Trump, Donald J Nuclear Weapons Iran Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces

WASHINGTON — Iran threatened on Monday to accelerate its nuclear program in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement and to move closer to building an atomic weapon — something that President Trump has vowed to prevent.

But it was Mr. Trump who withdrew the United States from the Obama-era nuclear agreement in May 2018, saying the deal wasn’t tough enough. Since then the administration has steadily imposed ever harsher sanctions on Iran as the country’s economy has sharply declined.

Until recently, Iran has held up its side of the bargain, which is still in force with five other countries: freezing much of its nuclear activity in return for relief from harsh economic sanctions. But last month, Iran’s president announced that Tehran would edge away from the restrictions. On Monday he said that by the end of this month, the country would have stockpiled more nuclear fuel than the deal allowed. Iran also suggested it might start enriching that fuel to levels higher than what is needed for nuclear power plants — its stated purpose for the nuclear program.

It could be. Iran is essentially threatening to shorten its timeline to develop a nuclear weapon, an outcome Mr. Trump has said he would take military action to prevent.

A core objective of the 2015 nuclear deal — struck between Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — was to keep Iran at least one year from being able to construct a nuclear bomb. (Iran insists that its nuclear program it has developed over several decades is for peaceful purposes.)

But that timeline could shorten if Iran follows through on its most recent threats, which it calls a response to American sanctions that Iran says are, well, a deal-breaker. The escalation could precipitate an international crisis and increase the likelihood of a military confrontation.

“I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons,” Mr. Trump told Fox News last month.

The nuclear agreement, which Mr. Trump has called “the worst deal ever” and a “disaster,” placed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions on Tehran.

Under the terms of the deal, Iran can stockpile no more than 300 kilograms, or 660 pounds, of so-called low-enriched uranium, a small fraction of what it previously hoarded. To remain under the stockpile limit, Iran has shipped low-enriched uranium out of the country.

In addition, the deal says that Iran can enrich uranium to contain no more than 3.67 percent of an isotope which, in high enough concentration, can produce a mushroom cloud. That limit is in effect until 2030. Critics of the deal call that date too soon.

The nuclear deal placed other restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, including its development of advanced centrifuges that can enrich uranium more quickly. It also required International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites.

So far Iran has limited its threats to its uranium stockpile and its enrichment level.

Iran says it will stockpile more — and more dangerous — nuclear fuel.

Iran is now warning that it will soon exceed the 300 kilogram limit and could also follow through with its threat to enrich uranium to higher levels.

Before the nuclear deal, Iran was enriching its uranium to 20 percent purity, a level that takes it perilously close to what is required to build a nuclear weapon. Although it takes a lot of work to get from the current 3.67 percent enrichment to 20 percent, it’s a relatively short hop in time and effort to get to 90 percent, which is considered bomb-grade material.

Mr. Trump and senior administration officials say that President Barack Obama allowed Iran to retain too much of its nuclear infrastructure, and that the deal’s provisions “sunset” dangerously early, leaving Iran with the ability to quickly develop a nuclear bomb in little more than a decade.

The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress also say that lifting American and European economic sanctions gave Iran a financial windfall that Tehran’s clerical leaders have used to pay for terrorism and destabilizing military activity across the Middle East. Mr. Trump and senior officials have also said that the deal does not meaningfully limit its ballistic missile program.

The agreement was an important part of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy legacy, and Mr. Trump has seemed to take particular relish in overturning it. Mr. Obama believed the deal could be a step toward empowering moderates within Iran’s government and softening bitter relations with the West. Trump administration officials argue that Iran’s government will respond only to “maximum pressure.”

It depends. Before the nuclear deal, Iran had a “breakout time” of just weeks before it had the capability to build a nuclear weapon, Obama administration officials said.

But that is a theoretical timeline describing how long it would take Iran to enrich enough uranium for one bomb. It remains unclear whether Iran has the technical capability to construct a nuclear weapon, much less fit it onto a ballistic missile for delivery. Iran currently has a missile that could strike most of the Middle East and some of Europe, though not the U.S.

It is possible that Iran is beginning a sprint to constructing a nuclear bomb, although that would be exceedingly dangerous, with a military response expected from the United States and perhaps Israel. In the near term, Iran is probably trying to drive a wedge between the Trump administration and European allies in hope of finding relief from the sanctions that are constricting its economy.

Ideally, Iran would like Mr. Trump to reverse the severe pressure he has imposed on its economy since he abandoned the nuclear deal last year. That includes American demands that other nations halt their purchase of Iranian oil — the country’s main source of revenue — and that they choose between doing business with Iran or with the United States.

Such a reversal is unlikely for now. So Iran is hoping that other parties to the nuclear deal, which are eager to avert an international crisis and possible military conflict, will resist the American pressure and find ways to do business with Tehran.

One option is a kind of barter system designed by Britain, Germany and France that would allow European nations to trade with Iran without using the dollar and triggering American economic reprisals. But the system has major inherent limitations.

Iran may also be betting that Mr. Trump, who has been critical of past American entanglements in the Middle East, does not want a conflict, and that an escalation of tensions could draw him into negotiations.

Yes.

Several Democratic candidates for president, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have said they would seek to rejoin the nuclear deal. In February, the Democratic National Committee adopted a resolution saying that the United States “should return to its obligations” under the agreement. A new president could reverse the sanctions Mr. Trump imposed, although Congress could resist.

Until recently, it even appeared that Iran planned to wait out Mr. Trump in the hope of just such a scenario. But Monday’s threats suggest that Iran, perhaps because of its deteriorating economy, has lost patience.

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Iran Threatens to Exceed Nuclear Deal’s Limits on Uranium Enrichment After U.S. Withdrawal

LONDON — Iran announced on Monday that it would soon violate a central element of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, which the United States withdrew from last year, unless it received assurances that Europe will combat punishing American sanctions.

Iran is on track to exceed the deal’s limits on nuclear fuel within days, the country’s Atomic Energy Organization announced. The agency also left the door open to an “unlimited rise” in Tehran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, potentially triggering another flash point with Washington just days after attacks on oil tankers stoked tensions between the two nations.

The move was the country’s latest signal that it will abandon the pact unless other signatories help Iran circumvent economic sanctions imposed by President Trump. The threat seemed aimed primarily at the European signatories, to persuade them to break with Washington and swiftly restore some of the economic benefits of the deal to Tehran.

[The U.S. has turned up the pressure on Iran. See the timeline of events.]

During a news conference announcing the decision, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the organization, said that Iran might also increase the level of uranium enrichment up to 20 percent for use in its reactors, the Iranian state-run news outlet Press TV reported.

He said that the uranium would be used as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which the United States supplied to Iran in 1967. Iran says the facility is used to create medical isotopes for use in cancer treatment.

The nuclear agreement limits the level of enrichment to 3.67 percent, but if Iran began producing 20 percent enriched uranium, it would put the country much closer to weapons-grade levels.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have steadily increased since Mr. Trump withdrew the United States in May 2018 from the nuclear agreement that had been forged by the Obama administration, even though international energy experts said Iran was abiding by the deal.

Over the last year, the Trump administration imposed severe economic sanctions that have discouraged most outside companies from doing business with Iran, and followed that up with measures to cut off Iran’s revenues from oil sales, the lifeblood of its economy.

Recent attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which the Trump administration has blamed squarely on Iran, have further inflamed matters.

A National Security Council spokesman said on Monday that Iran’s move was “only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left the their capabilities intact.”

“The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure,” the spokesman, Garrett Marquis, said in an email.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that the United States might further tighten sanctions on Iran in response to any moves to ramp up its nuclear program.

Video

Westlake Legal Group 17iran-vid-videoSixteenByNine3000 Iran Threatens to Exceed Nuclear Deal’s Limits on Uranium Enrichment After U.S. Withdrawal Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said that the country would soon exceed the limits on nuclear fuel it is permitted to have under the 2015 nuclear deal.CreditCreditAtta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“We know that their nuclear program accelerates if they have more money and wealth, if they have more capacity, more resources, they have access to metals and to materials and to fissile material,” he said on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

Mr. Pompeo also said that the United States was considering “a full range of options” in responding to what the White House has said were Iranian attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Those measures include but are not limited to military strikes, he said.

Mr. Pompeo said he was making calls over the weekend to foreign officials to talk about the options. The United States has considered getting international support to create a naval force that would provide security for oil shipments in the region, similar to the antipiracy coalition assembled in the Arabian Sea in recent years.

“China gets over 80 percent of its crude oil transiting through the Strait of Hormuz,” Mr. Pompeo said. “South Korea, Japan, these nations are incredibly dependent on these resources. We’re prepared to do our part.”

China was an important contributor to the antipiracy venture, but may not be willing to join a United States-led effort to protect shipping. Beijing has opposed Mr. Trump’s Iran policies, has said it intends to continue buying oil from Iran despite American sanctions and is locked in a trade war with the Trump administration.

Mr. Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization, said that Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile would surpass a limit set in the agreement within the next 10 days, the semiofficial news agency Tasnim reported. Low-enriched uranium can be used in a nuclear reactor, but not in an atomic bomb.

He said, however, that Iran would stay within the limits if Britain, France, Germany and the full European Union — all of which are signatories to the nuclear deal — followed through on plans to give Iran access to international financial systems, sidestepping American sanctions, and also made up for lost oil revenue.

“As long as they comply by their commitments, these will go back,” Mr. Kamalvandi said in a televised news conference at the country’s Arak nuclear plant.

In early May, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said his country would reduce compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal and take several steps to resume the production of nuclear centrifuges and begin accumulating more nuclear material if Europe did not put in place a barter system to ease the effects of American sanctions.

Germany, Britain and France have worked to set up a system to allow European companies to take part in a kind of barter trade with Iran.

The mechanism, called Instex or “Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges,” is still in its early stages and relies on Iran to set up a similar system internally. But, at best, it is only a way to trade in goods not currently covered by the sanctions — including medical goods, food and humanitarian supplies.

At the time, Mr. Rouhani set a 60-day deadline for the Europeans, who hope to salvage the deal despite Mr. Trump’s opposition, to make good on promises to help preserve Iran’s oil and banking sectors. That deadline expires early next month.

But Mr. Rouhani was careful to maintain that while Iran would retain its enriched uranium and heavy water rather than selling them to other nations, the country, for the time being, would stay within the limits set by the nuclear deal.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 17iran2-articleLarge Iran Threatens to Exceed Nuclear Deal’s Limits on Uranium Enrichment After U.S. Withdrawal Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Iran International Relations Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions

Helga Schmid, left, a senior European Union diplomat, at a meeting with Abbas Araghchi, right, a political deputy at Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in March.CreditJoe Klamar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Monday’s announcement was the first time Iran’s government had said explicitly that it would step beyond the pact.

The escalation comes as tensions between the United States and Iran continue to ratchet up, with the most recent confrontation coming over explosions on two tankers last week in the Strait of Hormuz.

President Trump called the incident a deliberate attack by Iran, and the United States released a video that it said showed an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrol boat pulling up alongside one of the stricken ships after the initial explosion and removing an unexploded limpet mine.

Iran called those accusations “warmongering” and part of a campaign of disinformation from the Americans. European officials have said the video is inconclusive and called for calm between the two nations.

A key Democrat, Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has endorsed the conclusion that Iran attacked the tankers, but said the Trump administration’s escalating pressure campaign was backfiring.

“There’s no question that Iran is behind the attacks,” Mr. Schiff said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “I think the evidence is very strong and compelling.”

American allies and intelligence agencies warned that “this kind of Iranian reaction was a likely result of a policy of withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement,” he said, adding that the administration’s approach had “only heightened the risk of conflict.”

If Iran did stop complying with the agreement, it would put pressure on the remaining signatories, which also include Russia and China, to join the United States in reimposing economic sanctions on Iran, which is hardly what Tehran wants to happen.

On Sunday, Helga Schmid, a senior Europe Union diplomat, visited Tehran for meetings on the nuclear deal. Ms. Schmid, who helped negotiate the 2015 agreement, reiterated her support for the deal, according to Reuters, and discussed options to enable trade between the bloc and Iran.

If Iran does break the limits of the deal, the Europeans will have to consider bringing the case to the United Nations Security Council and perhaps reimpose their own economic sanctions.

Meeting on Monday in Luxembourg, European Union foreign ministers called for further investigation of responsibility into the attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.

The Netherlands’ foreign minister, Stef Blok, said European support for the Iran deal depended on Iran’s keeping to the pact’s terms.

“It’s very important to keep on verifying through the international atomic agency whether Iran is still fulfilling the criteria,” he said. “As long as Iran is fulfilling these criteria, we should stick to this deal.”

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The Trade War is Taking Money From Your Wallet, and Returning Some, Too

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Since the start of the Trump administration’s trade war last year, economists and executives have repeatedly warned that consumers will ultimately end up footing the bill for tariffs through higher prices.

That’s true. It just might not feel like it.

A recent economic study estimated that the 10 percent tariffs imposed last year on $200 billion in Chinese products cost the average American household about $414 — money out of your pocket that helped cover the rising cost of importing those goods. But the trade war hasn’t occurred in a vacuum. The financial markets have twitched with almost every tweet, threat, hint and official imposition of taxes made by President Trump, including by depressing the price of crude oil. The result: Fear of the effects of the trade war has helped offset the effects of the trade war.

“The things that are being hit by the tariffs are going to be more expensive,” said Matthew Luzzetti, chief United States economist at Deutsche Bank in New York. “But on the other hand, if oil continues to decline, a big portion of the basket of goods that people consume will become cheaper.”

That’s not necessarily reason to cheer. The markets are reflecting concerns that an escalating trade war — the United States last month raised the tariff rate to 25 percent and has threatened to expand tariffs to an additional $300 million in Chinese goods — could tip the economy into a recession. The effects of that would be more serious than higher consumer prices.

But for now, at least, the markets’ response to the trade war is offsetting some of its costs to consumers.

Crude oil prices have tumbled 20 percent since their peak in late April, as the concerns about the trade war reignited and investors bet on a global slowdown. The International Energy Agency on Friday cut its estimate for oil demand growth in 2019, citing the drag of the trade war on the global economy.

Oil influences the price of virtually every product to some extent, whether in the cost of producing food on a farm or transporting a truckload of goods from warehouse to store. For consumers, it’s one of the clearest examples of how fluctuating financial markets can affect out-of-pocket expenses.

At an average of about $2.70 a gallon, gasoline prices are down more than 6 percent from last year, according to the automotive group AAA. And if history is any guide, gas prices will follow the price of crude oil lower (with a bit of a lag, of course). Airline fares, which are also heavily influenced by prices for crude oil and jet fuel, are continuing their recent decline.

Those lower transportation costs can help companies maintain their profit margins without passing on the full cost of tariffs to their customers, meaning prices don’t go up quite as much as they might have.

The American dollar, a global safe haven during times of economic weakness, has benefited from the trade fight over the past year. Investors have opted for the safety of the greenback over higher-returning investments.

The U.S. Dollar Index — a trade-weighted index of the strength of the dollar to currencies of important trading partners — is up roughly 3 percent over the last 12 months. That’s a significant move in the giant currency markets, which tend to be relatively stable, helping to keep the price of imports lower. Prices for imported consumer goods — excluding automobiles, big-ticket items that can skew the data — have declined sharply in recent months. In May, they were 0.7 percent lower than the same month last year.

The dollar’s gain has been even greater against the currencies of some key trading partners. For instance, the greenback over the last 12 months is up about 8 percent against the Chinese renminbi, helping to offset much of the 10 percent tariffs imposed last year.

And the strength of the dollar against the Brazilian real, for example, has prompted a surge of exports of cheap coffee from Brazil, the world’s largest producer. Global coffee prices are down about 14 percent from a year ago. That’s starting to filter through to supermarket shoppers: JPMorgan Chase analysts recently noted that prices for the Maxwell House and Folgers brands of coffee have declined in recent weeks.

Just as investors who are worried about slowing global economic growth have sought the safety of the dollar, they’ve also moved their money out of riskier investments — like stocks and corporate debt — and into the sanctuary of government bonds.

This demand has pushed up the prices of government bonds, and yields, which move in the opposite direction, sharply lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has dropped more than 1 percentage point from its recent peak above 3.2 percent last fall.

This might sound like an obscure financial market measure. But the yield on the Treasury note helps influence a range of other consumer borrowing rates, such as those for mortgages. Rates for conventional 30-year mortgages have tumbled below 4 percent from roughly 5 percent late last year.

It takes some time for lower mortgage rates, if they last, to filter through to consumers’ wallets. But for those looking to buy a home, it’s a welcome change. And recent economic reports have shown a burst of refinancing activity as borrowers rush to take advantage.

It’s impossible to say exactly how the tariffs affect the overall spending patterns of any given family, but for many the lower costs of other goods could mean that — so far — they have been a wash.

For instance, Goldman Sachs analysts recently looked at price data for nine categories of products affected by tariffs starting last year, including things like furniture, bedding, washing machines, auto parts, motorcycles and sewing machines. The bank found that prices for those goods rose roughly 3 percent between February 2018, when the tariff fight got underway, and this April.

On the other hand, the price of all other goods — excluding food and energy prices — declined by about 2.3 percent over the same period.

Families who bought a new living room set, a motorcycle or a washing machine were hurt by the global trade war. Others, less so.

But that, of course, was before the higher tariffs went into effect last month.

The forces that have softened the blow so far won’t necessarily be enough to offset those higher levies. And the proposed tariffs on additional goods — should they materialize — would most likely have a bigger impact on consumers.

Economists say tariffs on a further $300 billion of Chinese imports would hit American shoppers harder because they would cover more of the kinds of products people buy themselves, like shoes, clothing, cellphones and toys.

If broader tariffs were in place, shoppers might be tempted to take some solace in the lower prices elsewhere offsetting the higher costs of a new iPhone or a pair of sneakers. But before they breathe a sigh of relief, they should remember the reasons those other goods are cheaper.

Investors around the world worry that the trade fight will do real damage to the global economy. If that happens, the cost for Americans could come in the form of rising unemployment.

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Xi Jinping Will Make First Visit to North Korea Ahead of Meeting With Trump

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BEIJING — President Xi Jinping of China plans to visit North Korea later this week, his first trip there as president and a surprise move shortly before President Trump and Mr. Xi are expected to meet at an economic summit.

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has visited China four times in the past year. But Mr. Xi, 66, who is one of the most traveled Chinese presidents, has been reluctant to honor the 35-year-old Mr. Kim by going to the North, a country that is right next door to China.

China and North Korea have had a fraught relationship for decades, making Mr. Xi’s sudden visit, the first by a Chinese president in 14 years to the North, even more unforeseen.

Some Chinese analysts said they believed Mr. Xi was visiting the North to help revive the unsuccessful disarmament talks between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February. China’s state media said Mr. Xi would stay in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, for two days, on Thursday and Friday.

Mr. Xi could then deliver a plan for North Korea talks to Mr. Trump when they meet in Osaka, Japan, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting on June 28, said Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert at Renmin University in Beijing.

With tensions sky high between the United States and China over trade, Mr. Xi could give Mr. Trump “a beautiful present” on resuming of talks over the North’s nuclear arsenal, Mr. Cheng said.

Other officials focused more on relations between China and North Korea. The Communist Party’s International Department said the visit of Mr. Xi would “inject new momentum” into the relationship, the state broadcaster CCTV said.

Mr. Xi’s trip would come 70 years after the start of diplomatic relations between the North and China, CCTV said. A year later, in 1950, China began fighting alongside North Koreans against the United States in the Korean War.

North Korea has long looked to China to intercede for it on the world stage. But after the North staged successful missile and nuclear tests, China voted in favor of tougher economic sanctions against the country, a position that has rankled Mr. Kim.

Still, China remains North Korea’s most important ally, and has sometimes helped Mr. Kim by looking the other way as oil has been delivered to the North in violation of international sanctions.

The sudden arrival of Mr. Xi in North Korea would not necessarily mean any improvement in the brittle relationship between China and the North, said Evans J.R. Revere, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“I am certain that Beijing demanded a price from Pyongyang for the visit — no provocations,” such as missile tests, Mr. Revere said. “The North Koreans don’t need the Chinese to deliver messages to Trump about possible talks; they have a direct channel.”

Mr. Xi would be a useful conduit for the North Koreans to convey “assurances” to Mr. Trump about North Korean intentions, Mr. Revere said.

Mr. Trump announced last week he had received a letter in which Mr. Kim had offered a “reset” in relations after the failure in Hanoi. But he would offer no further detail about the communication.

In South Korea, the presidential spokesman said that the South had learned of preparations for Mr. Xi’s plan to visit North Korea in the past week.

The South has been supportive of all efforts to restart denuclearization talks, and the visit of Mr. Xi should contribute to their resumption, said Ko Min-jung, spokeswoman of the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

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