Iran’s Multi-Front War against America and Its Allies

Two days before Thanksgiving, as President Donald Trump was preparing his surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif phoned Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah and met with a delegation from the Taliban. The object of both discussions was to pressure U.S. and its allies: Zarif told the Taliban representatives that Iran wants a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and offered al-Nakhalah Iran’s full support for PIJ’s “valiant resistance” against Israel.

Iran’s decisions to push the Palestinians to fight Israel and to encourage the Taliban are part of a regional policy that seeks to evict the U.S. from the Middle East and stir up trouble for Washington worldwide. This is Tehran’s answer to the “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions that the Trump administration has mounted since pulling the U.S. out of President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.

Iran fought its multi-front war against the U.S. in multiple ways. In the Persian Gulf, it twice struck at foreign oil tankers over the summer, shot down a high-tech U.S. drone in late June, and launched drone and cruise-missile attacks on key Saudi oil facilities in September. It is also seeking to use its terrorist proxies in the Gaza Strip to provoke Israel into a wider regional war. In the fall of 2018, Israel accused Iran of ordering PIJ to attack from Gaza. The Palestinian terrorist group has thousands of missiles and fighters in Gaza, but is smaller than Hamas. Its leadership lives abroad and keeps in close contact with Iran, which supports it even though it’s made up of Palestinian Sunni Muslims. (In general, Iran tends to work with Shiite groups such as Hezbollah.) Israel was concerned throughout the summer of 2019 that PIJ might be trying to push it into a war in Gaza to distract it from Iran’s efforts to gain a permanent foothold in Syria and supply Hezbollah with precision-guided rockets. In response, Israel struck a PIJ commander on November 12, prompting the group to fire over 400 missiles over the Gaza border.

Evidence for how important the Palestinian group is to Iran comes from two phone calls that Zarif made after the November 12 battles. Iran’s Mehr News reported that Zarif congratulated al-Nakhalah on November 17. Then Zarif called again on November 25. Iran’s message was clear: Keep the pressure on Israel.

At the same time, Iran was also looking 1,900 miles away from the Gaza Strip, to Afghanistan. In the 1990s, Iran and the Taliban were on opposite sides of the war in Afghanistan, to the point where Iran almost invaded the country in 1998. Once the U.S. invaded to dislodge al-Qaeda after 9/11, Iran began to reconsider its antipathy toward the Taliban. The Islamic Republic now hopes to push the U.S. out of Afghanistan by whatever means are necessary and fill the resulting power vacuum. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Tehran of being behind a May suicide bombing in Kabul. Peace talks with the Taliban and the U.S. broke down in September, and Trump’s Thanksgiving visit notwithstanding, Iran believes the U.S. is leaving Kabul and hopes to hasten the process.

Israel Prepares For War With Iranian Proxies

As Iran works with PIJ and the Taliban, it also seeks to pressure the U.S. in the Gulf, in Iraq, in Syria, and in Lebanon. In Iraq, it hopes its allies in parliament and among various Shiite militias will force the U.S. to withdraw; militia mortar and rocket attacks have hit U.S. bases in the country every month since May. In Syria, Iran-backed militias allied with Bashar al-Assad’s regime are facing U.S. forces across the Euphrates, and would like to grab the oil facilities that the U.S. is currently protecting. In Lebanon, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah wants control over the choice of the country’s next prime minister.

The Iranian regime is facing maximum pressure from the U.S. and suddenly finds itself squeezed at home, too, forced to brutally crack down on massive recent protests against a large gas-price hike. Its response has been to challenge the U.S. and American allies across thousands of miles of terrain from Kabul to Gaza. While it is cornered, it should not be underestimated.

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Cuba opens shops to capture hard currencies and boost economy

More than ten shops opened today in Cuba to sell goods in hard currencies, as part of authorities' strategy to capture foreign currencies and contribute to the country's socioeconomic development.

According to official sources, 12 establishments are in Havana and one is in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, although the plan is to open 77 such shops over the next few weeks.

The new shops will sell, at more affordable prices, large-format TV sets, high-standard refrigerators and automatic washing machines, as well as electrical motorcycles and car parts.

In order to acquire those products, buyers have to open US-dollar bank accounts associated to magnetic cards, although they can also make deposits in US dollars, euros, pounds sterling, Canadian dollars, Swiss francs, Mexican pesos, Danish and Norwegian krones, Swedish kronas and Japanese yen.

Metropolitan Bank Vice President Marina Torres explained a few days ago that some 10,000 people have opened bank accounts for that modality and 13% of them made deposits in cash.

The initiative is part of a group of measures announced last month by Cuban Vice President Salvador Valdes to make trade more dynamic and prevent the flight of capital.

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Cuban government to announce new economic measures

The Cuban government will announce today new economic measures following those adopted in the face of the fuel shortages caused by the tightening of the US blockade that has been imposed on the island for over 60 years.

Local media report the appearance this afternoon on radio and television of Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa, and the ministers of Economy and Planning, Finance and Prices, Domestic Trade, and Foreign Trade and Investment.

The Minister-President of the Central Bank of Cuba and the First Vice President of CIMEX Corporation will also appear on the Mesa Redonda television program.

Cubavision, Cubavision Internacional and Radio Habana Cuba will broadcast this program at 18:00 local time. It will also be available on Facebook and YouTube.

In September, the Cuban government announced fuel shortages due to the persecution and pressures of the US government against oil tankers, shipping companies and insurance companies, which prevented the normal supply flow to then island.

Adjustments, savings and greater efficiency measures were designed to ensure basic services were not disrupted and avoid major impacts on the population.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel commended the attitude and participation of citizens in the application of such decisions, which allowed, among other results, the saving of thousands of tons of fuel.

Diaz-Canel described Washington's aim to cut fuel supplies to Cuba as a genocidal policy. He also said that some of the measures taken to face this energy situation are 'here to stay.'

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Cuban president evaluates programs of high priority for the island's economy

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel analyzed on Tuesday prioritized programs for the country's socioeconomic development in areas such as transportation, agriculture and tourism.

In a meeting where he was accompanied by several government ministers, Diaz-Canel evaluated the main projects to improve the transportation of cargo and passengers, according to national television prime time newscast.

The report added that the recovery of the railway system with the modernization of workshops and increased technical inspections of vehicles to prevent accidents are part of the plan in this sector.

The president also analyzed investments in tourism and foreign investment, strategic sectors for the development of the Caribbean nation. The head of state called for expanding exportable lines and boosting production in the food industry, according to the information.

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Cuban Economy Will Not Enter Recession Despite Blockade: Report

Despite the recent tightening of the U.S. economic blockade, Cuba’s economy is showing resilience and will not enter recession, instead will enjoy small growth over the coming year, according to forecasts published by ‘Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carribean’(CEPAL) one of the regions leading think tanks.

Cuba’s economy minister Alejandro Gil Fernandez responded via Twitter on Wednesday to the recent report by CEPAL, saying “Despite the worsening of the blockade, #CEPAL forecasts that the Cuban economy will not decline in 2019 and estimates a 0.5% growth, similar to that of the region. We remain focused on improving the quality of life of the people, which is truly the most important task”.

The CEPAL report predicts slow growth across the region, with South America likely to see just 0.2 percent growth, and 0.5 percent across Latin America.

The figures forecasting modest growth for Cuba come despite new economic sanctions announced by the Trump administration. In April the U.S. began enforcing Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, the legislation that formalized the blockade on Cuba.

Title III allows for Cubans in the U.S., whose companies were nationalized after the revolution, to file lawsuits against those who own or do business with those companies today.

So far the U.S. recognizes 5,000 such claims. The aim is to scare away those who seek to do trade with Cuba and therefore damage the island economically.

One U.S. official said that the law is “‘to encourage any person who is doing business in Cuba to reconsider whether they are trafficking in confiscated property.”

Title III, along with the blockade in general, has been repeatedly rejected at the U.N., with only Israel consistently voting with the U.S. on the issue.

Nevertheless, Cuban lawmakers were pleased that the economy is showing resilience despite U.S. attacks. Lawmaker Gil Fernandez addressed parliament, laying out the country’s economic strategy, which he believes is responsible for its stability in the face of adversity.

Fernandez said the main elements of the plan have been to “defend national production, diversify and increase exports, reduce imports, strengthen state companies, advance towards food sovereignty, promote local development; as well as pursuing a social housing policy and investing in science”

Fernandez ended his address stating that Cuba’s economic strategy means that “we can take advantage of our domestic potential and overcome, successfully, the siege to which we are subjected to by the United States, which will not succeed in forcing us down.”

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Cuban Economy Will Go for More, President Says

President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Monday stated that the Cuban economy is going for more despite a difficult international environment and the worsening of the US blockade against the island.

The president participated in discussions of the Economic Affairs Committee of the National Assembly of the third ordinary period of sessions of its 9th Legislature that opened on Monday.

Diaz-Canel announced about this issue that the economy grew more than expected in 2018 and the purpose is to achieve a modest increase despite the Washington-applied economic, financial and commercial siege 'that has not allowed us to deploy in full force.'

In his speech, he said that foreign investment projects are under way for several billion dollars and there are other projects aimed at reducing imports.

He urged to invest more in the Agriculture and Food industries and increase the quantity of cultivable land under irrigation, which is currently insufficient for national needs.

The head of State referred to measures for economic boost that include wage increase to the public sector and reiterated that 'popular wisdom,' was taken into account. It was expressed in direct contact with the population and in forums such as the Congress of the Cuban Workers' Union, bringing together all unions in the country.

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G20 summit: Trump and Xi agree to restart US-China trade talks

The US and China have agreed to resume trade talks, easing a long row that has contributed to a global economic slowdown.

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping reached agreement at the G20 summit in Japan.

Mr Trump also said he would allow US companies to continue to sell to the Chinese tech giant Huawei, in a move seen as a significant concession.

Mr Trump had threatened additional trade sanctions on China.

However, after the meeting on the sidelines of the main G20 summit in Osaka, he confirmed that the US would not be adding tariffs on $300bn (£236bn) worth of Chinese imports.

He also said he would continue to negotiate with Beijing "for the time being".

And at a subsequent press conference, the US president declared that US technology companies could again sell to China's Huawei - effectively reversing a ban imposed last month by the US commerce department.

President Trump has positioned his trade talks with Xi Jinping as a win for the US - but he may have also given Beijing exactly what it wants on Huawei.

It is still not clear whether what Mr Trump has announced is a complete reversal - but if it is, it would be a significant concession by the US on a company that Washington has said is a threat to national security.

The resumption of talks and pressing the pause button on more tariffs will be seen in the short term as positive for markets and American businesses. Those have already complained about the cost of further tariffs saying that if they had gone ahead - American consumers would have ended up paying something like $12bn more in higher prices

Chinese businesses have been suffering too - the trade war has hit investment plans, business confidence, and exports in the world's second largest economy. But pressing pause doesn't mean the trade war is over. Tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods are still in place. And the two sides still have much to agree on.

Washington wants Beijing to fundamentally change the way China's economy has grown over the past four decades - get rid of subsidies to state owned companies, open up the domestic market and most importantly, hold China to account if it fails to deliver on any of these commitments.

But Beijing has already publicly said that it won't budge on issues of principle or bow to US pressure.

How the two sides close that gap will be the real test of any trade truce. For now - it is a positive thing that they're talking again. But talking can only take you so far.

The US and China have been fighting a damaging trade war over the past year.

Mr Trump accused China of stealing intellectual property and forcing US firms to share trade secrets in order to do business in China, which in turn said US demands for business reform were unreasonable.

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The feud escalated in the months leading up to the summit, after talks between the two countries collapsed in May.
Will what's happened in Osaka change the situation?

The truce signals a pause in hostilities rather than a resolution of the dispute, which has caused market turbulence and hit global growth.

Mr Trump said his meeting with Mr Xi was "excellent, as good as it was going to be," adding: "We discussed a lot of things and we're right back on track and we'll see what happens."

China's state news agency Xinhua quoted Mr Xi as saying: "China and the US have highly integrated interests and extensive co-operation areas and they should not fall into so-called traps of conflict and confrontation."

What's the situation with Huawei?

Washington has publicly said the firm's technology poses a national security risk, although Mr Trump has also linked the issue to the trade dispute.

Last month, the US banned Huawei from buying US goods without a licence - including from Google, which is crucial to many of its products. The ban could cost the firm $30bn (£24bn) in revenue this year.

Media captionWe explain the controversy around Huawei's 5G tech – using castles

Some analysts see the ban as an attempt by the US to contain a powerful Chinese firm.

Mr Trump's decision to allow US companies to continue to sell to Huawei "where there's no great national security problem" could be a substantial concession, although exactly how this will play out remains unclear.

Mr Trump said the Huawei situation would be dealt with "at the very end" of trade talks.

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For a Lot of Millennial Men, the American Dream Is Dead

Depending on what you read, millennials are either lazy and entitled moochers who can’t move out of their parents’ basements, or they’re victims of the most severe and protracted economic slowdown since the Great Depression.

A comprehensive new report from Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality suggests it’s the latter narrative we should be paying attention to. The report reviewed the state of the millennials, covering topics as varied as student debt, employment, income, and social mobility. In general, it presented a mixed outlook: While some millennials — in particular, those with college degrees — are doing okay, for others — namely those without an advanced education — it seems the American dream has become a distant memory.

Certainly, millennials can lay quite a bit of blame on the recession. Researchers have found that generations who enter the labor force during recessions often pay a long-term price for that timing. Labor market disadvantages tend to build on each other — that disappointing first job, taken perhaps in desperation in the depths of a recession, makes it harder to get a great second job, and so on and so on. “Anytime anything goes bad in the economy and in the labor market, it hits young people the most because they’re the most marginal workers in the labor market,” says Harry Holzer, a public policy professor at Georgetown University who worked on the report. “And there are a lot of things in the labor market that haven’t been great.”

Especially so for men. In one chapter of the report on income and earnings, sociologist Christine Percheski finds that millennial men in their twenties and thirties had lower median income than previous generations. What’s more, wage inequality is higher for male millennials than for any previous generation in young adulthood. But the narrative is flipped for millennial women, who are enjoying higher incomes and lower levels of inequality in comparison to Gen X and Baby Boomer women.

Percheski says this is not surprising — given just how poorly women in previous cohorts fared at work. “Millennial women are working at higher rates than baby boomers, and their wages have gone up,” she says. “A lot of this has to do with how very unequal women were before.”

The declines in male income can be largely explained by the fact that millennial men are simply less likely to be working than previous generations. (Percheski finds that median earnings for employed millennials were slightly higher than Gen Xers, and on par with baby boomers.) In another chapter in the report, Holzer, the Georgetown professor, finds that between 1996 and 2016, labor force participation for men aged 25 to 34 declined by 4.4%. (Millennial women saw declines as well, but they were much smaller.)

    “You’re not seeing an improvement of the sort that Americans have long expected.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, less-educated millennials have been particularly hard hit. Over 90% of millennial men with college degrees worked in 2016, versus 70% of high school dropouts. The gap among female millennials is even bigger: Eighty-three percent of female, millennial college graduates participated in the labor force in 2016, versus only 50% of high school dropouts. The divergence doesn’t stop at labor force participation — researchers also found that millennials with a high school degree or less are earning less than similarly educated workers in previous generations. In other words, for those without college degrees, economic security is much harder to attain today than in previous generations. “It’s really the non-college millennials whose participation is down,” Holzer says.

A common trope about millennials is that they’re just doing everything — finishing college, moving out of their parents’ house, getting married, having children — a little later than previous generations. And many of the researchers who contributed to the report suspect that millennials might yet “catch up,” at least partially, on some outcomes. But David Grusky, the director of Stanford’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, finds the overall data less than encouraging.

“You’re not seeing an improvement of the sort that Americans have long expected,” he says. “Overall, it would be hard to look at these results and be pleased.”

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