Iran showdown in Congress damages US credibility

(Deutsche Welle) The White House has secured enough support in the Senate to successfully veto a resolution that would “disapprove” of the Iran nuclear deal. But it’s a hollow victory. A presidential veto could damage US credibility.

The votes have been tallied. At least 34 US Senators will support the Iran nuclear deal and back President Barack Obama’s anticipated veto of a resolution that disapproves of the agreement. To put it simply, those in Congress who oppose the nuclear deal have been defeated – for now.

There’s a good chance that Congress will pass the disapproval resolution. After all, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are controlled by the Republican Party, which is bitterly opposed to the nuclear agreement. At least two leading Democrats, Senators Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer, are also opposed. They have until September 17 to vote on the resolution.

Should the disapproval resolution pass, President Obama would issue a veto. In order to override a presidential veto, opponents of the deal would then need two-thirds support in the House and the Senate. Senator Barbara Mikulski’s decision on Wednesday to support the nuclear agreement ensures that opponents will not have the 67 votes needed in the Senate to override the president’s veto.

According to Jeffrey Peake, many opponents of the Iran nuclear deal knew from the beginning that they would probably lose the showdown with the president. But the impending vote gives them the opportunity to state their opposition to the historic agreement on the record.

“They knew the writing was on the wall,” Peake, an expert on the role of Congress in American diplomacy, told DW. “It was pretty to clear to everyone involved that the veto would be sustained.”

“It allows them a vote where they can go home to their constituents and say, ‘I voted to oppose this deal. It’s on the record,'” Peake said. “They have capitulated basically, but it’s so convoluted and complicated that most observers and constituents aren’t going to see that.”

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West wary of China WWII military parade

(Deutsche Welle) For the first time, China will commemorate the Allied victory in WWII with a military parade. The major Western leaders are not attending. Beijing accuses them of failing to recognize its role in winning the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be the only head of state from the old Allied powers to attend China’s commemoration on Thursday of their victory in World War Two.

The leaders of the United States, Great Britain and France will be conspicuously absent from the ceremony. London has dispatched Kenneth Clarke, a leading conservative politician who’s held numerous cabinet-level positions. Paris has sent Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Washington will be represented by its ambassador, Max Baucus.

This lukewarm response to China stands in stark contrast to how the West commemorates its own contribution to the war. The leader of every major Allied nation attended the 70th-anniversary commemoration of the landings at Normandy last year.

US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Queen of England, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and, of course, French President Francois Hollande were all present to honor the sacrifice of Western troops.

In a press conference in June, China’s deputy propaganda minister, Wang Shiming, criticized Western nations for lacking “an objective and just recognition of China’s position and role in the world anti-fascist war,” as Beijing refers to World War Two. According to British historian Rana Mitter, Chinese criticisms are largely accurate.

“Both in terms of sacrifice and achievement, China’s role during the war does need to be more acknowledged in the West,” Mitter, author of “Forgotten Ally: China’s WWII,” told DW. “In terms of what it did, 14 million Chinese or more were killed during the war. Nearly 100 million became refugees.”

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Fact or fiction: Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932

Did US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders fail history when he said, “Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932?” The Washington Post thinks so, but historian Mark Roseman told DW that Sanders does have a point.

Senator Bernie Sanders was asked about his religion. How does it inform his politics? The US presidential candidate and self-proclaimed democratic socialist is Jewish. He responded by discussing the cautionary tale of Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.

“A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932,” Sanders said during an event organized by the Christian Science Monitor in June. “He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including 6 million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important.”

This statement by Sanders was subsequently re-tweeted and posted across social media. The Washington Post, in response to one of its readers, published a fact-check article on Friday with the headline: “Why you shouldn’t re-tweet Sanders’s claim that ‘Hitler won an election in 1932.”

The Post reports that Sanders got his history wrong: “There was an election in 1932 – but Hitler lost.” The article focuses on the German presidential elections.

Deutsche Welle spoke with historian Mark Roseman, a professor of modern European and German history at Indiana University in Bloomington. According to Roseman, there were five German elections in 1932. And if you look at the national parliamentary elections, what Sanders said makes sense.

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Could the Virginia TV shooting have been prevented?

The shooting of two journalists in Virginia raises issues of race, mental health and guns. Could the tragedy have been prevented by stricter gun control? Spencer Kimball reports from Chicago.

Vester Lee Flanagan, by his own admission, was a disturbed individual.

“Yeah I’m all f—– up in the head,” Flanagan, 41, wrote in a 23-page document that he faxed to broadcaster ABC after shooting dead two journalists on live television in Virginia on Wednesday.

A former reporter at the local news station WDBJ in Roanoke, Flanagan had been reprimanded by his superiors for “lashing out,” using “harsh language,” and having “aggressive body language” that made “co-workers feel threatened or uncomfortable.” He was told to seek medical help or risk termination. The internal memos detailing Flanagan’s issues at work were obtained and published by “The Guardian.”

In 2013, WDBJ fired Flanagan, who had gone by Bryce Williams on television. Police had to escort him off the premises because he refused to leave.

In the document faxed to ABC, Flanagan described his state of life and mind before shooting Alison Parker, 24, Adam Ward, 27, and ultimately killing himself. A gay black man, Flanagan claimed to have been a victim of racism and harassment. He filed a lawsuit against WDBJ over his dismissal, alleging discrimination. A judge dismissed the case in July.

But Flanagan pointed to the killing of nine black people in a Charleston church by white supremacist Dylann Roof last June as the “tipping point.”

“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

A powder keg who was able to purchase a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol, one who was inspired by the Virginia Tech and Columbine High School massacres.

“Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there,” Flanagan wrote, referring to the Virginia Tech shooter. “He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.”

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Born in the USA: Trump stokes calls for end to birthright citizenship

There are growing calls in the Republican Party to end birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented migrants. The debate strikes at the very core of American nationhood. Spencer Kimball reports from Chicago.

Born in the United States? Then you’re a citizen, regardless of your parents’ national origins or legal status. Many Americans view this principle as a cornerstone of their democracy.

Others, like Donald Trump, believe birthright citizenship is a problem. The billionaire real estate tycoon, reality television star and now Republican presidential front-runner would crack down on undocumented migrants by denying citizenship to their children born on US soil.

“They’re illegal,” Trump said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “Either you have a country or you don’t.”

He’s not alone. Most Republican presidential candidates back the idea outright or waver when asked to take a position. Only Jeb Bush, whose wife was born in Mexico, and Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, have publicly expressed support for the principle of birthright citizenship.

“Within the 14th amendment, there’s something called the citizenship clause, and the debate is centered on exactly who fits the definition of being subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, told DW.

“All sides of the debate agree, in the least, that children born to foreign diplomats are not to be considered US citizens at birth,” Feere said. “The question is whether or not that includes children born to illegal immigrants, children born to tourists, children born to foreign students and so on.”

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The people’s billionaire? Trump dominates Republican primary polls

Flush with money and armed with social media, Donald Trump’s racially charged populism now dominates the Republican race. Dismiss the billionaire tycoon at your own peril. Spencer Kimball reports from Chicago.

Donald Trump wants to “make America great again.”

“Our country is in serious trouble,” Trump said when announcing his campaign for president in June. “We use to have victories, but we don’t have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say China, in a trade deal?” he asked rhetorically. “They kill us. I beat China all the time.”

It’s not just China that’s beating the United States. According to Trump, Mexico has turned America “into a dumping ground,” sending immigrants across the border who are “rapists.” In response to his racially charged rhetoric, broadcaster NBC canceled Trump’s Miss USA pageant. Pundits and observers thought his campaign had imploded on its launch pad.

But Trump didn’t stop there. During a July interview in Iowa, he said Senator John McCain – a Vietnam veteran who was held captive and tortured – wasn’t a war hero. Sacrilege in America. Outrage ensued, but Trump’s campaign didn’t suffer as a result.

During the first Republican debate in August, Trump refused to rule out running as a third party candidate. The audience booed him. Yet according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Tuesday, Trump decisively leads the Republican primary by a 20 point margin, garnering about 30 percent support. He leads in every major primary state, from New Hampshire to Iowa, from South Carolina to Florida.

“The inflammatory comments increase his popularity,” Bruce Newman, author of the forthcoming book, “The Marketing Revolution in Politics,” told DW. “His brand is all about the ability to make inflammatory comments and not care about what people think.”

“The xenophobic approach that Trump has, which is to appeal to people’s fear of the role of immigrants, is no different than what we witness in Europe,” said Newman, a professor at DePaul University. “It’s no different than the oratory of a Le Pen in France.”

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US-Saudi alliance stays strong after Iran nuclear deal

Will the Iran nuclear deal strain ties between Saudi Arabia and the US? Hardly. The alliance between the world’s largest absolute monarchy and its oldest constitutional republic remains strong, Spencer Kimball reports.

One is an officially Islamic nation ruled by the same family for 83 years, where religion dictates who drives (men) and what women may wear (abayas, or full-body cloaks); the other is a mostly, but not officially, Christian country where voters pick their leaders and often even enact local laws.

Enemies and interests may be the only two things Saudi Arabia and the United States do have in common, and these have proved the basis for a long and largely loyal strategic partnership.

“It has survived every possible provocation that might have brought it down, including [US President] Truman’s recognition of Israel in 1948,” Thomas Lippman, a former Middle East bureau chief for the Washington Post, told DW.

Lippman believes that the relationship will also survive its latest test: the deal world powers signed in July to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for international monitoring of the country’s nuclear program.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry left for Qatar, part of his first trip to the Middle East since he and fellow negotiators reached the historic agreement with Saudi Arabia’s main rival for regional influence.

Before and after the deal, Kerry repeatedly reaffirmed the US’s commitment to the security of its Gulf partners. Just last week, the State Department approved the sale of 600 Patriot missiles, worth $5.4 billion (4.9 billion euros), to Riyadh.

The Patriots will help counter Iran’s missile program, Lippman said, though he doesn’t believe that the sale is necessarily related to the nuclear deal.

“I have no doubt that the Saudis despise Shiites and are nervous about the Iranians and are unhappy about Iran’s activity around the region – that’s no secret,” Lippman said.

“They also understand perfectly which side their bread is buttered on, and that’s the US side,” he continued. “Nobody else is going to sell them 600 patriot missiles.”

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The ‘War on Terror’ after Mullah Omar and Bin Laden

(Deutsche Welle) Taliban leader Mullah Omar provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. Both men are now dead. But with the rise of Islamic State, there’s no end in sight to America’s 14-year-running “War on Terror.”

He had a $10 million bounty on his head for more than a decade. But the justice of the Old American West didn’t translate to South Asia. Mullah Mohammed Omar died in a Pakistani hospital more than two years ago, apparently from tuberculosis. Washington will keep its $10 million.

The US pulled no punches after 9/11. Its constitution was no obstacle. Yet through more than a decade of war, surveillance, detention and torture, the Afghan Taliban leader was ever elusive to the long and often merciless arm of American vengeance.

“Mullah Omar has protected himself not only from the public, but even from his own comrades in the Taliban,” Anand Gopal, author of “No Good Men Among the Living,” told DW. “There are very few members who’ve had access to Mullah Omar since 2001. In last four or five years, he has essentially vanished.”

Like Osama bin Laden, the Taliban leader probably crossed the porous Afghan-Pakistan border and found sanctuary on the territory of an ostensible American ally.

“Given the inadequate efforts by the Pakistani state to go after these kinds of individuals, and in the case of Mullah Omar, the enormous number of Afghan refugees made it relatively easy for him to find haven inside of Pakistan,” Daniel Markey, author of “No Exit from Pakistan,” told DW.

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US caught between Turkey, Kurd rivalry in war against ‘IS’

They’re both key to US goals in the Middle East, but they’re bitterly opposed to one another. Turkey has bombed Kurdish positions in Iraq. The airstrikes could hamper Washington’s war against ‘IS.’

According to the Turkish government, there’s no difference between “Islamic State” and the Kurdish militant group PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). They’re both terrorist organizations.

“Whichever terrorist organization poses a threat to the borders of the Turkish Republic, measures will be taken without hesitation,” said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after Turkey launched operations against both groups. “No-one should have any doubt.”

But the secular PKK has proven one of the most effective adversaries of the “Islamic State” group, according to Michael Gunter, who’s written several books on the Kurds. So effective, that there have been calls in the US to remove the PKK from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

“The US should do it,” Gunter, a professor at Tennessee Tech University, told DW. “The US has been in effect supporting the PKK by supporting the affiliate of the PKK, the PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party], in Syria.”

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US trade agenda trumps fight against human trafficking

The US State Department has given Malaysia a better grade on fighting human trafficking. That decision has more to do with the president’s trade agenda than human rights, says DW’s Spencer Kimball.

The timing is suspicious.

In June, the United States Congress prohibited President Barack Obama from concluding trade deals with countries that are non-compliant with basic standards on preventing and punishing human trafficking. Malaysia was one of the worst offenders – until the State Department released its 2015 Trafficking in Persons report on Monday.

The Southeast Asian nation has been upgraded from the worst ranking possible to a State Department “watch list.” Reuters broke the news of Malaysia’s pending change in status in early July. In response, 178 members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry criticizing the upgrade as unwarranted based on Malaysia’s human rights record. NGOs such as Human Rights Watch agree that Malaysia has not made enough of an improvement to deserve an upgrade.

So why did the State Department give Malaysia a better grade? The Obama administration would simply argue that Kuala Lumpur has made modest improvements. But the upgrade also conveniently allows the president to secure Malaysia’s place in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the cornerstone of his trade agenda. The TPP includes 12 nations and will cover 40 percent of the global economy.

President Obama recently won fast-track authority to finish negotiating the deal. But he had to fight a bitter battle with members of his own party. American progressives have argued that the TPP will jeopardize American jobs and weaken environmental and labor standards.

Why would the White House allow its trade agenda to take another public bruising with a key country being forced out of the deal over its record on human trafficking?

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