Week of May 6

Aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln is headed to the Persian Gulf. Credit: REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric S. Powell/Handout

On Monday, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said the decision to send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf “represents a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces.” The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it would be rushing additional military might to the area to counter Iranian threats to U.S. troops on the ground and at sea. The additional firepower includes fighter jets, an amphibious landing ship, four destroyers, B-52 bombers, fighter jets, an expeditionary warship and a surface-to-air missile battery. These assets, according to U.S. Central Command, are being sent in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.” Previously, White House national security advisor John Bolton that said the move is a show of “unrelenting force” that sends “a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.” The threats were reported to the United States by Israeli intelligence services.

Meanwhile, in Turkey on Monday, the High Election Board annulled Istanbul’s election results that showed a defeat for President Tayyip Erdogan and his AK party (AKP), which had called for a do-over of the vote. The decision hit the lira and raised charges of conflicts of interest. The election board had not yet made its announcement when the state-run Anadolu agency and a representative of AKP shared the news. A new election will take place on June 23rd. Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which in the initial vote on March 31st narrowly won the mayoral race in the country’s largest city, called the ruling a “plain dictatorship.” In the wake of the loss, Erdogan and his party accused foreign conspirators of appointing the people who worked at the polling stations to insure the AKP lost Istanbul’s mayoralty. The Electoral Board did not order a rerun for district and provincial council election results which were overseen by the same people, but were races that the AKP and its coalition partner won. While European politicians slammed the decision to hold a new vote, the Trump administration in a statement said it had taken note of the development.

Back to Iran … on Thursday, the White House contacted the Swiss on Thursday to share a phone number the Iranians could call the president on after Trump publicly appealed to Iran to call him amid the ongoing heightened tensions with Tehran, according to a diplomatic source familiar with the move. “I’d like to see them call me,” Trump said of the Iranians in the White House on Thursday. On Friday, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander said Iran would not engage in talks with the “Americans,” IRGC Lieutenant Commander for Political Affairs Brigadier General Yadollah Javani told the semi-official Tasnim News Agency. “Negotiations with Americans will not take place, and Americans will not dare to take military action against us,” Javani added. The White House did not reply to request for comment on the sharing of the number.

Elsewhere in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, a jury in federal court convicted a former American diplomat of threatening members of an Arab American organization. For more than a decade, Patrick Syring targeted advocacy group, the Arab American Institute, with hundreds of menacing emails, often declaring: “The only good Arab is a dead Arab.” Messages typically contained racist descriptions of Arabs and accused the staff — and specifically its president, James Zogby — of orchestrating terrorist attacks around the world. Syring was convicted of 14 counts of threatening employees, including seven federal hate crime charges. He began targeting the group in 2006 and had previously served a 1-year term after pleading guilty to federal charges of making threats and violating his targets’ civil rights. New emails began arriving just weeks after Syring’s probation ended in 2012, according to court documents. Syring’s attorneys called the messages “racist” and “disgusting” and acknowledged the fear their client caused, but argued that it was still protected speech. “No matter how offensive or outlandish, they are opinions,” defense attorney Joseph Gonzalez told the jury. “The fact that they are racist does not make them criminal.” The jury disagreed; sentencing is scheduled for August. In his 25-year State Department career, Syring served two tours in Beirut.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control announced a temporary ban on dogs imported to the U.S. from Egypt, citing multiple instances of dogs that contracted rabies in Egypt being brought to the U.S. in recent years. ABC News reported that CDC officials say Americans’ appetite for adopting puppies has fueled what regulators call an international smuggling operation that skirts U.S. regulations. “The motives behind illegal puppy importation are not immediately obvious. However, a closer look reveals a big business driven by profit at the expense of the health and welfare of the underage puppies,” CDC says in a blog post. “Importers aim to get around these regulations because customers demand puppies as young as 8-weeks. Profits decline by the thousands with each month a puppy ages. The puppy-loving public creating the demand is part of the problem.” Three rabid dogs have been imported to the U.S. from Egypt since 2015, some with falsified health paperwork.

On Sunday, Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported on a development that has the potential to significantly alter women’s status in the country: Iran’s parliament overwhelmingly voted to confer citizenship on children born to an Iranian mother and foreign father. Currently, children of “mixed marriages” are only eligible for citizenship if their Iranian parent is a man. If the decision is approved by the Guardian Council, a powerful body of senior clerics and judges, then the offspring of mixed marriages would be eligible for citizenship, regardless of whether their mother or father is the Iranian national. “Today, when women have gained dignity, respect and a high level of education and status in the country, on the basis of what logic are we depriving a woman the right to transfer the citizenship that’s in her blood on to her child?” said Iran’s vice president for women’s and family affairs, according to IRNA. If passed, the law would also give tens of thousands of children access to social and health care services. Such regulations on citizenship are common throughout the Middle East, so keep an eye on this story as it could influence other countries to follow suit.

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