December 31, 2019

Iraq riots expose an America weaker and with fewer options
Mobbing of US embassy after US strikes on state-sanctioned militia show America’s plan of maximum pressure only added to chaosThe mobbing of a US embassy has historically served as an emblem of America in decline, so the scenes around the embattled mission in Baghdad are a fitting end to the decade.Tuesday’s events are not quite as decisive as the 1975 helicopter evacuation of the embassy in Saigon, or the seizure of the Tehran embassy four years later. Iraqi forces did turn up eventually to protect the Baghdad mission. It turned out the ambassador was on holiday anyway, so he did not have to endure the humiliation of a rooftop escape. But the demonstration of US weakness, after spending $2tn in Iraq, was plain for all to see.The rioters, organised by the Iranian proxy militia Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), brushed past Iraqi checkpoints, and there were members of parliament from the government bloc among them. Security forces who have had no compunction about firing tear gas canisters into the skulls of anti-Iranian protesters on Tahrir Square, stood by and watched molotov cocktails thrown at the US embassy. In its public pronouncements, the Iraqis put more blame on Washington than Tehran.For Iran, the embassy riot was the latest move in a deliberate strategy, to raise the costs of the US presence in Iraq and drive a wedge between the Iraqi government and Washington.The competition between the US and Iran for influence in Iraq would have escalated anyway as the threat from Isis declined. But the US effort to destroy Iran economically through its campaign of maximum pressure has meant the Iranians have nothing to lose.“The Iranians have been very, very methodical over the past six months about their responses to the maximum pressure campaign. And unfortunately, it is not really met any counter-response,” said Barbara Leaf, former US ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. “The question is: while Iran has a very methodical approach to upping the ante, do they at some point trip across a red line that they don’t even know exists?”It was inevitable that the repeated attacks by KH on Iraqi bases hosting US troops would eventually lead to American casualties, as happened on Friday near Kirkuk, triggering US retaliatory airstrikes on KH camps in Iraq as well as Syria.Ariane Tabatabai, a political analyst at the Rand Corporation, said: “The US was sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place, because on the one hand, if it did not respond to this latest attack, considering that a US citizen was killed, it would have sent a pretty strong signal that the red line that it had laid out about US casualties didn’t mean anything.”By highlighting the Iraqi government’s impotence on its own territory, the retaliation diverted public dissatisfaction with the heavy-handed Iranian presence in Iraq, to the desire to be rid of the imperious Americans. The US comes out of this tit-for-tat round weaker and with fewer options.It is not clear whether the US has a plan for what happens now. The campaign of maximum pressure was supposed to force Iran to accept a worse deal than the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement on which Donald Trump walked out in 2018. The oil and banking embargo on Iran have been highly effective in damaging the Iranian economy, but have failed to make Iran bow to US demands for Tehran to give up its military stake in Middle East conflicts and its enrichment of uranium.Instead, Iran has hit back against tanker traffic in the Persian Gulf, and Saudi oil facilities, while ratcheting up pressure on the US military presence in Iraq.US officials have talked in recent days about “restoring deterrence” against such moves with air strikes against KH targets, and have warned they are ready to escalate by taking the fight into Iranian territory.US deterrence however is undermined by having given Iran so little to lose, and by the vacillation of the president, who is entering an election year claiming he has extricated the country from costly foreign wars, while simultaneously wanting to appear tough in the standoff with Iran.“To those many millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and who don’t want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is your time!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday, but he sent the tweet while on his way to his golf course in Palm Beach.He was convinced that maximum pressure would bring Iran to the negotiating table as a supplicant, but instead it has added to the chaos.No one – almost certainly not even Trump – knows how he is going to respond.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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