January 07, 2020

Team Trump Thought It Could Contain Iran With ‘Maximum Pressure.’ The Attacks Got Worse
In the hours after members and supporters of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq began protesting at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, senior Trump administration officials in the State Department, White House, and Pentagon convened to discuss options for how to respond. The situation in the country was growing increasingly hostile on the ground, and an American contractor had been killed just days earlier by a rocket attack launched by Kataib Hezbollah. Key advisers to President Donald Trump presented a slew of options, as they had in the past when Iran’s rockets got too close for comfort or its militias had made moves on the battlefield that suggested they were postured to strike American assets, according to two senior U.S. officials. But the attack on a U.S. base near Kirkuk was different from past skirmishes between American and pro-Iranian forces. An American was dead and Iran showed no sign of backing down militarily in Iraq or elsewhere in the region. “The president was faced with a choice and he took the shot,” a person familiar with Trump’s thinking told The Daily Beast, referring to the Trump administration’s assassination of Iran’s top military leader, Qassem Soleimani, last week.Things were never expected to get to this point. Part of the implied goal of an American policy known as “maximum pressure,” with its crushing sanctions on the Iranian economy, was to force Tehran to scale back its aggression. While the Trump administration never specifically stated that the campaign aimed to curtail Iran’s military stance toward the U.S. and its allies, American officials told The Daily Beast that the White House hoped it could gain enough leverage with sanctions to deter Tehran’s military aggression. The attack that killed the contractor, the move toward U.S. bases, these were signs Iran was getting more aggressive, not less.The president wasn’t alone in his decision to strike Soleimani. Officials across the three agencies had for months discussed Iran’s threat against the U.S. and determined that the maximum pressure campaign had not changed Tehran’s behavior, at least not militarily, according to the two U.S. officials and three other individuals with knowledge of the administration's decision-making regarding Iran. It had only bolstered Iran’s adversarial posture toward American assets in the Middle East and elsewhere throughout the world, those sources said. Behind closed doors, many U.S. officials began to question the efficacy of maximum pressure, while others pushed the president privately to go after a high-profile Iranian target.“While the maximum pressure campaign has completely ravaged Iran’s economy, Tehran’s intentions toward the U.S. have remained as hostile as they have been for four decades,” said Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank in Washington known for advising the Trump administration on its Iran policy. “Up until now I think people assumed that the president would only use sanctions as his sole instrument of national power. But once Soleimani-backed militias killed an American and threatened to kill others, the president decided to do what no president has done in the past. It could now change the way the administration deploys the full range of national power against the regime in Iran.”Following the assassination of Soleimani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went on national television and laid out exactly how Soleimani’s actions had begun to worry the U.S. enough that they deemed it necessary to strike.“We watched the intelligence flow in that talked about Soleimani’s role in the region and the work that he was doing to put Americans further at risk,” he said. “It was time to take this action… so we could disrupt this plot. The risk of doing nothing was enormous.”But months earlier, Pompeo was making nearly the opposite case: that maximum pressure was causing Iran to turn down the heat.“Before we reimposed sanctions and accelerated our pressure campaign, Iran was increasing its malign activity,” Pompeo wrote in an opinion column last spring. “U.S. pressure is reversing these trends. The regime and its proxies are weaker than when our pressure began. Iranian-backed militias have stated that Iran no longer has enough money to pay them as much as in the past and has enacted austerity plans.”The State Department, Pentagon, and White House did not respond to a request for comment.Maximum pressure was drafted, in part, with the help of outside economic and political consultants and former officials who publicly called on the U.S. to take a much harsher stance against the Iranian regime. Since then, the Trump administration has sanctioned more than 1,000 Iranian entities. Most recently, it designated Tehran’s main military outfit as a terrorist organization.All of that was designed to cripple Iran’s ability to grow on the international stage through trade and to make it more difficult for the regime to prop up its most important institutions. And it’s largely worked. Iran is struggling to pay its bills, and its ability to sell its key good—oil—on the international market has been severely diminished. And in that sense, the U.S. has succeeded in its goal. But the other part of the maximum pressure campaign was supposed to change Iran’s behavior—the way it acted on the international stage. For some time throughout the last six months it seemed as though the U.S. and Iran were working toward coming back to the negotiating table on issues like the nuclear deal. America’s intermediaries in places like Switzerland, Oman, Iraq, and France passed messages between the two countries in the hopes that the two could begin some sort of process toward reconciliation.Others in the U.S. government, though, had their doubts, concerns heightened by the purported Iran strike on Saudi oil facilities and Tehran shooting down an American drone over the Gulf of Oman.Inside the U.S.-Iran Drone WarBut for Trump, who has said publicly that he did not want to go to war with Iran, the maximum pressure campaign was the best of both worlds—it hit Tehran economically but would keep the U.S. out of a protracted military conflict with the country. And for years, the Trump administration’s line was consistent: Our policy toward Iran is working; Iran is weakening.The problem, according to Jennifer Carafella, the research director at the Institute for the Study of War, was that “there is no consensus on what threshold of Iranian escalation is noteworthy or unacceptable.” That incoherence, she added, made maximum pressure “more likely to lead to war than to lead to Iran surrendering on the administration’s terms.” In recent months, it became clear to those at the State Department and within the broader national security community that Iran had grown more emboldened on the battlefield and that the maximum pressure campaign had not deterred Tehran militarily. Iranian-backed militias were launching rockets closer to American infrastructure in Iraq and further bolstering their support for rebels in Yemen.Virtually no one expects Iran to suddenly buckle with Soleimani’s death. If anything, the expectation is that Tehran will retaliate—and that America will respond with additional force, both economic and military. In that way, some version of maximum pressure may even grow more intense.“I’m not sure anyone really knew what the endgame was supposed to be. The purpose of sanctions and coercive authority is to cause a change in behavior or policy outcomes with respect to the folks in Tehran. If it’s not regime change, it’s not entirely clear how this works,” said one former Obama official who worked on Iran policy. “The reality is that it’s working, tactically, from an economic perspective. But the maximum pressure campaign clearly hasn’t demonstrated enough strength to determine Iran’s activity in the neighborhood.”—with additional reporting by Spencer Ackerman
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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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