Category Archives: Chess

Iranian chess ref in trouble over attire – Bangkok Post

Woman afraid to return home after images showing her without hijab draw negative comments

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: An Iranian chess referee who has been accused of violating her countrys Islamic dress code while adjudicating a womens tournament says she does not want to return home from Russia out of fear for her safety.

Shohreh Bayat, 32, told Reuters she would not travel back to Iran unless she was given security guarantees in writing from the countrys chess federation.

I really hope they will provide me something to ensure I will be safe if I come back to Iran, said Bayat, who is in Vladivostok as chief referee at the Womens World Chess Championship.

But if that doesnt happen, Im just examining my options and considering anything.

The Iran Chess Federation could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bayat got into trouble during the first stage of the championship in Shanghai last week when Iranian state media criticised her for photographs in which she appeared not to be wearing a hijab.

Ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, all women have been required to wear the headscarf in public and sportswomen are also required to wear it abroad. Women who break the dress code can be publicly berated, fined or arrested.

Bayat says she does not agree with the hijab, but that she had been wearing a headscarf during the championships first matches, although it had been loose and was not visible from some angles in photographs of her.

Apparently it was not enough for the Iranians, she said.

Bayat also said that the Iran Chess Federation had asked her to write an apology and to post it online, something she said she had refused to do because she did not want to support the hijab publicly.

I just did not want to do that, she said.

Bayat then stopped wearing a headscarf altogether while presiding over subsequent matches.

I noticed that they have already condemned me, she said. I decided not to wear hijab because it wont change anything.

Nigel Short, the International Chess Federation vice-president, spoke out in support of Bayat on Twitter, calling her a great ambassador for her country.

Bayat is one of many Iranian sportspeople to come to blows with the authorities over the hijab and other policies.

Earlier this month, Iranian chess grandmaster Mitra Hejaziour was expelled from the national team for not wearing the hijab at the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Moscow.

Bayats decision came days after Irans only female Olympic medalist, Taekwondo champion Kimia Alizadeh, announced she had left her homeland because she had had enough of being used by its authorities as a propaganda tool.

In December, Irans Chess Federation said top rated chess champion Alireza Firouzja had decided not to play for Iran because of an informal ban on competing against Israeli players.

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Iranian chess ref in trouble over attire - Bangkok Post

Watch Ramin Karimloo and Samantha Barks Belt Out Chess Tunes in Rehearsal for Japan Production – Playbill.com

Tony nominee Ramin Karimloo (Les Misrables, Anastasia) and Samantha Barks (Pretty Woman, Les Misrables) will co-star in the Benny Andersson-Bjrn Ulvaeus musical Chess at the Umeda Arts Theater Main Hall in Osaka, Japan (January 2528) and at the Tokyo International Forum Hall C in Tokyo (February 19).

Karimloo will play Anatoly with Barks as Florence, Luke Walsh (Rock of Ages) as Freddie, Takanori Sato as the Arbiter, Eliana as Svetlana, and Hideya Masuhara as Molokov. In the video above Karimloo, Barks, Walsh, and the rest of the company rehearse for the upcoming production; watch portions of The Story of Chess, Nobody's Side, Pity the Child, and Anthem.

The ensemble includes Megumi Iino, Hiroaki Ito, Takashi Otsuka, Kana Okamoto, Yousuke Kawano, Naoki Shibahara, Tatsunori Senna, Kota Someya, Nanaka, Ai Ninomiya, Ami Norimatsu, Maya Harada, Kan Muto, Daisuke Moriyama, Sayaka Watabiki, and Kiyoka Wada.

Nick Winston directs and choreographs.

Chess tells a story of love and political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War in the late 1970s-early 1980s, in which superpowers attempt to manipulate an international chess championship for political ends. The 1984 musical features music by ABBA songwriters Andersson and Ulvaeus and lyrics by Tim Rice.

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Michael Mayer directs the semi-staged concert presentation of the operatic pop-rock musical that features a revised book by Danny Strong.

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Watch Ramin Karimloo and Samantha Barks Belt Out Chess Tunes in Rehearsal for Japan Production - Playbill.com

Iranian chess referee afraid to return home after being accused of violating dress code – Haaretz

An Iranian chess referee who has been accused of violating her country's Islamic dress code while adjudicating a women's tournament said that she does not want to return home from Russia out of fear for her safety.

Shohreh Bayat, 32, told Reuters she would not travel back to her homeland unless she was given security guarantees in writing from Iran's chess federation.

"I really hope they will provide me something to ensure I will be safe if I come back to Iran," said Bayat, who is in Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok as chief referee at the Women's World Chess Championship.

"But if that doesn't happen, I'm just examining my options and considering anything."

The Iran Chess Federation could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bayat got into trouble during the first stage of the championship in Shanghai last week when Iran state media criticised her for photographs in which she appeared not to be wearing the headscarf.

Since Iran's Islamic Revolution, all women are required to wear the headscarf, known as the hijab, in public and sportswomen are also required to wear it abroad. Women who break the dress code can be publicly berated, fined or arrested.

Bayat says she does not agree with the hijab, but that she had been wearing a headscarf during the championship's first matches, although it had been loose and was not visible from some angles in photographs of her.

"Apparently it was not enough for the Iranians," she said.

Bayat also said that the Iran Chess Federation had asked her to write an apology and to post it online, something she said she had refused to do because she did not want to support the hijab publicly.

"I just did not want to do that," she said.

Bayat then stopped wearing a headscarf altogether while presiding over subsequent matches.

"I noticed that they have already condemned me," she said. "I decided not to wear hijab because it won't change anything."

Nigel Short, the International Chess Federation's (FIDE) vice president, spoke out in support of Bayat on Twitter, calling her "a great ambassador for her country".

Bayat is one of many Iranian sportspeople to come to blows with the authorities over the hijab and other policies.

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Earlier this month, Iranian chess grandmaster Mitra Hejaziour was expelled from the national team for not wearing the hijab at the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Moscow.

Bayat's decision came days after Iran's only female Olympic medalist, Taekwondo champion Kimia Alizadeh, announced she had left her homeland because she had had enough of being used by its authorities as a propaganda tool.

In December, Iran's Chess Federation said top rated chess champion Alireza Firouzja had decided not to play for Iran because of an informal ban on competing against Israeli players.

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Iranian chess referee afraid to return home after being accused of violating dress code - Haaretz

Putin moves the first chess piece in what many see as a grand power-grab strategy – 41 NBC News

President Vladimir Putins latest move promises to be one of the biggest shake-ups of Russian politics since his predecessor Boris Yeltsin sent tanks to shell Parliament in 1993 while his opponents were barricaded inside.

The revolution proposed by Putin may not be a bloody one, but it does suggest an overhaul of Russias Constitution with far-reaching consequences.

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Though this grand plan is still playing out, many observers say Putin appears to be attempting to use this makeover to dramatically prolong his political lifespan and grip on power.

During a speech in Moscow, the former KGB officer proposed plans to weaken his presidential successor and transfer that power elsewhere in the government. It would carve out a new role outside the presidency, perhaps ready for Putin, 67, to step into once his fourth term ends in 2024.

For the West, it raises the prospect that his influence will continue meddling in elections around the world, annexing neighbors land, and brutally cracking down on democratic opposition at home potentially for decades to come.

It is hard to see this as anything other than a ploy to remain in control beyond 2024, said Valeriy Akimenko, a senior research associate at the Conflict Studies Research Centre, a research and consultancy group in England. We simply dont know the whole story or the whole plan. Possibilities range from the tried and tested to the relatively novel.

Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address in Moscow on Wednesday.Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

Many had predicted Putin would try to extend his power beyond its constitutional limits. His 20 years in power, switching between the presidency and prime ministership, already constitute the longest reign since that of Joseph Stalin, who died in 1953.

This week Putin made his opening chess move, announcing what his opponents and many independent experts characterized as the first stages of a power grab. Leonid Volkov, an opposition politician and a close ally of arch Putin critic Alexei Navalny, went so far as to call it a constitutional coup.

Putin proposed giving far more power to the countrys parliament and the State Council, stripping the presidency of the power that he has wielded with such singular might.

Meanwhile, his loyal prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, announced he was resigning along with the rest of the government. He was replaced Thursday by a relatively unknown technocrat, Mikhail Mishustin, lauded for his work modernizing Russias tax office but not seen as a serious political contender in the long run.

Although appearing to strengthen the separation of powers to a level not recently seen in Russia, there are several ways these maneuvers might benefit Putins long-term plans.

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Some experts have predicted he may leave behind the weakened presidential office and shift to a role leading a newly emboldened State Council, an advisory body that would enjoy enlarged powers under Putins proposals.

This would mirror the path of Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstans former president who last year stepped down after more than 30 years but remained leader of the nation and chairman of its powerful security council.

Others predicted Putin might seek an umbrella role governing a new union between Russia and its former Soviet neighbor of Belarus, although this has so far been resisted by that countrys leader, Alexander Lukashenko.

I would say foreign policy is the one thing where we will keep seeing Putin in the future, said Kadri Liik, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, adding that it interested the Russian leader a lot more than the nitty-gritty of his homelands economics.

Born in 1952 in Leningrad, now called St. Petersburg, Putin grew up in the former Soviet Union, a superpower that occupied nearly one sixth of the worlds landmass.

He was an officer in the secret police and intelligence agency KGB, posted to then- East Germany in the 1980s, later recalling the deep, personal anguish at seeing firsthand his homeland breaking apart. Once in office, he made restoring this perceived former greatness a cornerstone message.

Putin, center, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, center left, attend a cabinet meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.Dmitry Astakhov / AP

Russia has been a great power for centuries, he told lawmakers at his confirmation as prime minister in 1999. We should not drop our guard in this respect, neither should we allow our opinion to be ignored.

But over his political reign, thats meant Russia increasing its anti-Western propaganda and aggressive international behavior, Akimenko at the Conflict Studies Research Centre said. If Putin were to step into a new role, it is hard to imagine that after more than a decade in progress, this trend would suddenly be reversed, Akimenko added.

Despite his global influence, Putin is having to tread carefully. His popularity skyrocketed in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraines Crimea, but has since dipped after a change to the retirement -age sparked mass protests.

Meanwhile, the economy struggled in part due to foreign sanctions imposed after the Crimea annexation, U.S. election meddling, and the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet by a Russian missile system.

Under Putin, Russia has become less democratic and more authoritarian, now ranked among the most repressive countries in the world according to an annual report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research group, which has offices based around the world.

Russians have increasingly taken to the streets over a host of social issues this year, prompting harsh crackdowns by the Kremlin.

Nevertheless, Putin appears eager to give his plans the air of legitimacy by suggesting they should be approved by a popular vote, according to Nikolai Petrov, a senior research fellow at the London think tank Chatham House.

Legitimacy issue is very important in this regard, Petrov said. It looks like Putin has been unable to fix this by using foreign policy and military successes and is switching back to electoral legitimacy.

The current rules mean he would have to take a break until 2030 before running for president again, something he ruled out last year: Will I be doing this until I am 100 years old? No.

At least on the surface, Putins gambit has been welcomed by Russias political elites over whom the president continues to exert tremendous influence. It was deemed a necessary change of course and long overdue by several political parties that technically represent the opposition but in reality often side with the Kremlin.

Whatever his future role, Putins plans would mean his successor will not have nearly the same clout. Future presidents would only be able to serve two terms total (Putin is in his fourth), they must have lived in Russia for 25 consecutive years, up from the current 10, and they cannot have ever had foreign citizenship or even a residence permit in another country.

And its possible that these greater checks on the presidency will have the byproduct of strengthening institutions and creating a system of quasi checks and balances, according to Petrov.

But it would also rule out opponents such as Navalny, perhaps Putins most prominent critic who left Russia to study at Yale University in 2010, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled former oligarch who had in the past been granted temporary Swiss residency.

In all, the proposals would mean that there can be no second Putin, Alexander Baunov, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, tweeted.

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Putin moves the first chess piece in what many see as a grand power-grab strategy - 41 NBC News

The Hindu in School Chess contest tomorrow – The Hindu

Spot registration is allowed for the fourth Edition of The Hindu In School Chess Tournament on Sunday at the Centre for Advanced Learning (CFAL), Bejai.

The tournament is open to students from Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru, and Kodagu districts.

The tournament starts at 9.30 a.m. and will be conducted for boys and girls separately under three categories under 11, under 13 and under 15 on a Swiss league basis. Entry fee is 150 per participant.

Spot entries will be accepted till 9 a.m. Participants should bring their own boards and clocks. They have to produce the printout of the payment acknowledgement for online registration along with the school identity card at the venue.

The top three winners of each category in boys and girls will get tropies, cash prizes, and a certificate. Those getting the next seven places will receive medals and certificates while all participants would get participation certificates.

SyndicateBank is the associate partner of the event and Corporation Bank, CFAL, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. are the regional partners.

For registration please call, Surendra Shetty-9448279124, M.S. Madhava-9035566695 or The Hindu office -0824-2417575 or email us at mlrcir@thehindu.co.in.

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The Hindu in School Chess contest tomorrow - The Hindu

Letter to the editor: More people should learn to play chess – TribLIVE

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Letter to the editor: More people should learn to play chess - TribLIVE

The Rolling Stones No.2: Mick And Keiths Love Letter To Chess Records – uDiscover Music

The Rolling Stones No.2, the second album from the then young British R&B band, remains a special one for Mick Jagger and co because it was partly recorded at the famous Chess Studios. The studios were regarded as the home of Chicago blues and the place where The Rolling Stones heroes, such as Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, had cut much of the music that had inspired them in the first place.

Listen to The Rolling Stones No.2 on Apple Music and Spotify.

Bass guitarist Bill Wyman said he could still remember his bandmates looks of disbelief when Waters came out to help them with their bags. Nothing sensational happened at Chess except the music. For those two days, the Stones were finally true blues artists, said their producer Andrew Loog Oldham, who was only 20 when the first tracks were recorded at Chess, in June 1964.

We thought wed died and gone to heaven, said Keith Richards, who played electric and acoustic guitar on an album that featured nine covers and three originals he had co-written with singer Jagger.

The blues stars were gentlemen and so interested in what we were doing you figure youre gonna walk in and theyd think, Snooty little English guys and a couple of hit records. Not at all. I got the chance to sit around with Muddy Waters and Bobby Womack, and they just wanted to share ideas. And you were expecting, Oh, English kids making money out of me, and it could well have happened. But they wanted to know how we were doing it, and why we wanted to do it.

Though the covers they recorded were homages as with a take on Waters I Cant Be Satisfied, a song he first recorded in 1948 the Chess musicians were pleased to get royalties from the versions by the young English musicians. One of the songs The Rolling Stones cut was Pain In My Heart (originally called Ruler Of My Heart for the Irma Thomas version), which was written by New Orleansgreat Allen Toussaint. When speaking to this writer in 2011, Toussaint described how he felt about the Stones covering his compositions: I was so glad when the Stones recorded my songs, he said with a laugh. I knew they would know how to roll my song all the way to the bank.

The selection of covers on The Rolling Stones No.2 was strong. On Down Home Girl, written by Jerry Leiber, Jagger plays some fine bluesy harmonica and Brian Jonesdelivers a powerful guitar lick. Time Is On My Side, written by Jerry Ragovoy, has always been associated with the Stones but was, in fact, a cover of a version by Irma Thomas and jazz trombonist Kai Winding.

There is a five-minute version of Solomon Burkes crowd-pleaser Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, while a gentle version of Under The Boardwalk contrasts with a pulsating cut of Don Rayes Down The Road Apiece. Jagger and Richards wrote three songs that went on the album What A Shame, Grown Up Wrong and Off The Hook and they all show the promise of the songwriting prowess that their future collaborations delivered.

The Rolling Stones No.2 was released by Decca Recordsin the UK on 15 January 1965 and, within two weeks, had toppled The Beatles to reach No.1 on the UK album charts, a position it held for nine weeks. Some of the songs from the album had already appeared on a US-released album, 12 x 5 Grown Up Wrong, Under The Boardwalk and Susie Q, along with an earlier version of Time Is On My Side, which featured Ian Stewart, one of the original founders of the Stones, playing organ on the intro.

The same cover art was used for the two separate albums, both taken in the same photo session by a rising star called David Bailey. I knew Mick before he was in the Stones, Bailey later recalled. He was just a bloke I met because he was going out with my girlfriends sister, Chrissie Shrimpton. His moody photograph of the young musicians has become an iconic work of art in itself.

There was one strange footnote to this Stones classic. Oldham wrote the sleevenotes for the back cover and, for a laugh, he made an ill-advised joke about fans mugging blind men for the cash to buy the record. The secretary of the Bournemouth Blind Aid Association complained, and Lord Conesford asked the Director Of Public Prosecutions to rule on whether the album cover constituted a deliberate incitement to criminal action. Wisely, the matter ended there. Oldham said he was thrilled by the uproar.

What is for certain is that The Rolling Stones No.2 both demonstrated how eclectic the early Stones were and also indicated that the boys who hero-worshipped the blues stars of Chicago would carve out their own special place in blues and rocknroll history.

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The Rolling Stones No.2: Mick And Keiths Love Letter To Chess Records - uDiscover Music

Iranian Chess Referee Fears of Returning Home After Removing Her Hijab – Al-Bawaba

A female Iranian chess referee has said she fears returning to her country after a picture of her was published which appeared to show her not wearing a headscarf at the World Championships in Shanghai.

Shohreh Bayat, 32, who is chief arbiter for the 2020 Women's World Chess Championships being shared between China and Russia, fears returning to Iran as she believes she could be imprisoned for flouting Islamic law.

An image of her overseeing a match in Shanghai, which appears to show her not wearing her scarf, has been circulated by Iranian state media after it was published online.

Ms Bayat insists she was wearing the hijab, as she always does while overseeing international competitions, but that it can't be seen because of the camera angle.

'I turned on my mobile and saw that my picture was everywhere [in Iranian media]. They were claiming I was not wearing a headscarf and that I wanted to protest against the hijab,' Ms Bayat said.

'There are many people in prison in Iran because of the headscarf. It's a very serious issue. Maybe they'd want to make an example of me.'

While fulfilling her high-ranking sports role abroad, which is similar to a senior referee, Iranian law dictates that Ms Bayat must continue to don the headdress in public.

In an interview with Iranian state media, Ms Bayat's father was quoted as saying the headscarf had dropped accidentally.

Despite her insistence that it was the angle of the photograph, the 32-year-old, who is one of only a few female chief arbiters in the world, said women should have the right to choose how to dress and that the headscarf 'should not be forced on them'.

She has refused to apologise to Iranian officials after the Iranian Chess Federation advised her to do so, according to the BBC.

Figuring that she is unable to return to her country, Ms Bayat has now decided to remove the hijab altogether and is refereeing matches unveiled for the rest of the tournament in Vladivostock.

Ms Bayat's father told the Iranian Students News Agency earlier this month (ISNA): 'Me, her mother and even the head of the Iranian Chess Federation tried hard to convince her to come back to Iran but she says she will not because she is worried about going on with her activities in Iran and wants to continue in another country with the help of the International Chess Federation.'

According to Ms Bayat, she asked the Iranian Chess Federation to appeal to the government on her behalf but they refused.

Vice-President of the International Chess Federation (Fide) Nigel Short, praised Ms Bayat, tweeting that she is 'the first woman ever to be General Secretary of a sport federation in #Iran. The only female Category-A International Arbiter in Asia. A great ambassador for her country.'

Ms Bayat is one of a select few top-level arbiters in the world and the only one in Asia.

Iran's first female Olympic-medal winner Kimia Alizadeh defected from Iran to the Netherlands earlier this month citing the country's strict dress code as a reason.

In a blistering online letter she called herself 'one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran'.

'Whatever they said, I wore,' Taekwondo athlete Alizadeh wrote in the letter posted on Instagram last week. 'Every sentence they ordered, I repeated.'

Ms Alizadeh, who won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics, cited oppression by authorities in the Islamic republic.

The semi-official ISNA news agency carried a report on Thursday saying: 'Shock for Iran's taekwondo. Kimia Alizadeh has emigrated to The Netherlands.'

ISNA wrote that it believed that Alizadeh, who is reportedly training in The Netherlands, is hoping to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but not under the Iranian flag.

Without saying anything of her plans, Alizadeh assured the 'dear Iranian people' that she would remain 'a child of Iran wherever' she is.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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Iranian Chess Referee Fears of Returning Home After Removing Her Hijab - Al-Bawaba

Chess grandmaster: AI wont cause the downfall of mankind – Fox Business

Renew Democracy Initiative chairman, chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov discusses losing a chess match to a computer and the implications AI has for the future.

The man widely considered to be one of the greatest chess players of all time said humans shouldnt fear artificial intelligence.

Garry Kasparov told FOX Business' Gerry Baker on "WSJ at Large," those who are warning AI will replace us are just wrong.

CHESS GRANDMASTER BECOMES NO. 1 FANTASY SOCCER PLAYER OUT OF MILLIONS

Im really concerned aboutthe doomsayers, all these doomsayers that are trying to terrorize our minds, he said. And maybe we should stop watching too many Hollywood movies because the future is for our making.

"Im arguing that we have to work with machines, and theres the endless opportunities that will actually bring more benefits than problems, as its happened many times before.

Kasparov should know about the power of AI.His defeat in 1997 by the IBM computer, Deep Blue, is considered the major turning point in the argument over whether machines could ever outthink humans.

My experience [is]fighting machines, he said.But now, Im arguing that we have to work with machines, and theres the endless opportunities that will actually bring more benefits than problems, as its happened many times before.

Kasparov is author of the book, Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins, based on what he learned from his battle with Deep Blue. And he believes that while AI will be disruptive to the workforce, that wont spell gloom and doom for employees.

Grandmaster chess player Garry Kasparov taps the clock after a move in a match against grandmaster Fabiano Caruana on Aug. 18, 2017. (BILL GREENBLATT/AFP via Getty Images)

The machines always helped us, he points out. Yes, they always create problems. Obviously many industries are just, you know, facing their end, but jobs do not disappear. They evolve.

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But to what level of purely human achievement can computers actually reach? Kasparov isnt sure, but even so, hes betting on mankind to come out on top.

The Russian essayist and activist Garry Kasparov at the Excelsior Hotel in Rome. Rome, May 20, 2016 (Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images)

"Maybe we should stop watching too many Hollywood movies because the future is for our making.

Machines could do many, many, many things, he admits. We dont know their limits, but I think its what we should, you know, consider that our imagination, our dreams will not be limited.

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Chess grandmaster: AI wont cause the downfall of mankind - Fox Business

In chess game with Iran, Trump has only bad options – Haaretz

WASHINGTON The Trump administration is facing a dilemma in Iraq. A day after the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was stormed by pro-Iranian demonstrators, the White House needs to decide how to respond to the attack which U.S. officials have no doubt was planned and orchestrated with Iranian approval. Trump has promised to punish Iran for its actions, but how far is he willing to go in this confrontation with the Islamic Republic?

The attack on the embassy was preceded by a week of violence in Iraq, during which an Iraqi Shiite militia operating as a proxy for Iran attacked an Iraqi military base, killing a U.S. civilian contractor and wounding several U.S. troops. In retaliation, the United States carried out three airstrikes on the same Iraqi militia, killing at least 25 fighters.

Listen: Under Trump, haters don't need an excuse to attack Jews. Ep. 55

These events, which took place during the last week of 2019, represent a violent end to a year of constant tensions between the Americans and Iranians. They are the continuation of a series of escalatory steps taken by Iran during the course of the year including an attack on two major oil installations in Saudi Arabia last September, and the downing of an American military drone over the Persian Gulf last June. But while the United States refrained from using military force in response to Irans provocations then, things were different this time. That is why several leading Democratic politicians warned Tuesday that Trump is risking an all-out war with Iran.

Iran is acting out because it is under a lot of pressure from American sanctions, says Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former State Department Middle East director who is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The Iranians have been slowly and deliberately escalating their attacks, basically telling the United States: If you put us under pressure, we will put you under pressure as well. She believes the Iranian regime will likely continue this behavior in 2020.

The Iranians saw that there was no military response to their previous attacks, so they reached a conclusion that America doesnt want a military confrontation, Cofman Wittes says. The Iranians also dont want a military confrontation with the U.S. and thats certainly not what theyre trying to achieve with these provocations in Iraq. They have a different goal: Getting Trump to enter negotiations.

Risky moves

In May 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, which had been signed by his predecessor Barack Obama. The U.S. administration has since placed tough sanctions on Tehran, triggering a financial crisis there that has led to massive street protests across Iran. However, at the same time as imposing these tough sanctions, Trump has also frequently expressed interest in negotiating a new deal with Iran.

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Earlier this month, after Iran and America completed a prisoner swap, he tweeted: Thank you to Iran on a very fair negotiation. See, we can make a deal together!

Over the summer, direct negotiations between the two countries seemed imminent. Trump said he was willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rohani with no preconditions. But the Iranian side had a clear demand: The Americans had to lift some of the sanctions placed on Tehran in order for a meeting to occur. Trump refused, and an opportunity for the two leaders to meet on the sidelines of Septembers UN General Assembly was lost.

Now, Cofman Wittes says, Iran is trying to escalate the situation in the hope that this will somehow lead to renewed diplomatic engagement. They want to pull in diplomatic attention from other countries such as France, Russia, China, Japan and others to somehow get America to the table. Their moves are risky, but theyre designed to bring about a diplomatic engagement, she says. This is what Iran needs more than anything at the moment: new talks that could perhaps lead to sanctions relief.

Haaretz reported last month that Israeli officials were still alarmed by the prospect of new negotiations between the United States and Iran. The Israeli perspective is that even if no sanctions are lifted, the mere spectacle of a meeting between Trump and Rohani would by itself lift some of the pressure from Tehran. Trump has rejected that point of view and sees no harm in holding a meeting.

The Iranians are going to keep going and going with these attacks if they dont get what they want, unless they become convinced that this could lead to a larger military escalation, Cofman Wittes says. Neither side wants that kind of escalation.

Last June, after the Iranian attack on the U.S. military drone, Trump approved a military strike in retaliation but then canceled it, fearing that a war with Iran could hurt his 2020 reelection campaign.

Grave mistake

The attack on the embassy in Baghdad is part of a larger chess match between the U.S. and Iran, says Michael Doran, a former Middle East director at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, and currently a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Doran shares Cofman Wittes assessment of Tehrans objective: The goal of the Iranians is to increase the pressure on Trump during the election season, in the hope that they can rope him into a negotiation.

Doran, who has advocated a hawkish line against the Iranian regime and was a strong critic of the 2015 nuclear deal, adds that Iran hopes new negotiations will distract the United States from Irans problems at home, and in Iraq and Lebanon where there have been massive street demonstrations in recent weeks against political parties connected to Iran.

In addition, he says, Iran wants negotiations to lead to sanctions relief and to forestall further actions by the United States that would delegitimate Irans supposedly civil nuclear program.

In Dorans view, it would a grave mistake if Trump agreed to such negotiations. The protests that swept Iran, Iraq and Lebanon in November have changed the balance of power. Iran is experiencing unprecedented difficulty at home and abroad. If Trump were to sit with Iran now, he would look weak in the region, demoralize allies and give breathing room to Tehran.

If Trump doesnt opt for negotiations and doesnt want a direct military confrontation with Iran, what are his options?

The administration doesnt have really good options to choose from, says Ariane Tabatabai, an analyst at the Rand Corp. and an expert on Iran. The administration keeps saying that its policy of maximum pressure on Iran is succeeding, but what exactly have they achieved? she asks. They wanted to either lead to the collapse of the regime or to a significant shift in Irans behavior. So far, both have not happened.

Tabatabai says the only option for de-escalation right now is a diplomatic off-ramp that would allow both sides to get out of this cycle. But it doesnt look very likely to happen at the moment. The Iranians view Trump as reluctant to take military action, but they consider maximum pressure a form of war. From their point of view, this is already a war and they are being attacked through economic pressure. So they are going to continue testing the Trump administration.

Wanted: A strategy

All of the Iran experts who spoke with Haaretz agreed on one thing: The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was an Iranian initiative and not a local protest, as some news reports described it.

This is telegraphed from Iran, straight out of the regimes playbook, says Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies a think tank that has advocated for tough sanctions on Iran.

The regime wants to spook America, he says. They hope to either get Trump to agree to negotiations, or, even better, to get America to withdraw forces and send a message of retreat. They would be happy to solidify the impression that America is getting out of the Middle East, whether its in Syria or Iraq. They are willing to take risks to make that happen.

Ben Taleblu says last Sundays U.S. airstrikes were very important, because they sent the opposite message: That the United States would not ignore Irans actions. But he warned that the administration needs to have an Iraq policy, not just a policy to fight ISIS in Iraq. Its clear to everyone what Iran wants to have in Iraq: control. They want to control Baghdad through their proxies. But what does America want in Iraq? Thats more difficult to answer.

Cofman Wittes also says the Trump administration doesnt have a strategy, or even clear objectives. They placed sanctions on Iran and have now responded for the first time with military force to one of Irans provocations. But what is the long-term goal they are trying to achieve? And what is their strategy for getting there?

The Iranian conundrum is further complicated by the political schedule in the United States. The Iranians, as Haaretz reported in August 2018, are betting that they can wait out Trump, who is up for reelection in November. So far, most of the Democratic presidential candidates have promised to return to the nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from. For Iran, this would mean the lifting of many sanctions and a return to the pre-2018 reality that was created by the nuclear deal.

But the Iranians also believe the presidential election will make it more difficult for Trump to take stronger military action. Trump campaigned in 2016 on a pledge to end stupid wars in the Middle East, and criticized his then rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (which Trump himself also supported at the time).

Trump has been warned by some of his most influential supporters, such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson, that a war with Iran would harm his standing with voters who oppose U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, and could cost him the election.

The Democrats have already adopted a line of criticism against Trump, warning that he is leading the country to war through reckless policies in the Middle East. This could deter Trump from further military escalation. But he is also facing political pressure from right-wingers, especially his evangelical Christian supporters, who want to see a tough policy against Iran.

At the moment, it seems, Trump is taking political risks no matter what he chooses to do.

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In chess game with Iran, Trump has only bad options - Haaretz