TIME Foreign Policy

Eric Holder: Edward Snowden Might Return to U.S.

Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images Attorney General Eric Holder walks from Air Force One after arriving with US President Barack Obama at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, March 6, 2015.

The former Attorney General said "the possibility exists"

A deal returning NSA leaker Edward Snowden to the U.S. is not entirely out of the question, according to Eric Holder.

The former U.S. Attorney General told Yahoo News, “I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with” to return Snowden from his current asylum in Moscow. “I think the possibility exists,” he said.

Holder, who is going back to work at the law firm Covington & Burling, where he worked before serving as Attorney General, said that Snowden’s actions “spurred a necessary debate” on surveillance in America.

“We are in a different place as a result of the Snowden disclosures,” he said.

[Yahoo News]

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama: Fight Against ISIS a ‘Long-Term Campaign’

SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama speaks following a meeting with top military officials about the military campaign against the Islamic State at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, July 6, 2015.

The president spoke at the Pentagon on the fight against the terrorist organization

President Obama’s efforts to take down the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria may have ramped up in recent months, but they are far from over.

“This will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign. ISIL is opportunistic and it is nimble,” he said at the Pentagon on Monday, using an alternative acronym for the Islamist group.

Obama said the U.S.-led coalition has now hit ISIS with more than 5,000 airstrikes, taking out thousands of fighters — including senior commanders. Victories can already be counted: the terrorist group has now lost more than a quarter of the territory it had previously held in Iraq. Nevertheless, he said, no amount of military force will be enough to defeat ISIS.

To stem the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS’s ranks, he said, we need to combat its ideology. “Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they’re defeated by better ideas, a more attractive and compelling vision,” he said. While Obama maintained the U.S. should not target any single religious or ethnic community, he pointed out that the group has been particularly effective at recruiting “vulnerable” Muslims around the world and called on that community “to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can” against extremist ideologies.

Obama argued that for the campaign to succeed in the long term, the coalition would have to help train local security forces to maintain order in the Middle East, noting that ISIS has filled a void in the communities where it’s gained ground, and “we have to make sure that as we push them out, that void is filled.”

“If we try to do everything ourselves all across the Middle East, all across North Africa,” he said, “we’ll be playing Whac-A-Mole.”

TIME 2016 Election

Donald Trump Won’t Back Down from Immigration Remarks

Donald Trump
Charles Rex Arbogast–AP Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to members of the City Club of Chicago Monday, June 29, 2015, in Chicago.

"I don't see how there is any room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation"

Donald Trump isn’t backing down.

In a statement released on Monday, the Republican presidential contender defended his controversial comments about Mexican immigrants, saying that he doesn’t “see how there is any room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation.”

Trump has lost a slew of business partners, including Macy’s, Univision, Serta, NASCAR and NBC, since he accused the Mexican government of sending undesirable citizens, including “rapists” and criminals, to America in his candidacy announcement June 16.

But he reiterated this point in the statement. “The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States,” he wrote, adding that Mexican immigrants should be considered a public health concern as they are responsible for “tremendous infectious disease … pouring across the border.”

Trump and the general public do seem to be in agreement about one thing, though: his presidential run hasn’t been great for business so far. “I have lost a lot during this Presidential run defending the people of the United States,” he wrote. “I have always heard that it is very hard for a successful person to run for President. Macy’s, NBC, Serta and NASCAR have all taken the weak and very sad position of being politically correct even though they are wrong in terms of what is good for our country.”

But, he added, he has “great respect for Mexico and love[s] their people.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Watch President Obama Speak About Fight Against ISIS

Due to speak from the Pentagon

President Obama visited the Pentagon Monday for a briefing on the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as the U.S. attempts to reverse advances made by the Islamist group in recent weeks.


Here’s the Trickiest Part of the Iranian Nuclear Talks

Foreign Minister of France Laurent Fabius (R) talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during the nuclear talks between the E3+3 (France, Germany, UK, China, Russia, US) and Iran in Vienna, Austria on July 06, 2015.
Thomas Imo/photothek.net Foreign Minister of France Laurent Fabius (R) talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during the nuclear talks between the E3+3 (France, Germany, UK, China, Russia, US) and Iran in Vienna, Austria on July 06, 2015.

How inspections and verification would work

After more than 18 months of talks, the U.S. and Iran are within striking distance of a nuclear deal. But diplomats familiar with the talks say the hardest issue negotiators have struggled with from the start remains unresolved: the nature and extent of international inspections to monitor the supposedly peaceful nuclear program Iran gets to keep under the agreement. Which means the final push for a deal is probably the most important.

The heart of the interim “political framework” that the U.S. and Iran agreed to on April 2 was a step-by-step-lifting of economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for its commitment to allow international monitors to verify tough limits on its nuclear program. But the outline left unresolved just how much access the monitors would get and what would happen if there were a disagreement. “The interim deal was largely silent on verification conditions,” says David Albright, a former arms inspector and the president of Institute for Science and International Security.

What kind of access the IAEA gets makes all the difference in part because Iran has a history of cheating on nuclear deals. A signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it committed to monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). But twice in the past twenty years it secretly built nuclear facilities that were only uncovered by aggressive intelligence work by the U.S., France, the United Kingdom and Israel. And Iran has never explained the research into nuclear weapons that the international community uncovered over that time.

Since the April deal, Iran has sent mixed messages on how much access inspectors would get to suspected nuclear sites around the country. On May 20, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ruled out inspections of military facilities. But Iranian officials suggested to reporters last week in Vienna that the country would accept additional, intrusive inspections proposed by the IAEA. Getting those additional measures is key to U.S. and Western confidence in a deal. “The IAEA has to get better cooperation from Iran,” says Albright.

Even if Iran agrees on paper to the additional IAEA inspections, though, skeptics worry that in practice Tehran will block monitors. The U.S. negotiators have pushed for a system to resolve disputes quickly so that Iran couldn’t hide evidence at a suspect site before inspectors got there. How that system would work and whether Iran will agree to it are still unknown.

The final question is what happens if the IAEA and international powers actually catch Iran breaking the agreement. The U.S. has insisted that sanctions must be reimposed automatically if the IAEA finds violations Iran can’t or won’t explain them. While details are thin, sources familiar with the talks say both sides have made progress on that issue in recent days.

Ultimately a nuclear deal with Iran is only as strong as the inspections that verify its implementation. The question now is whether Iran will actually accept intrusive monitoring and if not, will U.S. negotiators have the fortitude to walk away after a year and a half of talks have brought them so close to a deal.


TIME 2016 Election

Donald Trump Tweets Racially Charged Jab at Jeb Bush’s Wife

The tweet claimed to explain why Bush likes "Mexican illegals"

Donald Trump tweeted that fellow 2016 presidential hopeful Jeb Bush likes “Mexican illegals because of his wife,” the latest in a flurry of public comments about Hispanic Americans that have caused Macy’s, NBC and Univision to sever ties with the business mogul.

The comment was posted on Trump’s official Twitter account for 24 hours before it was deleted, according to screenshots captured by The Wrap. Bush’s wife, Columba, is Mexican.

The tweet comes on the heels of Bush publicly denouncing Trump’s comments, which characterized Mexican immigrants as potential criminals and rapists.

“He’s doing this to inflame and incite and to draw attention, which seems to be the organizing principle of his campaign,” Bush said. “To make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party.”

Bush actually listed himself as Hispanic on a voter form in 2009 and has said that he takes personal offense to Trump’s statements.

[The Wrap]


Morning Must Reads: July 6

Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

The Iran nuclear talks are continuing this week in Vienna with just days before the deadline. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday morning that an agreement is still far from assured, and the outcome will shape a key area of President Obama‘s legacy. Kerry’s predecessor, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, says now that she is hopeful for a deal, dropping her previously caveated cautious optimism. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is breaking with many of his 2016 competitors by refusing to promise to undo the agreement should he win the White House. No less than seven presidential candidates spent the holiday weekend in New Hampshire marching in parades and meeting voters, who appear more committed than ever to withhold judgement on the field. In recent presidential cycles, more than 50 percent of the Granite State’s famously finicky voters have made up their minds about who to support in the first-in-the-nation primary in the final weeks. Campaign fundraising numbers for the second quarter are beginning to trickle out, providing the first datapoint for the longevity of the more than 15 GOP campaigns.

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

Kerry Says Iran Nuke Talks ‘Could Go Either Way’
[Associated Press]

Bernie Sanders Outpaces Martin O’Malley as Hillary Clinton Alternative
Despite years spent laying the groundwork for a campaign, O’Malley can’t catch fire [Wall Street Journal]

I.R.S. Expected to Stand Aside as Nonprofits Increase Role in 2016 Race
Frontiers in campaign finance [New York Times]

Clinton Puts Tight Grip on DNC Wallet
The Democratic front-runner is first among equals for the national party [Politico]

Sound Off

“We are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues…This negotiation could go either way.” — Secretary of State John Kerry on the P5+1 nuclear talks

“At this eleventh hour, despite differences that remain, we have never been closer to a lasting outcome…Getting to yes requires the courage to compromise, the self confidence to be flexible, the maturity to be reasonable, the wisdom to set aside illusions and the audacity to break old habits.” — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a video over the weekend

Bits and Bites

Leaders seek solutions, next steps for civil rights momentum [TIME]

Marco Rubio is hardly a hero in Cuba. He likes that [New York Times]

Christie won’t pledge to undo Iran deal [TIME]

Hillary Clinton hopeful for Iran nuclear agreement next week [TIME]

Rick Perry addresses Republicans’ legacy on race [TIME]

Trump’s campaign theme song headache? Blame Michael Jackson, sort of [NPR]


TIME China

Hillary Clinton Says China Is ‘Trying to Hack Into Everything That Doesn’t Move’

Former United States Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters during a campaign event in Glen
Dominick Reuter—Reuters Former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters during a campaign event in Glen, N.H., on July 4, 2015

The remarks come three months after the U.S. government learned of a “massive breach” of federal databases

At a campaign function in New Hampshire over the weekend, Hillary Clinton called China’s rise to global eminence “the story of the 21st century” — a backhanded compliment of sorts, given that she went onto accuse the country of cyberwarfare against the U.S.

“They’re trying to hack into everything that doesn’t move in America — stealing commercial secrets, blueprints from defense contractors, stealing huge amounts of government information — all looking for an advantage,” she said. “Make no mistake: they know they’re in a competition, and they’re going to do everything they can to win it.”

Clinton’s remarks come three months after the U.S. government learned of a “massive breach” of federal databases that compromised the personal records of millions of federal employees. State officials believe the hackers were operating out of China, an allegation Beijing has called “irresponsible and unscientific.” A year ago, the New York Times reported that U.S. security agencies traced a similar incident last March to China, though it remains unclear if those hackers were state mercenaries or acting alone.

The specter of cyberwarfare and China’s territorial aggressions in the South China Sea have been the two most recent thorns in the side of Sino-U.S. relations, which Clinton struggled to thaw during her early years as President Obama’s first Secretary of State. The assertiveness she displayed at Saturday’s event is an obvious departure from those attempts at diplomatic cooperation, which were “interpreted as a sign of weakness,” as Aaron Friedberg, a professor of international affairs and former adviser to Dick Cheney and Mitt Romney, wrote in a recent op-ed for Politico.

Clinton’s remarks are also uncharacteristic of her campaign thus far. In spite of her diplomatic experience, the case she makes for her presidency has trod lightly on matters of foreign policy, trafficking mostly in domestic topics unlikely to prove controversial in a Democratic primary.

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who is trailing further and further behind Clinton in the polls, penned an essay for Foreign Policy last month that called for “a new agenda to improve our nation’s cybersecurity,” though he was reticent on the specific matter of China. The Republican camp, meanwhile, is harmonious in its frankness: last month, Chris Christie called for a “military approach” in response to China’s bravado; Mike Huckabee thinks the U.S. should “hack China back.”

TIME 2016 Election

Donald Trump Says He Didn’t Expect Response to Immigration Comments to Be ‘Quite This Severe’

Trump has accused Mexican immigrants of "bringing drugs" and "bringing crime"

Business mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Saturday that he wasn’t expecting such harsh corporate backlash to his incendiary comments about Mexican immigrants.

Trump, who lost a string of business partners after saying that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs, bringing crime, they’re rapists,” conceded during a Fox News interview that he “didn’t know it was going to be quite this severe, but I really knew it was going to be bad.”

Among those who have cut ties with the billionaire include Macy’s, NBC Universal, Ora TV, Serta and Univision, the last of which Trump has sued for $500 million after the Spanish-language network cancelled plans to air the July 12 Miss USA pageant. Some other GOP candidates, including Marco Rubio, himself the son of immigrants from Cuba, have blasted Trump for his “offensive and divisive” comments.

The real estate mogul continued to voice his controversial views this week, when a young woman was gunned down at a San Francisco tourist spot in an apparent random shooting by a suspect whom police said is an undocumented immigrant.

“We have many cases like this, but nobody wants to talk about it,” Trump said of the incident. “It seems like I’m sort a whipping post because I bring it up.”

[Fox News]

TIME Foreign Policy

Kerry Says Iran Nuke Talks ‘Could Go Either Way’

John Kerry iran nuclear talks
Carlos Barria—AP U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement on the Iran talks in Vienna on July 5, 2015.

"We are not yet where we need to be"

(VIENNA)—Nine days into marathon nuclear talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said the diplomatic efforts “could go either way,” cutting off all potential pathways for an Iranian atomic bomb or ending without an agreement that American officials have sometimes described as the only alternative to war.

“I want to absolutely clear to with everybody: We are not yet where we need to be on several of the most critical issues,” Kerry told reporters outside the 19th-century Viennese palace that has hosted the negotiations.

World powers and Iran are hoping to clinch a deal by Tuesday, setting a decade of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and granting Iran significant relief from international sanctions. Kerry met for 3 ½ hours on Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as top diplomats from the five other negotiating countries planned to return to Austria’s capital later in the evening.

“It is now time to see whether or not we are able to close an agreement,” Kerry said, after hobbling on crutches through 97-degree heat to a podium set up in a city square.

While “genuine progress” had been made and the sides “have never been closer, at this point, this negotiation could go either way. If the hard choices get made in the next couple of days, and made quickly, we could get an agreement this week,” Kerry said. “But if they are not made, we will not.”

The talks had appeared to be moving forward. On Saturday, diplomats reported tentative agreement on the speed and scope of sanctions relief for Iran in the accord, even as issues such as inspection guidelines and limits on Iran’s nuclear research and development remained contentious.

Tuesday’s deadline is the latest that has been set for a comprehensive pact that would replace the interim deal world powers and Iran reached in November 2013. That package was extended three times, most recently on June 30, and Kerry appeared to be partly addressing critics of the diplomacy in the United States who’ve argued that President Barack Obama’s administration has been too conciliatory over the course of the negotiations.

Obama and U.S. officials say that is untrue. But they’ve also fiercely defended their overtures to Tehran and their willingness to allow the Iranians to maintain significant nuclear infrastructure, on the argument that a diplomatic agreement is preferable to military conflict.

Speaking at the same time as Sunday news shows aired in the U.S., Kerry said that “if we don’t have a deal, if there’s absolute intransigence with the things that are important, President Obama has always said we would walk away.”

“It’s not what anybody wants. We want to get an agreement,” he said. “What I have said from the moment I became involved in this: We want a good agreement, only a good agreement and we are not going to shave anywhere at the margins in order just to get an agreement. This is something that the world will analyze, experts everywhere will look at. There are plenty of people in the nonproliferation community, nuclear experts who will look at this and none of us are going to be content to do something that can’t pass scrutiny.”

Appearing on a nationally broadcast interview show Sunday, Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he had spoken to Kerry Saturday and voiced his concerns about rushing too quickly toward a settlement.

“Well, obviously they’re very anxious,” the Tennessee Republican said of Obama administration officials. “I mean, I think they look at this as a legacy issue.”

“I’ve had several conversations with him (Kerry) in meetings to say, ‘Look, you create just as much as a legacy walking away from a bad deal as you do head-long rushing into breaking into a bad deal,” Corker said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

While talks continue in Vienna, Iranian media reported that a high-level delegation from the U.N. nuclear agency would meet senior Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday night.

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