Background Briefing: June 17, 2019


The Growing Likelihood of a War with Iran

We begin with the increasing likelihood that the U.S. and Iran will blunder into a war in the Gulf driven by a symbiosis between our hawks and their hawks and an American president who has no credibility both in terms of diplomacy and in making a case against Iran’s attacks on tankers. Joining us is Vali Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies who served in the Obama Administration as Senior Advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We discuss his op-ed at The New York Times, “Trump Might Not Want War With Iran. Without Diplomacy He Will Get One” and the lack of credibility also shared by Trump’s National Security Advisor Bolton and his Secretary of State Pompeo and the skepticism among our allies about the case the Trump Administration is trying to make against Iran over the attacks on the tankers. This in spite of the fact that it appears Iran is playing that dangerous card of attacking shipping as a way to drive up oil prices to remind the U.S. and the Saudis that if Iran can’t get their oil to market because of the economic warfare the U.S. is conducting against them, they can also shut down the Saudis oil output and one third of the world’s oil supply. With Iran days away from exceeding limits on uranium enrichment under the deal Trump tore up as well as holding on to its supply of already enriched uranium that was supposed to be shipped out, another trigger for a war with Iran is waiting to be pulled.


Continuing Demonstrations in Hong Kong

Then with demonstrations continuing in Hong Kong against the government’s extradition plan with the mainland that has been postponed but not cancelled, we speak with Victoria Hui, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame who has worked in the democracy movement in Hong Kong and maintains the blog “The Umbrella Movement and Beyond”. She joins us to discuss what amounts to the largest demonstrations in modern history on a per capita basis with 25% of Hong Kong’s population rallying against Xi Jinping’s encroachment on their freedoms guaranteed under the 1997 “one country – two systems” deal.


Morsi’s Terrible But Predictable Death

Then finally, with Egypt’s only democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi dropping dead in a courtroom today as he defended himself against trumped up espionage charges, we speak with Sarah Leah Whitson, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division. She joins us to discuss this terrible but predictable death just as Morsi was about to reveal secrets to the judge, and the report Human Rights Watch was compiling on his health and lack of medical attention the 67 year-old diabetic was getting since Morsi was not allowed family visits and proper food or medicine.