Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg faces EU Parliament over data scandal

After being grilled by the US Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a barrage of questions from EU lawmakers over data leaks. The meeting came just days before the EU’s new data protection law comes into effect.

    

Watch video00:25

Zuckerberg apologizes to EU over data leak

Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg faced a barrage of questions from European Parliament leaders in a livestreamed meeting on Tuesday.

Although Zuckerberg once again apologized for a data leak scandal and said Facebook will comply with the EU’s tough new data protection law, he still left many specific questions unanswered.

What Zuckerberg said in Brussels:

The format of the meeting meant all MEPs asked their questions one after another, allowing Zuckerberg in the end to pick and choose which questions to answer before time ran out. He grouped his responses by theme:

  • Apologizing for data leaks: “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibilities. That was a mistake, and I’m sorry.”
  • Complying with EU data law: Facebook “expects to be fully compliant” when the law comes into effect on Friday.
  • He did not, however, address MEP concerns over Facebook’s targeted advertisement permissions and it’s recent move to pull data to servers based outside of Europe.
  • Fighting fake news: Zuckerberg broke down the issue into three areas — Spammers, fake accounts, and people sharing false information. He added that Facebook is using artificial intelligence to identify fake accounts, which he said comprise less than 1 percent of the platform’s accounts.
  • Alleged anti-conservative content bias: “We have never and will not make decisions about what content is allowed or how we do ranking on the basis of a political orientation.”

Read more: The Zuckerberg hearing as it happened

Watch video01:12

Facebook to allow users to delete browsing history

MEPs disappointed in Zuckerberg answers:

EU lawmakers left the meeting underwhelmed with the Facebook CEO’s answers, as well as angered by the format in which the meeting took place.

The tightly-scheduled 90-minute meeting involved the heads of the EU Parliament’s parties as well as several comittee representatives. Much of the time was taken up with MEPs listing off their questions and concerns, with little time for pushback on Zuckerberg’s answers when he was able to deliver them.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (Getty Images/AFP/T. Roge)Zuckerberg was also asked to convince MEPS that Facebook shouldn’t be broken up as a monopoly

Jan Philipp Albrecht, digital policy spokesperson for the Greens in the European Parliament, told DW that Zuckerberg had “lost a lot of credibility,” and that “Facebook and other big internet companies realize they can’t mess with the EU.”

“The European Union can’t trust Facebook to solve the problems on its own and to protect users in Europe on its own,” added Albrecht, who was one of the driving forces behind the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The center-left Socialists and Democrats Group fired back against the meeting on Twitter, saying: “This format does not allow for any real answers. Mark Zuckerberg is getting away without responding to citizens concerns.”

S&D Group

@TheProgressives

This format does not allow for any real answers. Mark is getting away without responding to citizens concerns. We need a real back and forth with all the relevant MEPs in the room.

Manfred Weber, a German MEP and leader of the center-right European People’s Party, wrote on Twitter that Zuckerberg “was not very convincing” and said his data protection promises were “not enough.”

Manfred Weber

@ManfredWeber

Mark was not able to guarantee that another scandal will not happen again any time soon. He did not promise anything more than what the European legislation on already foresees. This is not enough. 2/2 @EPPGroup

Transparency concerns: The European Parliament ultimately decided to stream the meeting onlineafter facing backlash from MEPs and EU citizens. The hearing was originally planned to take place behind closed doors with a select number of MEPs. Zuckerberg also originally tried to send a junior executive.

Cambridge Analytica scandal: Facebook came under increased scrutiny after it was revealed that the personal data of 87 million Facebook users wound up in the hands of British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked for US President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Up to 2.7 million of those Facebook users were based in the EU.

Watch video03:01

EU beefs up data protection

What is the new EU data law: The GDPR requires companies to get explicit consent from users to share data with third parties. People will also have the right to know what information the company has gathered and demand it to be deleted. The law goes into effect on May 25.

rs/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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COURTESY: DW

Iran Uses Nuclear Pact as Bargaining Chip With EU Over U.S. Sanctions

Tehran’s suggestion could drive wedge between Washington and Brussels

EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete was in Tehran with a plan to prevent Iran’s economic isolation and secure its commitment the nuclear accord.
EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete was in Tehran with a plan to prevent Iran’s economic isolation and secure its commitment the nuclear accord. PHOTO: ATTA KENARE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

TEHRAN—Iran vowed to uphold the pact curbing its nuclear activities if the European Union can offset renewed U.S. sanctions, senior officials here said, advocating an approach that would widen a deepening schism between Washington and Brussels.

The EU has redoubled its efforts to salvage the 2015 deal in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent withdrawal of the U.S. The bloc dispatched Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete to Tehran over the weekend with a plan to prevent Iran’s economic isolation and secure its commitment the nuclear accord.

The EU’s plan faces daunting obstacles. The bloc would have to continue oil and gas purchases to keep Iran’s economy afloat, but do so by making payments outside of the U.S.-dominated global financial system and shielding European firms from U.S. sanctions.

“We hope that what they have presented to us, it will be materialized,” Iran’s nuclear chief, Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, said in an interview with Western journalists. He urged the EU to lead the fight against Washington to preserve the deal, saying Iran would honor its commitments if EU efforts broadly offset U.S. sanctions. “The ball is in their court,” he said of the EU.

Mr. Canete said the agreement’s “economic dividends” for Iran’s halting nuclear-weapons activities are at stake. Mr. Salehi, in a thinly-veiled warning to world powers concerned that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons, said the deal’s demise would give Tehran a “free hand in doing whatever we want.”

The EU’s efforts to safeguard the accord despite the U.S. add to growing clashes between Brussels and Washington. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week plans to outline Washington’s road map for starting negotiations on a new agreement with Iran.

Mr. Canete said at a press briefing with Mr. Salehi that the EU “deeply regrets” U.S. withdrawal from the Iran agreement and the EU “is determined to preserve the deal.”

In addition to clashing over the Iran accord, Brussels is threatening a trade war with the U.S. if Mr. Trump doesn’t exempt it from his steel and aluminum tariffs.

Yet Europe’s ability to sidestep U.S. sanctions are limited and untested.

The risk of an exodus by major European companies from Iran cast a pall over EU-Tehran discussions, after French energy giant Total SA said that without a U.S. waiver it may need to exit a $1 billion Iranian natural-gas deal.

“Europe failed in its first test,” Tehran Times Editor in Chief Mohammad Grader wrote Saturday. “They have practically been subject to Washington’s decisions.”

The EU is now updating a never-used 1996 law, enacted against U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Libya, known as the blocking statute. The measure seeks to ban European companies from complying with extraterritorial U.S. sanctions, allows firms to collect damages arising from American restrictions and shields them from adverse foreign-court rulings. But most experts say it isn’t legally watertight.

A revised blocking statute may help small- and midsize European companies that have few U.S. investments or business links to conduct business in Iran despite Washington’s measures, EU and Iranian officials said. Similarly, the EU plans to let the European Investment Bank, its financing arm, finance activities in Iran by opening credit lines to EU small businesses.

Yet those steps provide scant relief for Europe multinationals active in the U.S., including energy firms Total, Wintershall AG and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and shipping giant Maersk Tankers AS.

“The bite of the U.S. sanctions is bigger,” an EU diplomat said.

The EU is also deploying confidence-building measures, such as energy cooperation and financial assistance, and potentially letting EU governments facilitating oil payments to Iran via their central banks with one-off transfers. Details of such transactions are yet to be agreed and risk U.S. ire.

“We expect (Europe) to help us” get paid for oil exports, said Iranian Oil Minister Began Zanganeh said in an interview.

Mr. Trump’s decision renews challenges for Iran to meet its energy goals, including ramping up production to 4.2 million barrels a day from 3.8 million currently and attracting $200 billion in investments, Mr. Zanganeh said.

Mr. Zanganeh said Chinese and Russian energy firms’ interest in Iran’s larger oil and gas fields, coupled with smaller European firms that can invest up to $1 billion without getting tripped by U.S. sanctions, would largely alleviate the impact of sanctions. Iran last week unveiled a 10-year oil-production deal with London-based Pergas International Consortium PLC, snubbing renewed U.S. pressure.

“This extraterritorial sanction from the U.S. against Iran will have an effect” by slowing investment, Mr. Zanganeh said. “But it will not stop us.”

EU annual trade and investment with Iran nearly tripled as of last year to €21 billion ($25 billion) compared with 2015, with European icons including French car maker Renault SAand plane-builder Airbus SA joining energy firms to strike deals.

Brussels is already lobbying Washington for waivers to protect major European firms’ business interests in Iran, an EU official said. The push signals the EU’s reliance on trans-Atlantic relations to soften some of Mr. Trump’s blows against Iran and its partners, even as Europe tries to go it alone.

“For sure there are clear difficulties with the sanctions,” Mr. Canete said. Still, the EU “will engage with the United States… a key partner of the European Union and an ally.”

Write to Emre Peker at emre.peker@wsj.com

COURTESY: WSJ

Britain Puts On a Royal Spectacle for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Wedding

Queen’s grandson and ‘Suits’ star’s nuptials signify the modernization of the British monarchy

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kiss as they exit St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, near London, after their royal wedding ceremony on Saturday. NEIL HALL/EPA

WINDSOR, England—A grandson of Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday took as his bride an American actress, in a unique wedding that melded Hollywood glitz and glamour with centuries-old royal traditions.

Prince Harry, sixth in line to the throne, and Meghan Markle, star of the legal drama “Suits,” were married at the 15th-century St. George’s Chapel, just inside the walls of Windsor Castle in front of a cast of royals and celebrities. They assumed the titles the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Several aspects of the wedding broke from tradition. For one, the duchess walked down the aisle alone, until partway down she was met by Prince Charles, Prince Harry’s father. During the ceremony, American bishop Michael Curry gave a passionate, free-wheeling sermon, speaking about justice and inclusion and quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., before a gospel choir sang “Stand by Me.”

Afterward, the newlyweds greeted crowds from an open-topped Ascot Landau carriage, pulled by four horses.

The spectacle capped months of royal-wedding fever. This included fixation on nearly every detail of the wedding, from which titles the two would be given to the color of the queen’s hat. Bookmakers took bets on questions ranging from whether it would rain during the wedding procession to the designer of the bride’s wedding dress.


Photos: Guests, Royal Fans Descend on Windsor

Guests gathered in the southern English town for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry leave after their wedding at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, near London, on Saturday.
GARETH FULLER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
1 of 15

As Saturday dawned, royal fans, some of whom had traveled thousands of miles to the U.K., waved flags and crowded the streets of Windsor in anticipation of the event. Some had camped out in the town, about 20 miles west of London on the River Thames, days ahead, hoping to secure a good view.

Heather Lockwood, a 61-year-old small-business owner from Ottawa, said sleeping outside the castle for two nights was worth it for the view she had secured. “It’s eclectic,” she said, describing the atmosphere in Windsor. “You meet the most fabulous people from around the world. It’s a moment in time we’ll never see again.”

View image on Twitter

Serena Williams

@serenawilliams

Ready for my friend’s wedding. @alexisohanian

“Harry’s my favorite, being a ginger myself and he’s a ginger,” said Wendy Hartley, 62, who was born in London, who said she welcomed the change and modernity that the duchess would bring to the royal family. “It brings the countries together, doesn’t it?”

“What a party,” said Audrey Cornu, 55, who flew in from Florida with her husband and camped out in front of the castle. She was most looking forward to seeing the duchess. “She’s so cute. Good for her, she probably never thought this could happen.”

Some 600 guests attended the ceremony—among them George and Amal Clooney, Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams—while the royal couple chose more than 1,000 members of the public to watch the procession from within the grounds of the castle.

Unlike previous royal weddings, no politicians were in attendance, but Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May would be following events eagerly on television. At night, at a more private reception for friends and family, the couple will throw a party at nearby Frogmore House, a royal retreat for more than 300 years.

As in any global media extravaganza, the lead-up to the wedding wasn’t without drama. British newspapers have fixated, in recent days, on whether the duchess’s father Thomas Markle, a 73-year-old retired Hollywood lighting director, would walk her down the aisle. She told celebrity news website TMZ.com that he was embarrassed about the fallout from a deal he made to stage photographs of himself. He​ also said he had suffered a heart attack under the intense spotlight of the world’s media and would be focusing on his recovery instead of attending the wedding.

David and Victoria Beckham PHOTO: IAN WEST/GETTY IMAGES

Idris Elba and his fiancee Sabrina Dhowre PHOTO: GARETH FULLER/GETTY IMAGES

George and Amal Clooney PHOTO: GARETH FULLER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

For many years, Prince Harry, the youngest son of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, was seen as a wild child compared with his mild-mannered older brother Prince William, second in line to the throne. Paparazzi chronicled his underage drinking and partying at nightclubs, and he made world headlines after he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party when he was 20.

But in more recent years, the boyish, redheaded prince has become one of the most beloved members of the royal family. He was an army officer for 10 years and went on two tours in Afghanistan. Since he left the army, he has focused on charitable causes in areas including the mental health of military veterans.

The Royal Wedding: Prince Harry Marries Meghan Markle

The couple tied the knot in a unique wedding that melded Hollywood glitz and glamour with centuries-old royal traditions inside Windsor Castle, a royal residence about 20 miles west of London. They took the titles the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

A Windsor Wedding

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding includes a carriage tour through Windsor.

Marrying a divorced, biracial American would not long ago have been unthinkable for members of the royal family. In 1953, the queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, was refused permission to marry Captain Peter Townsend, a Royal Air Force officer, because he had been divorced. Before that, Prince Edward, the queen’s uncle, chose to abdicate the throne to marry a divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson, in a move that spurred a constitutional crisis.

But times have changed, and Britons have welcomed the duchess into the U.K. as a sign of the monarchy’s modernization. Her mother Doria Ragland, an African-American yoga instructor from Los Angeles, had tea with the 92-year-old queen, the reigning monarch, on Friday.

The weather was clear and sunny, and royal fans cheered and waved flags with the royal couple’s picture on them and drank champagne and bottles of Windsor Knot, a local pale ale. Police officers were deployed across town and barricades were set up on the streets to control the crowds.

Police expected 100,000 spectators in Windsor to cheer on the new duke and duchess as they married.

Michael Lawler Jr. and his wife Barbara flew in from California to watch the pageantry up close. “Its every girl’s dream come true; every little girl wants to be a princess,” said Mrs. Lawler, a big fan of the duchess. “It’ll bring the monarchy into the 21st century. The queen and palace have adapted to everything that’s come their way.”

Earlier, the couple from Newport Beach tried to fake their way into Windsor Castle, pretending to be guests of the royal bride and groom, but security officials stopped them when they spotted their names weren’t on the guest list. But even that awkward incident didn’t detract from the mood. “They were so sweet about it.”

Claire Steen from Winchester, southern England, arrived to the festivities in a wedding dress. “I’m hoping Harry’s going to say no to Meghan and yes to me!” said Ms. Steen, 35. Failing that, “I guess I’ll start looking for someone else.”

Meghan Markle arrives for the wedding ceremony to marry Prince Harry at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.
Meghan Markle arrives for the wedding ceremony to marry Prince Harry at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. PHOTO: BEN STANSALL/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

PHOTO: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

PHOTO: DANNY LAWSON/PA WIRE VIA ZUMA PRESS

PHOTO: JANE BARLOW/REUTE
COURTESY: WSJ

EU to reactivate ‘blocking statute’ against US sanctions on Iran for European firms

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that the bloc plans to kickstart a 1996 law that would prohibit European companies from complying with US sanctions on Iran.

    

Watch video00:24

Juncker: EU will reactivate ‘blocking statute’

European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced Thursday that the bloc plans to reactivate a law that would seek to block European companies from complying with any sanctions the US would reintroduce against Iran.

Juncker’s announcement came during the second day of an EU meeting in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, which had already been marked by sharp criticism from European leaders over American President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

What Juncker said:

  • In Thursday’s announcement, Juncker said: “As the European Commission we have the duty to protect European companies. We now need to act and this is why we are launching the process to activate the ‘blocking statute’ from 1996.”
  • Juncker said that the law would be launched Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. local time (0730 GMT).
  • He added that European leaders “also decided to allow the European Investment Bank to facilitate European companies’ investment in Iran” and said the Commission would continue to cooperate with Iran.

Read more: Germany to help its firms in Iran after US pullout from nuclear deal

Mina Andreeva

@Mina_Andreeva

.@JunckerEU “Need to protect our companies, notably SMEs. @EU_Commission will start work tomorrow on amending the Blocking Statute to include US Iran sanctions. Aim is to get it in place before sanctions kick in on 6 August. We need to do it and we will do it.”

What is the 1996 blocking statute?

  •  A blocking statute is a law enacted in a local jurisdiction that attempts to hinder application of a law made by a foreign jurisdiction.
  • The 1996 legislation protects “against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country.”
  • It was originally developed to get around a US trade embargo on Cuba and sanctions related to Iran and Libya, though it was never enacted because the disagreements were settled politically.
  • In the current proposed application, the law would attempt to shield European companies that do business with Iran from future US sanctions by prohibiting the companies from respecting US sanctions.
  • It also would not recognize any court rulings that enforce the American-issued penalties.

What effect could the blocking statute have?

  • In order to have any effect, the blocking statute would have to be updated to include US nuclear-related sanctions on Iran — a lengthy process that would require consent from the EU’s 28 member states.
  • The law’s potential economic effect remains unknown, since it was never used during the Cuban embargo.
  • In addition, its regulatory language is nebulous, and the measures it lays out to block European companies’ from bowing to US sanctions could prove difficult to enforce, in part due to the international banking system and the significance of the US in international financial markets.
  • Many European governments see the blocking statute as a political tool, which could put pressure on the US to walk away from punitive financial punishments.

    Watch video01:23

    EU firms in Iran mull Brussels’ blocking statute

How have European companies responded?

  • German-headquartered insurance firm Allianz and Danish shopping company Maersk have already said they plan to close operations in Iran in order to avoid getting hit by reintroduced US sanctions.
  • The 1996 legislation leaves it up to each EU member state “to determine the sanctions to be imposed in the event of breach of any relevant provisions of this Regulation,” adding that such sanctions “must be effective, proportional and dissuasive.”
  • European companies with large operations in the US are putting pressure on their governments to grant them individual waivers.

    Bernd Thomas Riegert@RiegertBernd

    wants to stand up against and circumvent possible sanctions against EU companies. Will that impress Trump? Companies like Total and Maersk already chicken out

What is the Iran nuclear deal? 

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal was a pact negotiated by Iran, China, Russia, Germany, France, and Britain, as well as the EU and the US, that authorized the lifting of economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for the dismantling of its nuclear program and compliance with international atomic regulations.

Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?

What did President Trump decide to do?

The president decided that he would withdraw the US from the accord, which he referred to as “flawed,” thereby raising the specter of renewed sanctions against companies that do business with Iran.

Read more: US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell vows ‘no trade war’ with EU

What was the reaction to Trump’s decision?

The deal’s other signatories have pledged to continue their commitment to the deal and encouraged Iran to uphold its responsibilities as well. EU foreign ministers met their Iranian counterpart earlier this week to discuss how they could keep the nuclear deal alive without the US. In particular, both sides have discussed how to keep revenue flowing into Iran in light of pending sanctions.

Read more: How will Iran’s economy hold up if sanctions return?

cmb/msh (dpa, Reuters, AP)

Watch video01:20

Trump: ‘The US will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal’

COURTESY: DW

German, French, UK foreign ministers to meet over Iran deal: EU

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and the UK will meet in Brussels next Tuesday to discuss the Iran nuclear deal. The Iranian foreign minister is due to join the group later.

    

Maas, Le Diran, Johnson(Getty Images/AFP/E. Dunand)EU foreign ministers of Germany, France and UK meeting in April

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, is to host a meeting of the German, French and UK foreign ministers next Tuesday in Brussels, where they will discuss the future of the Iran nuclear deal following the withdrawal of the United States earlier this week, the European External Action Service said in a statement on Friday.

Germany’s Heiko Maas, France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian and Britain’s Boris Johnson are then to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, it said.

The meeting comes amid widespread concern within the bloc at US President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to take his country out of the deal, seen by many as crucial for the security of the region.

Merkel: US decision ‘damages trust’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday expressed “great regret” at the US move, saying that it “damaged trust in the international order” when a country unilaterally withdrew from an agreement that had been unanimously approved by the UN Security Council.

Merkel also held a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin during which both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to upholding the nuclear deal, the Kremlin said in a statement.

“The situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action following the unilateral withdrawal of the US was discussed. The importance of preserving the deal from a point of view of international and regional stability was highlighted,” the statement said.

The phone call came after a meeting between German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday, where both diplomats agreed that the deal should remain in force.

Außenminister Maas in Russland (Getty Images/AFP/Y. Kadobnov)Maas met with Lavrov on his first trip to Russia as foreign minister

Maas urged Russia to use its influence to encourage Tehran to stick to the terms of the deal, which requires Iran to refrain from any activities that could lead to the creation of nuclear weapons. In exchange, international sanctions imposed on Iran because of its alleged pursuit of a nuclear arsenal have been lifted.

The deal was brokered after nearly 20 months of negotiation between Iran and the United States, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and France, as well as the European Union.

Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?

Watch video01:47

Germany and Russia united on Iran deal

Unilateral move

Trump’s announcement on Tuesday that he was pulling his country out of the deal continues to reverberate around the world.

Thousands of Iranians took to the streets on Friday to protest against the decision, with Iran saying that it might resume uranium enrichment at a higher rate within weeks if its benefits from the deal fall flat after the US pullout.

However, US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia have welcomed the US move, with both nations seeing Iran as a regional archrival that must not be permitted to have nuclear weapons at any cost.

Read more: Why the Iran nuclear deal’s collapse is a disaster for North Korea

Watch video04:39

Tension mounts between Israel and Iran

tj/ng (AFP, Reuters)

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COURTESY: DW

Germany seeks Russian support after Donald Trump’s Iran decision

The unilateral US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal is bringing Berlin and Moscow closer together. But can any cooperation counteract the threat of Washington’s sanctions for companies doing business in Tehran?

    
Deutschland G20 Gipfel (Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach)

One unintended consequence of Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear agreement has been to bring Germany and Russia together again.

German-Russian relations had soured because of alleged Russian cyberattacks and the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea. But the US President’s hardline policy on around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for Iran has intensified the search for common ground in Berlin and Moscow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 18, and on Friday morning the two spoke on the telephone.

“The importance of preserving the deal from a point of view of international and regional stability was highlighted,” the Kremlin said in a statement following the call.

Read moreIsrael divided over Donald Trump’s withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that the two leaders had agreed to push for the other signatories to the deal — France, the UK and China — to continue abiding by it. Merkel also touched on the future of the agreement in remarks she made in the city of Münster on Friday.

“I believe it is not right that a deal which was agreed, which was voted upon in the UN Security Council and unanimously approved, should be unilaterally terminated,” Merkel said, adding that the US decision “damages trust in the international order.”

Iran nuclear deal talks (picture-alliance/dpa/G. Hochmuth)As permanent UN Security Council members, Russia and China are also part of the deal

Russia and China essential to the Iran deal

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and the UK will meet with their Iranian counterpart next Tuesday in Brussels. But equally important, if the JCPOA is to survive, would be coordination with Russia and China, since those two nations can offer Tehran the biggest incentives to stay in the nuclear deal.

China is the largest purchaser of Iranian oil, and the two countries agreed to increase their trade to $600 billion (€502 billion) over 10 years — by comparison, annual German-Iranian trade amounts to around €3 billion. In 2014, Russia signed a five-year, $20 billion energy deal with Iran that sidestepped then-applicable Western sanctions. Trade between the EU and Iran has remained sluggish even after the loosening of the sanctions in early 2016.

Read moreIran nuclear deal: Germany’s special role and plans

In Sochi, Merkel is likely to lobby Putin to give Tehran guarantees of future economic cooperation in return for abiding by the provisions of the JCPOA. In February, Russia’s ambassador to Iran told the Tass news agency that the two countries were looking into alternatives to the US dollar as a trading currency.

For his part, Putin will probably want Germany to include Russia in any demands it makes to the US for exemptions of European firms to punitive secondary sanctions on countries doing business with Iran — the main crux of whether the JCPOA can survive Washington’s withdrawal and a point on which Germany is itself unsure.

Total stand at a trade fair(ISNA)Total is one of many big European companies that could face secondary US sanctions

Legal advice but little else

In Münster, Merkel acknowledged that she was uncertain “to what extent this agreement can be kept alive, if a giant economic power doesn’t join in.”

Trump’s decision on Tuesday triggered a process by which all sanctions upon Iran in place before the nuclear deal was agreed in 2015 are to be re-imposed. It is unclear to what extent the US will seek to punish German and European firms who don’t fall in line, but theoretically any companies trading with Iran that also do business in or with the US could be affected.

“The United States is a big gorilla on the world stage,” international trade lawyer Judith Lee told broadcaster CNN. “We try to not only control our companies, but also try to control what other countries’ companies do.”

Read moreWho will suffer when the US resumes Iran sanctions?

The list of major European firms that could be hit with millions in secondary sanctions includes Airbus, French energy giant Total, German electronics leader Siemens and carmakers Volkswagen and Peugeot. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, who’s also headed to Russia next week, has promised firms doing business with Iran practical and legal advice, but little else. Even Altmaier acknowledges that this is nothing more than “damage limitation.”

It’s not hard to understand the reason for German reticence on this score. According to the US Census Bureau, Germany’s annual exports to the US amounted to $118 billion in 2017 — a sum that dwarfs the business with Iran.

G20-Gipfel - Erste Arbeitssitzung (picture-alliance/dpa/AP/J. Macdougall)Both French President Emmanuel Macron and Merkel tried to no avail to change Trump’s mind on the deal

The death of the West?

Trump’s unilateralism — and in particular a brusque tweet by the new US ambassador to Germany— have been interpreted as attempts by Washington to impose its policy and law beyond its borders. That has led some commentators to diagnose a breakdown in solidarity between the US and Western Europe.

The Financial Times newspaper postulated that Tuesday “may be remembered as the day the US abandoned its belief in allies.” Those sentiments were echoed by Elmar Brok, a conservative German Member of the European Parliament.

Read moreHow will Iran’s economy hold up if sanctions return?

“We have to acknowledge that on these and other issues that Western unity is crumbling, and there is no partnership,” Brok told a German radio station. “This means that we now have to try, together with the Chinese and the Russians, to keep the Middle East free of nuclear weapons.”

But Merkel has resisted any talk of the “death of the West.”

“This is a serious event,” Merkel said in Münster, referring to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. “But it is not a reason to call into question the entire trans-Atlantic partnership.”

A more likely outcome is that Trump’s decision will encourage more cooperation between Iran and China regardless of what the US or the Europeans want. China opened a new rail connection with Iran to transport goods on Thursday, and it’s thought that Chinese companies are ready to swoop in, should Total cancel its contract with Iran.

Watch video01:55

Iran aircraft deals at risk

COURTESY: DW

Belgium declares war on radical Islam by seizing Saudi-funded mosques – Muslims are outraged

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The Muslim community in Belgium is furious after the authorities started to fight Islamic terrorism by nationalizing mosques funded by Saudi Arabia.
Liberals and leftists in the West use the made up term “Islamophobia” to portray anyone who criticizes Islam as a “racist”.
Radical Muslim terrorists all over the world carry out terror attacks “in the name of Allah”.
They justify their violence by quoting verses from the Quran.
Islamophobia is a made up word created by the Muslim Brotherhood specifically to silence debate.

Here’s why sharia law should be banned in the West.
Under Sharia law a woman is considered half of a man, when a woman attests to a Sharia court in countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran, she should bring at least 4 men who support her testimony.
So in most cases of rape a woman can not prove that she was raped and the court can sentence her to death for adultery, that is what happened to Suraya Menuchari who was stoned to death in Iran on false charges of adultery.

Under Shari’a laws in the Arab world, almost 90% of women underwent FGM.
The practice of FGM is banned in most Western countries but some Muslim immigrants are ignoring the law and practicing FGM even in the UK and US.

Under Sharia law girls can marry at the age of 6, just like the Prophet Muhammad from the Koran did when he married Aisha.
In Muslim countries like Yemen and Iran, girls are considered “adult” and being sold into forced marriages with grown men by their families.
There are even some cases of child marriages in Australia and Britain when immigrants brought this tradition into the West.According to the Sharia laws An honor killing is the homicide of a member of a family, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family.
Shari’a honor killing is very common in the Muslim world, but it also happens in the West, in countries such as Britain, the United States and even the Netherlands.
According to the British media there are 12 honour killings in the UK each year.

Human rights organizations in the Western world are turning a blind eye to the brutal violation of human rights in the Muslim world under Sharia law.
Sharia law should be banned in the Western world.
Share this post if you think Sharia law should be banned in the West.

Courtesy: Free Speech Time