Key Points

The importers of Iranian petrochemicals continue to include both U.S. allies as well as rivals. Countries that share a land border with Iran – including Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan – remain among its best customers; so do two Persian Gulf states – the UAE and Oman – that share maritime borders. This geographical proximity means that Tehran could easily smuggle payments back home in the form of either foreign currency or precious metals. Curbing Iran’s petrochemical exports will require intense negotiation with countries that are prepared to find new suppliers. An aggressive use of sanctions and other punitive measures may be needed for those who refuse to comply.

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Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently wrapped up a week of high-profile visits to Asia, touring Pakistan, India and China in a bid to court new allies. The Saudis clearly mean to signal to the United States and the West that they have options, as the kingdom endures a tarnished reputation over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But anticipation of a full-blown Saudi pivot to Asia — and a turning away from the United States — is misguided. Cooperation between the kingdom and Asia is growing, but at best, relations with Asian countries can only complement US ties.

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The Austrian woman was given a choice between paying a 480 euro fine and spending 60 days in jail. She was not sentenced to be hanged, as would be the case in Pakistan. I find that less than entirely reassuring.

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The United States is no longer trying to defeat the Taliban. Instead, the Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, wants out. The Taliban knows this and is more than happy to dictate the terms of America’s withdrawal. That’s what is now being negotiated. The jihadists also know that wars end in victory or defeat—and their victory is at hand.

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