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Trump’s Charlottesville response puts his foreign friends in an awkward position

President Trump’s defiant and seemingly sympathetic reaction to far-right violence during protests in Charlottesville last weekend has left his domestic allies scrambling. But don’t forget the foreign leaders who count Trump as an ally: Some had tried to overlook the president’s remarkable global unpopularity in the interest of shoring up strategic partnerships with the United States — and now find themselves tarred by association.

Case in point? Theresa May. The British prime minister rushed to Washington to meet the newly elected Trump in January. The pair sought to give the impression that, at a time when Britain and the United States were looking isolated among their Western allies, the “special relationship” was still strong. A photo of the two awkwardly holding hands as they toured the White House soon went viral.

Things haven’t gone well for May since then. The prime minister called a snap election for June, thinking she was all but guaranteed to boost her parliamentary majority. Instead, she only narrowly avoided a historically disastrous defeat. Much of the blame lies with May herself, a wooden politician who seems out of touch with the nation, but her association with Trump also seems to have jinxed her. The U.S. president was never popular in Britain, and his attacks on London Mayor Sadiq Khan after terrorist attacks in the capital made him positively toxic.

And now, just when it looked like Trump’s reputation couldn’t sink lower in Britain, Charlottesville happened.

Trump’s apparent sympathy for far-right protesters — who included neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and members of “alt-right” groups — played horribly in a country that still reveres the sacrifices made during World War II. Even among adamant right-wing “Brexiteers,” perhaps Britain’s most pro-Trump group, there is a unshakable pride in Britain’s role in defeating Nazi Germany. Paul Mason, a left-leaning journalist, summed up the feelings of many Britons when he directly addressed May on Twitter: “if you don’t condemn Trump’s support for white supremacists NOW why did our fathers fight [World War II]?”

On Wednesday, May told reporters that she saw “no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them,” but did not mention Trump by name. Critics, including many in her own party, concluded that it was too weak a statement — especially as May was spending a considerable amount of time condemning a decision to temporarily silence Big Ben, the giant clock in London’s Houses of Parliament, which is undergoing renovations.

For all her faults, May is not a far-right sympathizer. But she made the fateful decision to tie her leadership to Trump and his “America First” vision and seems to be too cautious now to criticize her ally.Other European leaders had been more circumspect: France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel courted Trump when needed but have also undermined Washington at other points.

Whoever leads Britain after May will almost certainly be a loud critic of Trump. Her popular Labour rival, Jeremy Corbyn, has frequently attacked Trump, as has Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable. “Donald Trump should unequivocally condemn those who want to reverse the achievements of the civil rights movement and take us back to the days of Jim Crow,” said Corbyn to reporters on Wednesday. Members of May’s own Conservative part like Sajid Javid, a member of parliament have made their own thoughts clear as well.

May isn’t the only one in a bind. Across the world, it’s become increasingly clear that allying yourself with Trump presents a political liability. As The Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker, James McAuley and Rick Noack noted on Wednesday, even those on Europe’s far right struggled to reconcile Trump’s comments with their own drive for mainstream legitimacy. “They don’t want to be tarnished by every scandal or misstep that rocks the Trump presidency,” said Thomas Greven, a political scientist at the Free University in Berlin to my colleagues.

The Trump toxicity can work the other way, too. After the president made military threats against Venezuela last week, other Latin American leaders — even ones who enjoy close and friendly relationships with Washington — were united in condemning Trump, the New York Times noted Wednesday. “The possibility of a military intervention shouldn’t even be considered,” said Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president. Venezuela’s pariah president, Nicolás Maduro, also used Trump’s threat to rally his flagging support at home.

Vice President Pence is now touring the region as Trump’s “global translator” in a bid to soothe these relationships, The Post’s Philip Rucker reported — though Pence announced on Wednesday he was returning to Washington a day early amid this week’s furor.

Of course, there are still a number of world leaders Trump can count on as allies, although many are despots and autocrats. One of the few democratic leaders who has stuck by Trump is Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, but his reaction to events in Charlottesville has been muted despite the anti-Semitism on display. The Israeli prime minister took several days to offer a milquetoast condemnation of “anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism,” although his 26-year-old son wrote on Facebook that he was more worried about left-wing violence than threats from the right.

As Today’s WorldView noted yesterday, most of Trump’s foreign policy is not radical. He has not followed through on the suggestions of true isolationism he made on the campaign trail, and his threats to the United States’ alliances remain unfulfilled for now. But own-goals like the one we’ve seen Trump spectacularly score this week are only making him more isolated on the world stage.

Why? Just ask Britain’s May. Allies may fear Trump’s wrath, but his embrace seems far more politically damaging.

• The New York Times’ Andrew Kramer and Andrew Higgins broke the news that a Ukrainian man thought to have unknowingly created malware used in alleged Russian hacking against the United States is now a witness for the FBI. As the Times notes, this new detail in the investigation seems to show that much of the harder work in the hack was outsourced to “private and often crime-tainted vendors.”

“It is the first known instance of a living witness emerging from the arid mass of technical detail that has so far shaped the investigation into the election hacking and the heated debate it has stirred,” the Times notes. And while the man, who goes by the alias “Profexer,” did not apparently work directly with Russia, the information he’s providing is giving U.S. officials critical new insight into how Russian hacking groups operate and develop their tools.

• Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to claim that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had made a “very wise and well reasoned decision” by backing down from his threats against Guam and not escalating military tensions any further. Vox’s Alex Ward explains why that is worrying, noting that “Trump may interpret Kim’s decision to back down as proof that his own belligerent rhetoric is what produced this current moment of calm.”

Spoiler: It wasn’t.

• A small detail in Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker article on Steve Bannon’s future at the White House has Canadian politicos confused: According to Lizza, Bannon is in regular contact with Gerald Butts, a longtime political advisor for Justin Trudeau, Canada’s liberal heartthrob of a prime minister. The pair are apparently so close that Butts has been pushing Bannon to raise taxes on the rich, as Trudeau did last year.

• There’s been a lot of talk about “antifa” groups — the word is a shortening of “anti-fascist” — in the aftermath of Charlottesville. The sudden rise of the term might suggest to some people that the groups are a new, American-born phenomena, but that’s far from the case, as Dartmouth historian Mark Bray writes for The Post:

“The first antifascists fought Benito Mussolini’s Blackshirts in the Italian countryside, exchanged fire with Adolf Hitler’s Brownshirts in the taverns and alleyways of Munich and defended Madrid from Francisco Franco’s insurgent nationalist army. Beyond Europe, anti-fascism became a model of resistance for the Chinese against Japanese imperialism during World War II and resistance to Latin American dictatorships.

Modern antifa politics can be traced to resistance to waves of xenophobia and the emergence of white power skinhead culture in Britain in the 1970s and ’80s. It also has its roots in self-defense groups organized by revolutionaries and migrants in Germany, as the fall of the Berlin Wall unleashed a violent neo-Nazi backlash.”

Today, you can often see antifa imagery in the terraces of world’s soccer stadiums — clubs in many countries are often linked to right- or left-wing politics and use chants and signs to back their agendas, even in the U.S. 

Iranian women sit on street bench in Tehran on&nbsp;Aug. 2.&nbsp;(Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via Reuters)</p>

Iranian women sit on street bench in Tehran on Aug. 2. (Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via Reuters)

‘Footloose’ in Farsi

If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny.

Six people — four male and two female — were recently arrested in Iran for teaching Zumba, a Colombian fitness routine that’s a hit in the U.S., and other “Western” dance moves. The six filmed themselves and posted the clips on social media apps such as Telegram and Instagram.

“The members of a network teaching and filming Western dances have been identified and arrested,” said Hamid Damghani, a Revolutionary Guard Corps commander in northeast Iran, to Jamejam Online.

Their crime, he said, was seeking to “change lifestyles and promote a lack of hijab.” In Iran, women are required to wear headscarves and modest clothing in public. Women are also banned from dancing in front of men who are not from their immediate families. Authorities have forbidden the teaching of Zumba and other dances, even in women-only gyms.

“The promotion and teaching of dancing in the name of sport in women’s gyms is a serious issue,” Damghani said.

This isn’t the first time authorities have cracked down in this manner.

In 2014, six Iranians were arrested for making a video that showed them dancing to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.” The young men and women were sentenced to a year in prison and 91 lashes, though both punishments were ultimately suspended. The video caught the attention of authorities after it became something of an online sensation, garnering 1 million views in six months.

The participants later said on state-run television that they were actors and were tricked into making the video for an audition. Their arrests sparked a backlash on social media. Even Williams chimed in, writing on Facebookthat “it is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”

As is so often the case when it comes to policing how women act, part of the concern stems from how men will respond. According to the Times, religious leaders worried that Zumba could corrupt Iranian men. They’ve even deemed online videos teaching the dance pornographic.

But while such moves may sometimes seem amusing abroad, they’re only the tip of much more sinister crackdowns. This year, for example, at least 22 journalists and activists were imprisoned as part of a crackdown by hard-liners on Western influences and activists ahead of the May presidential election, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. — Amanda Erickson

A US-based BBC correspondent recently returned to the country and penned a devastating review of how much stature the U.S. has lost abroad, both among leaders and ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, The Post describes this week’s chaos using foreign correspondent tropes, to hilarious but sobering effect. Elsewhere in the world, Der Spiegel rails against EU plans to house migrants in dangerous Libyan camps, while South Africa’s Mail and Guardian calls the end of Nelson Mandela’s party as we knew it.

America — diminished and dismissed
The US president’s failure to completely condemn far-right groups may leave behind profound effects.
By Katty Kay | BBC  •  Read more »
What if Western media covered Charlottesville the same way it covers other nations
The world would shake its head at America.
By Karen Attiah | The Washington Post  •  Read more »
Libyan camps for refugees are not the answer
A recent report compiled by European Union diplomats who visited the country reveals that the idea is completely unworkable.
By Der Spiegel  •  Read more »
Zuma won, but the ANC will never be a united party again
It doesn’t matter who takes over the ANC in December. The party will never be a united party again.
By Prince Mashele | The Mail and Guardian  •  Read more »
On Tuesday, President Trump once again morally equated the violence on “both sides” of the events in Charlottesville during a press conference in New York. The Atlantic takes a look at the rise of the violence from the left to see if the president has a point. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports on an effort to map out what lies beneath New York City, while the New York Times shows what the fight for abortion rights looks like from both sides in Texas.

The rise of the violent left
Antifa’s activists say they’re battling burgeoning authoritarianism on the American right. Are they fueling it instead?
By Peter Beinart | The Atlantic  •  Read more »
Nobody knows what lies beneath New York City
Subterranean cartographers are bringing to light the dark, tangled truths buried under the streets.
By Greg Milner | Bloomberg  •  Read more »
A changed landscape for abortion rights in Texas
After access to abortion services were curtailed by Texas law, a photographer set out to document women on both sides of the debate.
By Carolyn Van Houten | The New York Times  •  Read more »

At least you can’t say the residents of Guam aren’t having a little fun with the long-running threat from North Korea. Thankfully for them and the rest of the world, tensions with North Korea are calming back down — at least for the moment. But Vice President Pence’s quicker-than-expected return to Washington was supposedly triggered by North Korea strategy meetings to be held on Friday, so further fireworks may be coming soon. (Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

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