Daily Memo: US Troops in the Middle East, Tough Choices for American Farmers

All the news worth knowing today.


Another U.S. deployment. After several days of conflicting reports about a possible deployment of additional U.S. forces to the Middle East, President Donald Trump announced on Friday that 1,500 troops will be sent to the region. It’s unclear to which country they will be deployed, and there are still conflicting reports about the size of the force. (U.S. Central Command reportedly approved a request to send less than 1,000 additional troops to the region.) According to U.S. officials, the deployment is in response to the rising threat from Iran, which, they said publicly for the first time on Friday, was responsible for the recent attacks on tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. U.S. officials had previously hinted that they thought it was Iran, but investigations were still underway.

Tough choices for American farmers. U.S. farmers have been feeling the effects of the U.S.-China trade war more than any other segment of the population in the United States, and this week, the Trump administration announced that it would provide $16 billion in subsidies as compensation for their losses. To benefit from the subsidy program, however, farmers must actually plant crops, and a record wet season in the Midwest is forcing some to consider not sowing crops at all or reducing their stock. The region has experienced the wettest 12-month period on record in the U.S., and farmers now have to decide between harvesting a crop that’s likely to fail so they can make insurance and subsidy claims, or avoiding the risks altogether and forgoing the payouts.

Honorable Mentions

  • South Korea will be holding drills May 27-30 that will include 480,000 civilians and members of the armed forces. The exercise, called Ulchi Taegeuk, will replace the large-scale joint drills that the United States scaled back following President Donald Trump’s 2017 meeting with Kim Jong Un.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein while visiting the United States a few weeks ago, it was reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, in Iran, security forces raided the office of Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, a possible sign of growing divisions within the regime.
  • Satellite images taken this week show that Iran is building a border crossing between Iraq and Syria that will allow for new weapons to more easily be moved across borders.
  • Trump will use a provision in the Arms Export Control Act to move forward with a $7 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia that bypasses congressional review.
  • The U.S. has announced that it will not label Vietnam a currency manipulator. Late last week, the U.S. Commerce Department proposed a rule change that would allow the U.S. to place tariffs on countries labeled currency manipulators.
  • The 2020 U.S. defense bill, passed May 23, bans F-35 transfers to Turkey.