Displaying posts published in

July 2017

Germany: Chechen Sharia Police Terrorize Berlin by Soeren Kern

Threats of violence against “errant” women are viewed as “acts of patriotism.”

“They have come to Germany because they wanted to live in Germany, but they keep trying to turn it into Chechnya with its medieval ways.” — Social worker interviewed by Meduza.

“Everyone’s attention is fixed on the Syrians, but the Chechens are the most dangerous group. We are not paying sufficient attention to this.” — Police in Frankfurt (Oder).

A hundred Islamists are now openly enforcing Sharia law on the streets of Berlin, according to local police who are investigating a recent string of violent assaults in the German capital.

The self-appointed morality police involve Salafists from Chechnya, a predominantly Sunni Muslim region in Russia. The vigilantes are using threats of violence to discourage Chechen migrants from integrating into German society; they are also promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in Germany. German authorities appear unable to stop them.

The Sharia patrol came to public light in May 2017, when Chechen Salafists released a video warning other Chechens in Germany that those who fail to comply with Islamic law and adat, a traditional Chechen code of behavior, will be killed. The video’s existence was reported by Meduza, a Russian-language independent media organization based in Latvia. The video, which circulated through WhatsApp, an online messaging service, showed a hooded man aiming a pistol at the camera. Speaking in Chechen, he declared:

“Muslim brothers and sisters. Here, in Europe, certain Chechen women and men who look like women do unspeakable things. You know it; I know it; everybody knows it. This is why we hereby declare: For now, there are about 80 of us. More people are willing to join. Those who have lost their national identity, who flirt with men of other ethnic groups and marry them, Chechen women who have chosen the wrong path and those creatures who call themselves Chechen men — given half a chance, we will set all of them straight. Having sworn on the Koran, we go out onto the streets. This is our declaration of intent; do not say that you were not warned; do not say that you did not know. May Allah grant us peace and set our feet on the path towards justice.”

According to Meduza, the declaration was read by a representative of a Berlin-based gang of about one hundred members, headed by former henchmen of Dzhokhar Dudayev, the late Chechen separatist leader. All Berliners of Chechen origin who were interviewed by Meduza said they were aware of the gang’s existence.

The video surfaced after nude images of a 20-year-old Chechen woman who lives in Berlin were sent en masse from her stolen cellphone to every person on her contact list. Within an hour, the woman’s uncle demanded to speak with her parents. According to Meduza, they agreed to “resolve the issue” within the family by sending the woman back to Chechnya, where she would be killed to restore the family’s honor. German police intervened just hours before the woman was to board a plane bound for Russia.

After the woman was placed in protective police custody, her circumstance went from being a family issue to a communal one. According to Meduza, it is now the duty of any Chechen man, regardless of his ties to her or her family, to find and punish her. “It is none of their business, but it is an unwritten code of conduct,” said the woman, who has since cut her hair and now wears colored contact lenses in an effort to hide her identity. She said that she intends to change her name and undergo plastic surgery. “If you don’t change your name and your face, they will hunt you down and kill you,” she said. Although the woman graduated from a German high school, she hardly ever leaves her apartment because it is too dangerous. “I don’t want to be Chechen anymore,” she said.

According to Meduza, at least half of the population of single Chechen girls in Germany have enough compromising information on their cellphones to be considered guilty of violating adat:

“Associating with men of other nationalities, smoking, drinking alcohol, visiting hookah lounges, discotheques or even public swimming pools can cause communal wrath. A single photograph in a public WhatsApp chat can outcast an entire family and the rest of the community would be obliged to cease all communication with them. With everyone under suspicion and everyone responsible for one another, Chechen girls say they are sometimes approached by strangers in the street who chastise them for their appearance, including for wearing bright lipstick. The theft of a cellphone and the subsequent posting of compromising material is a hard blow; the dishonored person has no one to turn to and the one who posted the victim’s photos does not risk anything.”

Adrian Williams: Muhammad: Social Justice Warrior

A woman or girl in any number of Muslim countries may face forced marriage, gender apartheid, honour killing, female genital mutilation, polygamy and harsh punishment for being a rape victim. To author Susan Carland, aka Mrs Waleed Aly, any mention of this is Islamophobic.

Fighting Hislam: Women, Faith and Sexism
by Susan Carland
Melbourne University Press, 2017, 182 pages, $29.99 ______________________________________

Much attention has been given to women and Islam in the Australian media during the first few months of this year. On February 13 ABC television presenter Yassim Abdel-Magied asserted on Q&A that Islam is “the most feminist religion”. On February 22, the President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Keysar Trad, explained to Andrew Bolt’s Sky News viewers the circumstances under which a husband is permitted to beat his wife, qualifying this by saying it is a “last resort”. This was followed by a Facebook video posted by the Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir in which two women further attempt to justify and explain how and when a man can strike his wife.

It was, therefore, particularly disappointing that the prominent Somali-born Dutch-American writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali was forced to cancel her tour of Australia in April due to security concerns. Here was a chance for local audiences to hear first-hand from a prominent and thoughtful critic of Islam and its treatment of women. Instead we have this newly published study of Islam and feminism by Susan Carland, an Australian academic, better known as television personality Waleed Aly’s wife.

Fighting Hislam, an adaptation of Carland’s PhD thesis, is concerned with countering the “allegedly” sexist treatment of women in Islamic communities as well as highlighting the thriving feminist movement within the religion. Islam, she writes, is not “inherently oppressive towards women” and concerns shown by non-Muslims for the welfare of Muslim women can be understood in the “broader context of Islamophobia”. Whereas Hirsi Ali has written honestly about female genital mutilation in Islamic communities, and is personally a childhood victim of this ritual, Carland refuses even to address it, claiming the people who raise the issue with her are smugly ignorant. Like, for instance, the shop owner responsible for binding her thesis. When collecting it she found herself on the receiving end of an “unsolicited and impenetrable rant about female genital mutilation”, and adds, “this was not the first time a stranger had felt entitled to raise the potential religious interference of my genitals with me”.

Carland was born and raised in Australia and converted to Islam when she was nineteen, so religious interference with her genitals is unlikely, but this gives the reader an idea of where her book is headed. Muslim feminists like her, she states, face their greatest challenge from the “patriarchy”, presumably meaning the men who forcibly and unjustly dominate the world, not from the men who dominate Islam. Indeed, any resistance to feminism in Muslim circles is just an “understandable reaction from a minority community that frequently feels itself under siege”. The reality, she argues, is that feminism and Islam are complementary, as the Koran has a mandate of “gender equality and social justice”.

Today a woman or girl in any number of countries with sizeable Muslim populations, and not just in North Africa and the Middle East I might add, may be subjected to forced marriage, gender apartheid, honour killings, female genital mutilation, polygamy, and harsh punishments for adultery or for being a rape victim. Of course, to Carland, any mention of this represents typically negative and condescending attitudes towards Islam. She instead draws the reader’s attention to the challenges faced by Muslim women in Australia, such as coping with our supposed “obsession with the hijab” and the “inadequate space for women” that exists in many mosques. Her personal experiences are no less harrowing, remarking as she does at the necessity for her to avoid dawdling behind her husband when walking in the street for fear that onlookers will accuse her of being subservient.

This sort of anecdotal “evidence” of the alleged gender discrimination Muslim women endure is reflected in her research methodology. She bases her study on interviews conducted with twenty-three Muslim women in Australia and North America in 2011 and 2012. These women are described as theo­logians, activists, writers and bloggers. Nine are Muslim converts, and therefore presumably born in North America or Australia, seven are single, eight are divorced, eight have no children and all but one have university degrees. Wisely, Carland does not attempt to claim they are representative of Muslim women around the world.

Babel By Richard Fernandez ****

David Gerlenter writing in the Wall Street Journal says something self-evidently true. The Left seems to have won every single culture battle fought.

Although the right reads the left, the left rarely reads the right. Why should it, when the left owns American culture? Nearly every university, newspaper, TV network, Hollywood studio, publisher, education school and museum in the nation. The left wrapped up the culture war two generations ago. Throughout my own adult lifetime, the right has never made one significant move against the liberal culture machine.

The late Andrew Breitbart noticed the same thing. Observing that “politics is downstream from culture” he argued the Left has made us the villains of our own stories.

Our lives — indeed, our very species — has storytelling wound into our DNA. … Popular culture is delivered to us in the form of story via books, TV, film, music, video games, and new media. …

Thus we come to politics … the vast majority of those with the power of content creation are Liberals. … Liberals control story. …What is some of that messaging? Think about movies and TV. Corporations are evil — using unwitting poor Africans for pharmaceutical testing (Constant Gardener) or dumping toxic chemicals into nature (Erin Brockovich, A Civil Action) or responsible for the end of mankind (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). American soldiers are bloodthirsty lawbreaking maniacs (Any military film). The CIA conducts illegal, secret operations that have nothing to do with protecting America. Radical Muslim terrorists are never villains. Trial lawyers are crusading do-gooders. David Letterman and Saturday Night Live ridicule the Right 95% of the time. Jon Stewart pretends to be centrist, but in fact jumps all over the Right far more often than the Left.

Liberal political candidates are the embodiments of those Liberal tenets. The goal is to associate them in voter minds via the vehicle of popular culture.

Even before Breitbart’s warning there was Orwell who understood that the Left’s ultimate ability was to uproot the past and plant their chosen seed for the future. His famous dictum “he who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past” is an unsurpassed indictment of groupthink totalitarianism. There seemed no doubt they would succeed. Within its bubble the Left’s control of culture is so absolute they can watch 1984 without realizing it’s about them.

Yet the real mystery — one which even Orwell himself did not anticipate — is why, despite having won every culture battle, the Left has lost the war. Look around you. Every single country which adopted socialism as an economic system went bankrupt. The Soviet Union collapsed. Now the Western Gramscian project is self-immolating in the fires of its own absurdity. The current political crisis is the collective shudder of mortality passing through “every university, newspaper, TV network, Hollywood studio, publisher, education school and museum in the nation”. The left may have “wrapped up the culture war two generations ago” but it is rotting inside the wrapping.

The search is on for the regicide.

The only thing one can be sure of is that the Republican Party didn’t cause it; nor did their tame and feeble publications. In fact not even publications like Breitbart, valiant though their efforts were, can claim credit. Trump couldn’t have done it either, since the proud tower that Gerlenter describes would have been impervious to the mere touch of the orange-hued real estate mogul without some other factor in play.

Yet most of us know who did it, though we hesitate to name the obvious suspect. The Left even in its downfall has stilled our tongues. The word comes to the edge of our lips before we choke it back, fearful even now of the ridicule and abuse we will get should we blurt it. That word is God. God killed the Left. Of course one could legitimately use some other term. “Reality”, “consequences”, the “laws of nature”, “economics”, even “truth” will do. Through some process of increasing entropy, failed memory management or unanticipated side effects the status quo — the one dominated by the Left — is collapsing. CONTINUE AT SITE

Good News and Bad News From Poland By David P. Goldman

President Trump’s speech yesterday in Warsaw was better than inspiring. It was calculating and subtle, and sent strong messages to both our friends and adversaries. The crowd of cavilers who abhor Trump as an ignoramus should hang their heads in shame.

The president said:

We are confronted by another oppressive ideology — one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe. America and Europe have suffered one terror attack after another. We’re going to get it to stop … While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind.

Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence, and challenge our interests. To meet new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes, and cyberwarfare, we must adapt our alliance to compete effectively in new ways and on all new battlefields.

We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes — including Syria and Iran — and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.

There is a double message to Moscow here.

First, the United States has drawn a red line at the Polish border, making clear that America will shed blood if need be to defend its Polish ally. Second, the line is drawn around Poland, not Ukraine. The United States is prepared to reach an agreement with Russia over Ukraine if Russia stops destabilizing Ukraine and if it leashes its Iranian dog. The United States has sent a clear message — as the president reminded his Warsaw audience — that it will not tolerate the tolerance of terror by the Saudis or other Sunni allies. We expect Russia to do the same with its Shi’ite allies.

That is tough, but realistic. Trump is willing to negotiate with the Russians, but from a position of strength, in solidarity with our allies who have suffered historically from Russian aggression, and with unambiguous lines in the sand. It was a brilliantly crafted speech, the slickest as well as the most inspiring foreign policy address of any American president since Ronald Reagan.

Trump also gave Poland and other Eastern European countries critical backing in their fight against the European Union’s attempt to force them to accept their quota of Muslim migrants.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Poland itself is probably past the demographic point of no return. The president intoned:

While Poland could be invaded and occupied, and its borders even erased from the map, it could never be erased from history or from your hearts. In those dark days, you have lost your land but you never lost your pride.

So it is with true admiration that I can say today, that from the farms and villages of your countryside to the cathedrals and squares of your great cities, Poland lives, Poland prospers, and Poland prevails.

Maybe not so much. With a total fertility rate of just 1.3 children per female, Poland is headed for demographic disaster. Poland today has one retiree for every four working-age citizens. By 2045 there will be one retiree for every two working-age citizens, and the burden of elderly dependence will crush the Polish economy. In a century, the Polish population will shrink to insignificance:

Only one major country has come back from the demographic brink, and that is Russia. At the collapse of Communism, Russian women were bearing just 1.1 children on average. That has since risen to almost 1.8, just below the American level. The demographers have not yet offered us an adequate explanation of this unprecedented turnaround, but I suspect that it coincides with a revival of religion in the former fortress of atheism. Some 80% of Russian women now identify as Orthodox Christian compared to 30% just after the collapse of Communism, according to the Pew Forum.

Trump defends the West — and the Left screams foul Rich Lowry

Imagine that President Trump gave a speech praising a strong Europe.

Imagine that he called forthrightly on Russia to stop its aggression in Ukraine and join the community of responsible nations.

Imagine that he embraced the mutual-defense commitment, so-called Article 5, of NATO.

Imagine that he extolled the role of women in our society.

Imagine that he said we share the hope of every soul to live in freedom.

Imagine that he celebrated the free press and ceaseless innovation and a spirit of inquiry and self-criticism.

That’s the speech that Trump gave in Warsaw during his European trip for the G-20. It was easily the best of his presidency — well-written and moving, soaked in Polish history and grounded in Western values. And yet it has been attacked for, as one liberal outlet put it, sounding “like an alt-right manifesto.”

The address also got a lot of praise, but the criticism was telling. Some of it was from commentators who simply can’t abide Trump, but a lot of it reacted against core elements of the speech.

It was unabashedly nationalist. Not in a bumptious way, but one that acknowledged the importance of “free, sovereign and independent nations.” Trump used Poland’s story to augment the theme. He talked of a Polish nation that is “more than 1,000 years old,” that endured despite its borders being wiped out for a century, that withstood a Communist assault on its freedom, its faith and very identity.

It emphasized the importance of culture. Trump called Poland a “faithful nation.” He talked of that hinge point of history in 1979 when Pope John Paul II preached a sermon in Warsaw and a crowd of a million chanted, “We want God.”

He said that large economies and fearsome weapons aren’t enough for our survival; we need “strong families and strong values,” and “bonds of history, culture and memory.”

It argued that we must demonstrate civilizational self-confidence, the will to defend our values.

Finally, it unapologetically invoked “the West,” which, Trump noted, writes symphonies, rewards brilliance, values freedom and human dignity and has created a truly great community of nations.

All of this strikes the ears of Trump’s progressive critics the wrong way. They believe that nations are best constrained by multinational or supra-national institutions like the EU. They think that all the non-material things that lend our lives meaning — God, family, national loyalty — are atavistic, overrated or best not spoken of too much.

Paris police round up thousands of refugees camping in the streets By Rick Moran

The refugee crisis in France is getting worse as authorities say that up to 500 migrants arrive in Paris every week and join makeshift encampments that pose a “security and public health risk” to residents.

The camps are situated on the sidewalks near a refugee processing center. Paris police are now conducting round-ups of the migrants, moving them to temporary lodgings all over the city.


The migrants were being escorted onto buses to be taken to temporary lodgings such as gymnasium buildings in Paris and areas ringing the capital. Live TV footage showed what appeared to be a peaceful evacuation.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said earlier this week the situation was getting out of hand with more than 400 arrivals a week in the area.

“It’s always the same problem,” he said on Thursday. “First off you say ‘I’m going to open a center for 500 people’ and next thing you know you have 3,000 or 4,000 people and you’re left having to sort the problem out.”

He has been asked by President Emmanuel Macron to produce a plan to accelerate processing of asylum requests with a view to deciding within six months who will be granted refugee status and who gets sent back.

The camp in Paris has swollen despite the creation of two new centers by Paris City Hall to register and temporarily house migrants arriving in the city.

Local authorities have also reported a rise in recent weeks in the number of migrants roaming the streets of the northern port city of Calais, where a sprawling illegal camp was razed to the ground last November and its inhabitants dispatched to other parts of France.

Calais, from which migrants hope to reach Britain, has come to symbolize Europe’s difficulty in dealing with a record influx of men, women and children who have fled their native countries.

Last year, police cleared a huge refugee camp outside Calais, but it didn’t do much good. Another one has sprung up to take its place.

As for Paris, police made no mention of it, but the city has become a “no-go” zone for tourists because of the increase in crime. It doesn’t help that authorities allow the refugees to sleep and congregate on the sidewalks in the middle of the city. Spreading the problem out by moving the migrants to various places around the city is likely to increase crime in those areas, too.

France has been stricter than some European countries in granting asylum requests, but the number of refugees keeps climbing. Immigration was not the top issue in the recent presidential and parliamentary elections, but it’s still there as a problem. Eventually, it’s probable that, like almost everywhere else in Europe, there will be a voter backlash. What, then, will new president Macron do?

Just Say No to Naomi Klein By Norman Rogers

Naomi Klein has made a career giving guidance to the dumbest segment of the juvenile left. Each new generation brings a new crop of kids susceptible to the siren song of Marxism. With movie-star looks and a fake humble act, Klein repackages Marxism, explaining to her star-struck acolytes, most of whom probably never heard of Marx, that evil billionaires and scheming corporate bosses are conspiring to further oppress every oppressed group. Her act sells millions of books. Her mama didn’t raise any dumbbells.

Her latest book is No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. The book was hurriedly written so that it would be published before people became used to having Trump as president. Klein describes Trump’s election as a naked corporate takeover. Apparently, much of the corporate establishment was only pretending to be in Hillary’s camp.

Klein explains the world by shoehorning the real world into Marxist categories. Some of the people in Trump’s Cabinet are wealthy – proof for Klein that scheming capitalists have taken over the government.

Klein is a dual American-Canadian citizen. Her parents fled the U.S. for Canada in 1967 to escape military service and jail.

According to Klein, the meaning of Trump’s election is that a “gang of predatory lenders, planet-destabilizing polluters, war and ‘security’ profiteers joined forces to take over the government and protect their ill-gotten wealth.”

What do predatory lenders and planet-destabilizing polluters have in common? Perhaps the predatory lenders enable people to buy cars so that the planet-destabilizing polluters can sell gasoline – obviously a sinister conspiracy. Planet-destabilizing pollution is a political slogan, not a scientific category.

Lockheed Martin, presumably a war profiteer, made 8% profit on sales. Apple, presumably not a war profiteer, made 21%. It must be that the profits of war are depressed.

The far left, when it obtains political power, always suppresses its opponents. In the U.S., if the hard left obtained power, the opposition would be demonized as racists or promoters of hate. Their fate would be a prison camp or worse. Thugs would be utilized to beat up or kill opposition figures and reporters.

When the left does not hold power, it holds itself out as the protector of wronged people and wronged groups. That is a strategy for building political support. Naomi Klein constantly invokes a long list of groups supposedly wronged by capitalism.

Here is how Klein, bizarrely, describes Trump’s electoral appeal:

It is this complex mix of factors that allowed Trump to come along and say: I will champion the beleaguered working man. I will get you those manufacturing jobs back. I’ll get rid of these free trade agreements. I’ll return your power to you. I’ll make you a real man again. Free to grab women without asking all those boring questions. Oh, and the most potent part of Trump’s promise to his base: I will take away the competition from brown people, who will be deported or banned, and Black people, who will be locked up if they fight for their rights. In other words, he would put white men safely back on top once again.

This is a clear attempt, a pathetic attempt, to incite racial animus if not a race war. White men are parodied as mean-spirited and lording it over women, brown people, and black people. This is Klein dropping the sweet and humble act and baring her fangs. If only she and her allies can tear the country apart by inciting racial animus, there might be an opening for the left to obtain political power.

Fortunately, Trump was elected president, and Naomi Klein is a lefty gadfly.

Global warming/climate change is a natural leftist cause. If we aren’t swearing off fossil fuels, it must be due to the sinister influence of corporate America. So, to get the maximum political mileage, global warming is depicted as unquestioned science – something like the law of gravity. Given that, if we are not eliminating carbon dioxide emissions, it must be because capitalist forces are selfishly, for profit, spreading confusion and lobbying against saving the world.

New York City Has 1,800 Public Schools. Why Not Let Parents Pick? Students can transfer out of 88 struggling schools, but many are trapped in merely mediocre ones. By Mene Ukueberuwa

As the final bells of the academic year sounded in New York City’s public schools two weeks ago, thousands of students and parents were dreaming of a better education down the block. Through a citywide program called Public School Choice, parents can apply to move their children from a poorly performing school to a better one. But the city Education Department’s stringent policy means that many of these requests are rejected. Last year about 5,500 families applied, but the city approved transfers for only 3,500 students.

Soula Adam, a single mother in Astoria, Queens, knows the disappointment of the rest. For years she tried to help her son Harry escape what she felt were lackluster teachers at P.S. 70, the same neighborhood school that she had attended as a girl. “I liked P.S. 122 on Ditmars Boulevard,” she recalls, explaining that the school was more rigorous and only two miles away. But she knew the city’s transfer guidelines would never allow her son into P.S. 122. “If you’re not zoned,” she says, “you couldn’t get in.”

Harry tried to win a spot at a charter school through an open lottery, but his number wasn’t called. Eventually he earned a scholarship to Saint Demetrios Astoria, a Greek Orthodox school close to home. That private generosity opened the door for the Adams, but thousands of other public-school pupils remain stuck.

Transfers between New York City schools first became available in 2003, after the No Child Left Behind Act required districts nationwide to create options for students whose schools lagged behind federal standards for progress. For more than a decade, however, the Education Department permitted moves only for students with specific hardships, such as health issues or one-way commutes over 75 minutes. Former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended this restriction on transfers for the sake of choice. “The system doesn’t work that way,” he told the Observer in 2014. “By definition, some kids get better choices.”

But last year the city began allowing “guidance” transfers, available to students who are not “progressing or achieving academically or socially.” The update received favorable notice from school-choice advocates, but the kicker is in the fine print: Transfers are still open only to students in 5% of New York City’s schools—the 88 designated as “priority” because of perennially poor performance. But nonpriority schools can still be bad, with as few as a quarter of test-takers proficient in English and math. Students at these schools have no recourse to move out and up.

Consider a tale of two elementary schools: P.S. 173 (Fresh Meadows) and P.S. 187 ( Hudson Cliffs ), less than a mile apart in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Both are zoned schools with no admission criteria beyond place of residence, and yet the share of students passing state exams in 2016 was 30 percentage points higher at Hudson Cliffs. The only thing that stops a bright student at Fresh Meadows from attaining success up the street is the city’s red tape.

In the long term, the free flow of students enabled by a reformed transfer program would put pressure on underperforming schools, as students left and budgets tightened. Successful schools wouldn’t be burdened by the influx of newcomers, since New York’s funding algorithm allocates enough money each year to cover the marginal cost of each additional student.

Critics may say the way to fix a bad school isn’t to cut its funding. But why should fear of tight budgets hold back students who are ready to succeed? Moreover, many of the city’s specialized private schools that serve low-income students have delivered impressive results with as little as half the funding per student as traditional public schools. CONTINUE AT SITE

When Donald Met Vlad We’ll learn what Putin thinks of Trump by what he tries to get away with.

By the time President Trump sat down in Hamburg, Germany with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the media hype had built the meeting into virtually the second coming of the Reykjavik Summit. The agreement that fell out of the Hamburg bilateral was the announcement of a cease-fire in southwestern Syria.

Any cessation of hostilities in Syria is welcome, and we can hope it will become the basis for similar agreements on the country’s more complex northern war fronts. But that would require Mr. Putin to abandon his grand strategy for re-establishing Russian influence across the Middle East, in partnership with Iran and Syria. That would take a real summit and more planning than went into the Hamburg sit-down.

Messrs. Trump and Putin brought only their foreign ministers into the meeting, suggesting that the primary goal here was to take each other’s measure. Both men famously pride themselves in their ability to size up adversaries—Mr. Trump as a negotiator of real-estate deals and Mr. Putin as a former KGB recruiter of foreign agents.

The American and Russian sides also bring distinctly different intentions into meetings like this one. For the American side, prodded by an insistent media narrative, the goal is to discover areas of possible “cooperation.” In Mr. Putin’s world, such a meeting has one purpose: to discover if he will be able to press Russian interests forward without significant pushback from the U.S. President.

Mr. Putin concluded that Barack Obama would pose minimal resistance, and so he seized Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine and adopted Syria’s Bashar Assad. He’s still in all three places.

We can’t guess what Mr. Putin made of Donald Trump. Mr. Trump for his part enjoys his reputation for unpredictability, and he confirmed this by pressing Mr. Putin on Russia’s efforts to disrupt the U.S. presidential election. Mr. Putin denied any meddling, but the Russian now has a new element in the Trump equation to think about.

Until now, Mr. Trump has let the Russian leader believe their dealings might be man-to-man. But by raising Russian interference in a U.S. election, Mr. Trump made clear to Vlad that he’ll be dealing with the President of all the American people. That sounds like a positive outcome.

Trump, Putin Spar on Hacks, Act on Syria Two leaders hold highly anticipated bilateral in Hamburg amid questions about Russian interference in U.S. elections, policies in Syria and Ukraine By Peter Nicholas

HAMBURG—Coming face-to-face in a highly anticipated meeting, the American and Russian presidents disagreed Friday over election interference and about the best approach to North Korea, but made tentative progress toward curbing the bloodshed in Syria’s long-running war.

President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin spoke for more than two hours Friday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leading nations summit in Germany. The meeting went so much longer than planned that first lady Melania Trump looked in at one point to see if she could coax them to wrap up.

It didn’t work. They kept talking another hour.

“It was an extraordinarily important meeting—so much for us to talk about,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was in the room, told reporters afterward. “And it was a good start.”

Mr. Trump’s interest lay not only in speaking in detail with the Russian leader, but also in trying to shape the narrative that emerged about the meeting. Toward that end, Mr. Tillerson provided a round-by-round account of the conversation, answering questions from reporters about a spectrum of international issues.

The first issue raised by Mr. Trump was one that has vexed him most at home: whether Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential race to help him win. Before Friday, it was far from clear Mr. Trump would mention it at all. As recently as the day before, Mr. Trump cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the election and was prepared to do it again.

“No one really knows for sure,” Mr. Trump said.

In private, however, the president told Mr. Putin that Americans are upset about Russia’s actions and want them to stop, Mr. Tillerson said. The president invoked a bill passed 98-2 by the Senate last month that would slap new sanctions on Russia in reprisal. The measure is now pending in the House.

Mr. Trump’s message: Russia could pay a higher price unless it keeps out of America’s democratic elections, Mr. Tillerson said.

“The president pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement,” Mr. Tillerson recounted.

Mr. Putin denied that Russia played a role. With the two men at odds, they agreed they wouldn’t let the issue poison the overall relationship between their countries. CONTINUE AT SITE