Jun 19, 2021

Axios AM

Happy Saturday! It's Juneteenth — a day for reflection and celebration.

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 985 words ... < 4 minutes. Edited by Kate Nocera.
1 big thing — Exclusive: New problem with U.S. withdrawal

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Pakistan will "absolutely not" allow the CIA to use bases on its soil for cross-border counterterrorism missions after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan tells Jonathan Swan in a wide-ranging, exclusive interview airing tomorrow on "Axios on HBO."

  • Why it matters: The quality of counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan is a critical question facing the Biden administration as U.S. forces move toward total withdrawal by Sept. 11.

Despite an uneasy relationship with Pakistan, whose military has deep ties to the Taliban, the U.S. has conducted hundreds of drone strikes and cross-border counterterrorism operations from Pakistani soil, Swan and Zachary Basu write.

  • But Khan was unequivocal: He told Swan during the interview in Islamabad that Pakistan will not allow the CIA or U.S. special forces to base themselves inside his country ever again.
  • The Biden administration also is exploring options in Central Asia to maintain intelligence on terrorist networks inside Afghanistan. But those countries are in Vladimir Putin's sphere of influence.

Between the lines: American officials privately hope they can come to a covert arrangement with Pakistan's military and intelligence services.

  • Watch a clip from the show, which airs Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.

🎬 The interview is already making waves in Pakistan, just based on the promo clip.

  • #AbsolutelyNot is the top trending topic on Pakistani social media, where Swan memes are already a thing:
Via Twitter
2. America's new reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Corbis, Brittany Murray/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Juneteenth, a once-obscure commemoration of emancipation of enslaved people in Texas, is now an annual reminder that slavery robbed Black Americans of generational wealth, Axios race and justice reporter Russell Contreras writes.

  • Why it matters: That lack of generational wealth denies Black families economic security that many white families take for granted.

Ongoing disparities can be directly linked to the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, says Shawn Rochester, author of "The Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America."

After the death of George Floyd forced a national reckoning on social justice, this year's Juneteenth events are bringing new attention to ways the nation financially benefited from enslaved Black lives.

  • The Movement for Black Lives is using Juneteenth celebrations to discuss reparations as a means to build wealth and address racial inequities in education, housing, and business ownership.
  • Georgetown Law's Institute of International Economic Law and the Black Economic Alliance hosted members of Congress this week at a forum on including Black Americans in the digital economy.
  • The McKinsey Global Institute and the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility this week released a report showing the consequences of generations of exclusion.

Keep reading for more data, context, history.

3. Iran elects hardliner
Ebrahim Raisi waves to media after voting at a polling station in Tehran yesterday. Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi easily won Friday's presidential election in Iran, recording 62% of the vote with more than 90% of ballots counted, Axios from Tel Aviv author Barak Ravid reports.

  • Why it matters: Currently the head of Iran's judiciary, Raisi is a close confidant of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and has the support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). His victory solidifies him as a leading candidate to succeed Khamenei, though the low turnout speaks to the disillusionment of many Iranian voters.

A U.S. official tells Axios' Dave Lawler that the Biden administration wants to finalize an agreement with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal before Raisi is sworn in the first week of August. (Go deeper.)

  • Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to congratulate Raisi. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah were also quick.

Between the lines: Turnout was just under 50% according to Iranian media reports, much lower than in previous elections. The polls were kept open for an additional two hours to drive that number up.

4. 💡 New alternative to vaccine card

California unveiled an optional Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record that lets residents easily obtain a QR code linked to the state's registry, instead of carrying around a slip of paper.

  • "The new portal to access electronic records, officials said, is not the same as a vaccine 'passport,' which has become politically controversial," the L. A. Times reports.
  • "Residents aren't required to obtain the electronic records, officials stressed, and there are no settings where the state mandates residents provide proof of vaccination as the sole option for entry."

Go deeper: Application for Californians to get the digital record.

5. 💰 IRS: Don't pay ransom. But if you do ...

As ransomware attacks surge, the FBI is doubling down on its guidance to businesses: Don't pay the cybercriminals. But the feds have a consolation for those who do pay: The ransoms may be tax deductible.

  • The IRS offers no formal guidance on ransomware payments. But multiple tax experts interviewed by AP said deductions are usually allowed under law and established guidance. It's a "silver lining" to ransomware victims, as some tax lawyers and accountants put it.

The fine print: If the loss to the company is covered by cyber insurance — something that also is becoming more common — the company can't take a deduction for the payment that's made by the insurer.

6. 1 film thing: Women's soccer stars relive pay fight
Photo: HBO

Soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Jessica McDonald walked the red carpet Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere of "LFG," a documentary that uses players' voices to explore the fight for equal pay by the U.S. women's national team, Reuters reports.

  • The title of the film, which begins streaming on HBO Max next Thursday, comes from the team's pre-game rally cry: "Let's F'ing Go."

Rapinoe said on the red carpet that she hopes women see themselves in the film: "Not everybody gets to stand where I'm standing with ... this mic and have a movie. ... But ... so many women around the world go through the exact same things that we're going through."

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