WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Heritage Foundation May 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. Pompeo spoke on the topic of "After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy." (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo © Getty

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When US secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued demands for a new nuclear treaty with Iran, he described the requests as “very basic requirements” that were not “unreasonable”. Many observers disagreed. Before Mr Pompeo had even presented the plan, UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson slammed it as unworkable.

Our reporter in Washington writes that some critics think this was the point: the proposals are so stringent that it could be a bid to oust the country’s leadership.

“While Mr Pompeo stopped short of calling explicitly for a change of government, his demands were so exacting and so unlikely to be met by Tehran that many see them as proxy for the same thing.” (FT, Bloomberg)

In the news

ZTE breakthrough?
It appears that the US and China have agreed on the broad outline of a deal to settle the controversy over Chinese telecoms company ZTE. China will also cut the import duty on cars to 15 from 25 per cent. Our China bureau chief explains why Beijing has the upper hand in the ongoing trade talks. (WSJ, FT)

Ireland prepares to vote
Days ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum — seen by many as a modernising step for an increasingly liberal country in which the once-powerful Catholic church has lost a great deal of influence — the mood has sharpened and debate has become increasingly contentious. (FT)

Oil industry rolls out the barrels
Investors in the world’s largest oil and gas companies are eyeing a gusher of rising crude prices as the sector heads towards its strongest financial performance in a decade. Companies including Total and BP have already launched share buyback programmes, and Royal Dutch Shell is preparing to follow suit. (FT)

Netflix’s next guests
Barack and Michelle Obama have signed a multiyear production deal to produce films and series — both fiction and non-fiction — for Netflix. (Variety)

Who is Giuseppe Conte?
Italy’s two populist parties have thrust Giuseppe Conte, a lawyer and university professor with scant political experience, into the spotlight as their preferred prime minister. Our Italy correspondent has this dispatch on Mr Conte’s rise to Palazzo Chigi (although he still needs to be accepted formally by the country’s president). (FT)

The day ahead

US-South Korea talks
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is to meet his counterpart Donald Trump in Washington. Top of the agenda will be the upcoming US-North Korea summit. In other news, North Korea is reportedly demanding that each foreign reporter pay $10,000 for a visa to cover the planned dismantlement of a nuclear test site. (Korea Times)

Facebook founder testifies
Mark Zuckerberg’s apology tour rolls into Brussels today. Politicians will have plenty of other things to ask about. Here are five questions we expect. Meanwhile, across Asia, governments are hunting and cracking down on “fake news” through new legislation. (FT, Nikkei Asian Review)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

What we’re reading

Team Trump’s ‘deep state’ paranoia
The FT’s Gideon Rachman takes on Donald Trump’s paranoid conspiracy theorising. Also, if you are struggling to understand what to read into Mr Trump’s tweeted demand for a Justice Department investigation, BuzzFeed sums it up best: “The tweet could set up a constitutional crisis. Or it could set up a now-familiar process of lawyers, essentially pushing off the request to avoid such a crisis. Or it could be forgotten by the week’s end.” (FT, BuzzFeed)

The diplomat who quit the Trump administration
Meet John Feeley, former US ambassador to Panama, in a piece with an incredible opening that sums up Donald Trump’s transactional — and personal — approach to foreign policy. (New Yorker)

Lula’s legacy of working-class gains at risk
Former Brazilian president Lula da Silva is in prison on graft charges, his leftist Workers’ party is in tatters amid corruption scandals and the economy, despite a recent bounce, is still struggling. That is the backdrop against which elections in October will be fought, with analysts predicting that the vote will be decided by Brazil’s huge new lower middle class. (FT)

Chart showing Brazil middle class

A tale of two Oxfords
Discontent is growing over how slowly the UK’s top universities are opening up to students from backgrounds not traditionally represented in their undergraduate intakes. A new experiment at Oxford could change everything. Read one student’s first-hand account in the FT about her lucky shot at the programme. (FT)

How to steal an election in broad daylight
Autocrats and faux democrats have perfected the art of vote rigging to stay in power — without breaking a single law. (Foreign Policy)

Booming economy, tragic price tag
The New York Times has a deeply reported piece on why farmers in Australia — the world’s breadbasket — are killing themselves. It is sobering stuff, but keep reading until part two of the newspaper’s series on rural Australia, which is more uplifting. (NYT)

Video of the day

Manchester bombing a year on: why UK terror threat is still ‘severe’
The FT’s security and defence editor David Bond examines reasons why the UK terror threat level remains “severe” on the one-year anniversary of the Manchester bombing that left 22 people dead and more than 500 injured. Read the full story here. (FT)

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