ESADEgeo’s Daily Digest, 10/05/2017

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The New York Times—P. Baker / In Trump’s firing of James Comey, echoes of Watergate

  • Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the person leading an investigation bearing on him.
  • Comey had said publicly that the FBI was investigating Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election and whether any associates of Trump’s campaign were coordinating with Moscow.
  • Democrats rushed to condemn the move, despite last year’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server. A few Republicans also expressed misgivings about the firing.
  • The appointment of Comey’s successor could distract the White House at a time when it wants the Senate to focus on passing legislation to repeal Obamacare.

Al-Monitor—J. Pecquet / Congress unsure what’s next after Trump decides to arm Syrian Kurds

  • U.S. Congress broadly supports Trump’s decision to arm Kurdish forces in Syria.
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker: “I’m glad they’re finally following through on what they’ve known for some time: This is the only course that appears to be feasible relative to Raqqa.”
  • The decision to arm the Syrian Kurds had long been expected but was postponed until last month’s referendum in Turkey to avoid ginning up anti-American sentiment. U.S. and Turkish interests, said Corker, “are not aligned right now.”
  • Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the head of the U.S. coalition against ISIS, said in March that he had seen “absolutely zero evidence” linking the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) in Syria to the PKK.
  • Aaron Stein, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council: “”That’s the basic trade-off: Do you slow the Raqqa campaign and search for an alternative approach, which is the McCain-Graham approach, and thereby try to preserve a stronger relationship with Turkey? Or do you go with the CENTCOM [US Central Command] approach, which is you need to do Raqqa fast while you have the momentum against the Islamic State, and Turkey cannot generate the forces it needs to take the city?”

Financial Times—V. Mallet / South Korea’s new president will be no pushover

  • Moon’s election as new South Korean President should be attributed mostly to domestic issues, rather than geopolitical concerns.
  • Moon is perceived as a solid leader of the left who represents a break from 9 years of conservative rule, marked at the end by the corruption scandal involving President Park.
  • The hawkish critics of Moon fear that he will be a soft touch for the North Koreans, and that he will be eager to make economic and diplomatic concessions to Pyongyang.
  • However, Moon will be no pushover for North Korea. He has expressed his willingness to improve relations with China and his doubts about the US military shield in South Korea, but also said he is “on the same page” as Trump.

South China Morning Post—M. Chan / China’s missile tests in Bohai ‘aimed at THAAD in South Korea’

  • In a rare public statement, the Chinese defense ministry announced that Chinese rocket forces tested a new type of missile aimed at the country’s waters west of the Korean peninsula.
  • Military analysts claim that the statement came in response to the deployment of the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea.
  • Hong Kong-based military analyst Liang Guoliang: “Given the landing area, the test is obviously aimed at THAAD in South Korea.”

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