The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 16/06/2017

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The New York Times—J. Hirschfeld Davis / Moving to scuttle Obama legacy, Donald Trump to crack down on Cuba

  • In a partial reversal of Obama’s policy of appeasement with Cuba, Trump will outline stiffer rules for American travelers visiting Cuba and a sweeping prohibition against transactions with companies controlled by the Cuban military.
  • Trump is delivering on a politically potent promise he made to the Cuban-American exile community based in Miami, which backed him in last year’s election and was deeply opposed to the détente. However, his shift falls short of the wholesale reversal that many hard-liners were seeking.
  • The Trump administration will lay out conditions that the Cuban government would have to meet before the restrictions could be lifted, including holding free and fair elections, releasing political prisoners and allowing Cuban workers to be paid directly.
  • Many business leaders and human rights oppose Trump’s move, and even members of the US administration have privately argued that the effort to normalize relations with Havana had yielded national security, diplomatic and economic benefits for the US.

Financial Times—J. Brunsden / Greece and creditors reach deal on next part of bailout

  • Greece and its international creditors have reached a deal on the next stages of Athens’ €86bn bailout, removing the risk that it could default on more than €7bn in debt repayments that fall due next month.
  • Thursday’s deal resolves a stand-off between the Washington-based IMF and the EU over the conditions for the fund to take part in Greece’s bailout.
  • The IMF is set to formally join the rescue programme, but delay providing any money to Athens until the eurozone gives more clarity on what debt relief it is prepared to offer.
  • The Greek government is hoping that the bailout breakthrough can open up the possibility of the European Central Bank starting to buy its bonds as part of its economic stimulus programme.

Foreign Policy—C. MacDiarmid / ‘I want to die in the shadow of the flag of an independent Kurdistan’

  • President Masoud Barzani recently announced plans to hold a referendum on Kurdish independence, scheduling the vote for September 25.
  • The US remains committed to its one-Iraq policy, and neighboring Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan’s largest trading partner, has labeled the referendum “irresponsible” and a “grave mistake.”
  • “If this decision is made by referendum and the reaction is to isolate us, let our people die,” Barzani said in an interview with Foreign Policy. “That will be a ‘glory’ for the world that they have killed our people by starvation just because those people wanted — through democratic means — to express their destiny.”
  • The oil-dependent economy of Iraqi Kurdistan has languished with the fall in prices; the majority of the workforce is on the public sector payroll and is only receiving partial salary payments from the cash-strapped government.
  • The referendum lacks a legal mechanism for implementing its results — at most, it will be seen as providing officials with a mandate to pursue secession talks. Barzani was eager to emphasize that fracturing Iraq didn’t have to result in instability. “We will do whatever is necessary to support Prime Minster Abadi to make him successful in his premiership,” said Barzani.

Brookings—B. Milton-Edwards / GCC crisis: How to resolve the diplomatic rift

  • The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has seen its share of splits and disagreements. The present crisis, however, is by far the worst and most threatening in terms of politics, security and economy.
  • One individual who is clearly equipped to undertake a mediation role is the octogenarian Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, who already had success doing so in previous rifts. He is more than a mere intermediary—rather, he can leverage Arab and Gulf-based cultural, religious, and identity norms of appeal that resonate with all sides.
  • However, this time around it is unclear whether international actors such as the US or the EU will help or hinder conflict management.
  • Overall, the best approach would be for Washington to refrain from sending incoherent messages, stand back and adopt a more impartial stance, in order to give regional dispute resolution efforts a real chance to work.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo.    

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