ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 19/12/2017

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Financial Times—Joseph Cotterill & David Pilling / Cyril Ramaphosa wins ANC leadership race dealing blow to Zuma

  • Cyril Ramaphosa was elected leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress on Monday, threatening President Jacob Zuma’s grip on power.
  • Ramaphosa, the deputy president, narrowly defeated Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s former wife, whom the president had backed.
  • The ANC, the party that defeated apartheid under Nelson Mandela’s leadership, is at risk of losing its majority for the first time at the 2019 election.
  • Ramaphosa will now lead the ANC to the polls in 2019 with the task of reviving support among the country’s black majority, who have grown alienated by Zuma’s scandals and the claims of corruption at the heart of his presidency.

Politico—Emily Schultheis / Grand coalition the only option for new government, says Merkel

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated yesterday that she sees only one option when it comes to building a government with the Social Democrats (SPD): another so-called “grand coalition.”
  • “Coalition negotiations will be established with the goal of building a stable government,” Merkel said. “That means not with changing majorities.”
  • Merkel added that CDU leaders are in “complete agreement” with her on the matter.
  • SPD members have indicated they want to consider other options, including a Merkel-led minority government. “There are different models with which you can build a stable government,” said SPD leader Martin Schulz.

Politico—Matthew Karnitschnig / Germany revives Putin’s pipeline dream

  • With the likely return of the SPD to a role in the German government, Nord Stream 2 has got a new lifeline.
  • German officials saw ending Nord Stream 2 as a way to put the relationship with Poland – which is against the project – back on track. In exchange for backing away from Nord Stream 2, Berlin wanted Warsaw to drop demands that Germany pay war reparations.
  • However, that plan all but died the moment the three-way coalition talks collapsed. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD’s leader until last year, was an early advocate of the €9.5 billion project and has made it clear he continues to stand behind it.
  • Officials close to Angela Merkel say she would be willing to sacrifice the pipeline, if she could do so while avoiding a clash with the SPD. The Russians could also decide to pull back from Nord Stream 2, if they conclude the project isn’t worth the investment.
  • Nord Stream 2 is “clearly not a commercial project,” said former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “It’s political, to make Europe even more dependent on imported Russian gas and to circumvent Ukraine and other eastern partners.”

The New York Times—Michael Schwirtz & Rick Gladstone / U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution condemning move on Jerusalem

  • The United Nations Security Council demanded on Monday that the Trump administration rescind its decisions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to put the United States Embassy there.
  • The demand was vetoed by the American ambassador, Nikki R. Haley. She was the only one to do so, as all other 14 members voted for the resolution, which had been drafted by Egypt.
  • Haley noted that it was the first time in six years that the United States had used its veto power in the Council.
  • The Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, who had planned to meet Vice President Mike Pence on a visit to Jerusalem this week, canceled that meeting in protest against Trump’s announcement.

Al-Monitor—Giorgio Cafiero / Will Bahrain, Israel establish formal relations in 2018?

  • Bahrain and Israel’s shared threat perception of Iran’s growing regional influence has driven Manama’s quiet outreach to the Jewish state over the past year. However, President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital has hindered the prospects of formalized Bahraini-Israeli diplomatic relations.
  • After Trump’s announcement, Palestinian guards at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem expelled “This is Bahrain” – a 24-member Bahraini interfaith delegation, which had arrived in Israel to discuss normalizing Bahraini-Israeli relations – from the holy site.
  • Bahrain’s state-owned media has attempted to distance itself from the delegation, maintaining that “This is Bahrain” does not represent official government policy.
  • There is good reason to speculate that Riyadh has been directing Manama to take the lead in the Arab Persian Gulf states’ quiet yet significant overtures to Tel Aviv. In the next year, the future of Bahrain’s relationship with Israel – and whether they will establish diplomatic relations – will be heavily influenced by other GCC states’ response to the Jerusalem crisis.

Financial Times—Bryan Harris & Hudson Lockett / White House blames North Korea for WannaCry cyber attack

  • According to the White House, North Korea was “directly responsible” for the massive WannaCry cyber attack that took place in May, affecting at least 200,000 computers across 150 countries.
  • A number of cyber security groups had earlier suggested North Korea’s involvement in the attack. The public accusation by the White House was apparently designed to bolster international pressure on Pyongyang.
  • “Cyber operations offer North Korea an asymmetric advantage because its adversaries are much more reliant on technology than North Korea is, which makes North Korea much less vulnerable,” said Tim Wellsmore, a threat intelligence director at cyber security group FireEye.
  • The White House called on the private sector to improve accountability in denying North Korean and other malicious actors the ability to launch cyber attacks.

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

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