The Guardian – Tom Phillips / Daniel Ortega rejects blame for Nicaragua bloodshed in rare interview
- In an unexpected and rare television interview, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega attempted to wash his hands of responsibility for the recent killings in the country and to play down the scale of the uprising, claiming the situation in Nicaragua was returning to normal.
- Ortega distanced himself from the masked paramilitaries behind many of the attacks on demonstrators, claiming, improbably, that they were bankrolled by drug traffickers or political enemies rather than his own administration.
- Ortega rejected calls for him to step down and said bringing elections forwards from 2021 as demanded by the opposition would only bring more instability and insecurity to Nicaragua.
The New York Times – Choe Sang-Hun / North Korea starts dismantling key missile facilities, report says
- According to a 38 North report by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., North Korea has started dismantling a missile-engine test site at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, as US President Donald Trump said the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, promised he would during their historic summit meeting in Singapore.
- Bermudez said that North Korea has also started dismantling a rail-mounted building at the Sohae station where workers used to assemble space launch vehicles before moving them to the launchpad.
- However, it still remained unclear whether North Korea planned to raze the entire Sohae site in the country’s northeast, which has been vital to its space program.
- North Korea officially says it no longer needs nuclear or missile tests because it has completed building its nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles and begun mass-producing them. Some Western officials and analysts still doubt that the country has mastered the technologies needed for launching a reliable long-range missile to a target across an ocean.
Politico – Adam Behsudi / Trump: US ready to ‘do something’ about EU auto imports
- Trump on Monday threatened Europe’s car exports ahead of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s visit to Washington later this week. “They’re coming in to see me Wednesday and we’ll see if we can work something out … Otherwise we’ll have to do something,” Trump said.
- The US president is weighing a 20-percent tariff on imports of automobiles and auto parts under a law that allows the executive to impose tariffs and other trade restrictions if the Commerce Department determines that imports of certain goods threaten national security.
- Trump has consistently targeted the EU for maintaining a 10 percent tariff on imported vehicles while the US has a 2.5 percent tariff on imports of passenger vehicles.
- Trump also mentioned Mexico and said he had talked with President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador at length. “We’re talking to them about doing something very dramatic, very positive for both our countries,” he said, mentioning trade and NAFTA without bringing up Canada.
Foreign Affairs – Suha Maayeh & Nicholas A. Heras / The fall of Daraa
- In July 2017, Jordan, Russia, and the US agreed to create a “de-escalation zone” covering Daraa (the rebel stronghold where the uprising that sparked the Syrian civil war began), Quneitra, and Sweida. The de-escalation zone more or less held for most of the year, as Bashar al-Assad’s forces carried out offensives elsewhere in Syria.
- But throughout this period Assad continued to keep an eye on Daraa. At first, Assad tried to win back southwestern Syria through Russian-led talks. When the opposition balked at the proposed terms, Assad decided to retake southwestern Syria by force, with Russian and Iranian support.
- ETANA, a Syrian-led research organization based in Amman, counted 352 civilians killed and over 630 wounded as a result of the offensive, and the UN estimated that more than 720,000 residents of southwestern Syria were at direct risk of being displaced by the fighting.
- Despite the military setbacks and the humanitarian crisis, many of the rebel leaders in Daraa tried to remain defiant. “It is impossible for anyone who has fired one bullet against the regime to remain alive. If it doesn’t kill him, he will be tried on terrorism charges and then killed,” said one armed opposition commander based in Daraa.
- Ultimately, the rebels only managed to slightly delay the inevitable conclusion of all the fighting: Assad won, and the regime is returning to Daraa with a vengeance.
The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.