ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 20/12/2018

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Slate – Joshua Keating / Trump may not actually care that much about Iran

  • The most predictable thing about President Trump’s semi-official decision Wednesday morning to order the removal of US troops from Syria is the way it blindsided everyone from his own agency heads to America’s Kurdish allies in Syria.
  • To be sure, National Security Advisor John Bolton’s insistence on driving Iran out of Syria is a recipe for a quagmire. Iranian forces are going to remain in Syria for the foreseeable future, which means US forces would, as well. It’s also illegal. Congress arguably never authorized sending US troops to Syria to fight ISIS, and it definitely didn’t authorize them to fight Iran.
  • That being said, a full US withdrawal from Syria probably would be a boon for Tehran. In the wake of Trump’s decision, whether it is confirmed or not, US-backed Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria will no doubt rush to cement their nascent relationship with Assad, further extending the Iranian-backed leader’s control over the country.
  • Trump often seems to be more a hawk of convenience, calling for confrontation with Iran when it aligns with his other priorities. For Trump’s team, confronting Iran is an obsession, an organizing principle requiring massive resources and years of struggle. For Trump, it may just be a way to justify things he wants to do anyway.

International Crisis Group – Peter Salisbury / Making Yemen’s Hodeida deal stick

  • In the Yemen peace talks held in Sweden, the parties agreed to an “executive mechanism” for prisoner swaps, a ceasefire agreement on Hodeida and a “statement of understanding” to establish a committee to address the fighting in Taiz. The parties are set to reconvene in January for further talks.
  • Under the Hodeida ceasefire agreement, the rebels and the government agreed to remove their military forces from both the port facilities and the city. The parties also said they would establish and protect a humanitarian corridor.
  • The Stockholm agreement is the biggest step forward in UN mediation efforts in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in 2015, and it is a signal of increased international focus on the conflict. But it is also an indicator of the gulf yet to be bridged between the parties, which do not see the agreement as the beginning of a peace process.
  • UN mediator Martin Griffiths will now have to build on this imperfect but highly welcome and overdue agreement, which the Security Council should endorse via a new resolution. Without strong international support, the Hodeida ceasefire will falter.

Financial Times – Janan Ganesh / America’s future is Asian, not Hispanic

  • The real drag of Trump’s proposed border wall is intellectual: it distracts from the country’s true demographic future. You would not guess from the present acrimony that more people have immigrated to the US from Asia than from Latin America in every year since 2010.
  • Asians are projected to become the largest share of the overall US immigrant population by the middle of the century. After decades of neuralgia about “Hispanisation”, the future of the US seems to hinge at least as much on its Asians.
  • The historical record suggests that Americans will bear a foreign-born population of up to 15 per cent, but no higher, whatever its ethnic make-up. The US is nearing that mark for the first time in a century.
  • But if Asians help to turn the US’s demographic picture into something more like a mosaic than a Mark Rothko painting — two big blocks set against each other — then Samuel Huntington’s vision of a bifurcated nation (half Anglophone, half Spanish) would be averted.

Euractiv – Jorge Valero / Brussels cuts Iberia and Aer Lingus’s wings to fly in EU after Brexit

  • European flag carriers Iberia and Aer Lingus will no longer be permitted to fly within Spain and Ireland, their member states’ territories, or to any other EU airport if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement in less than 100 days.
  • After Brexit, International Airlines Group, their parent company, may fail to reach a majority EU-ownership, a requirement needed in order to maintain operating licenses. Vueling, also part of IAG, would be affected as well.
  • Yesterday, the European Commission proposed to grant special rights to air transport after UK’s departure on 29 March, as part of the contingency plans in case of a no-deal divorce. But special permissions would be limited to ensuring basic connectivity between the EU and the UK.
  • IAG would thus have to make room for EU-based stakeholders. However, the company will face an uphill battle to convince its owners. Qatar Airways, IAG’s largest stakeholder, had signaled that it would like to expand its ownership in the group, although it hopes to maintain its EU operating license.

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. 

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