The Guardian – Tom Phillips / Trump steps up Maduro pressure with sanctions on Venezuelan oil company
- The Trump administration has tightened the screws on Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, announcing sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil company PDVSA. The sanctions represent the US’s toughest economic move against Maduro to date.
- US National Security Advisor John Bolton said $7bn of PDVSA assets would be immediately blocked as a result of the sanctions, while the company would also lose an estimated $11bn in export proceeds over the coming year. The US is the biggest importer of Venezuelan crude.
- Republican senator Marco Rubio: “Venezuela’s oil belongs to the Venezuelan people and the money for oil will now go to them through the legitimate government of Guaido.”
- As he took the stage, Bolton was holding a notepad with a handwritten note that appeared to read: “5,000 troops to Colombia.” “The president has made it very clear on this matter that all option are on the table,” said Bolton.
- US and Taliban negotiators have agreed on a draft framework for a peace deal seeking to put an end to the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.
- Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said the Taliban had pledged not to give terrorist groups like al-Qaeda safe haven – a key demand from Washington if it pulls out troops.
- The Trump administration’s strategy has been to put pressure on the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government. The Taliban say they will only begin negotiations with the Afghan government once a firm date for troop withdrawal has been agreed.
- The Taliban are speaking from a position of relative strength. It is estimated that about 15 million people – half the Afghan population – are living in areas either controlled by the Taliban or where the militants are openly present and regularly mount attacks.
- Foreign Policy – Michael Hirsh / Ryan Crocker: The Taliban will ‘retake the country’
Al-Monitor – Jack Detsch / Mattis departure risks US policy void as Yemen pact falls apart
- As renewed clashes between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels threaten to wipe out the fragile truce in the key port city of Hodeidah, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has deputized John Rood, the department’s No. 3 official, to engage with the UN on Yemen.
- After James Mattis departure, some experts worry that Shanahan and Rood, both former defense industry executives, lack the contacts and credibility with Arab allies needed to salvage the deal.
- The Defense Department’s new leaders have not publicly emphasized the Yemen talks in recent weeks. Since assuming the job about three weeks ago, Shanahan, who served as Mattis’ deputy, has been consumed by the US withdrawal from Syria.
- House Democrats plan to reintroduce a challenge to the Trump administration’s war powers to support the Saudi-led coalition; the lower chamber passed a similar bill in November.
Euractiv – Robert Malley / The EU’s moment: Cast adrift by the US, threatened by Russia and China
- Under normal circumstances, this would be a moment for the US and EU to join forces and push back against Russian interference or Chinese trade practices, but circumstances are anything but normal. Europe is caught between an ally on which it cannot rely and two major powers it cannot ignore.
- That’s only half the story. Developments in European countries share a common thread. In France, after having benefited from the delegitimisation of traditional political parties and social mediators, President Macron finds himself confronting the very popular mood that helped him rise to power.
- The tragedy for the EU, in sum, is to have reached the moment of its greatest utility just as it reached the moment of its grimmest crisis. And still – in scenarios as diverse as Ukraine, Iran, Yemen and Venezuela – Europe can serve as a political mediator of sorts.
- There are no indispensable nations. But there are times when it is harder to dispense with some countries than at others. When it comes to the EU and its member states, today is one such time.
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.