ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 07/02/2019

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Al-Monitor – Laura Rozen / Trump, touting gains over IS, focuses on Syria exit

  • “It should be formally announced sometime probably next week that we will have [liberated] 100% of the caliphate,” US President Donald Trump told diplomats attending a ministerial meeting of the 79-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
  • In his second visit to the State Department since taking office, President Trump acknowledged that even with the territorial defeat of IS, remnants of the group would still exist and pose a continued threat.
  • According to a senior State Department official, “Our top three priorities [in Syria] continue to be to secure an enduring defeat of ISIS, to see the exit of all Iranian-commanded forces from the entirety of Syria, and to reach a political settlement of the conflicts.”
  • US officials still seem to be in partial denial that Trump remains focused on the exits, said Turkey expert Aaron Stein. The majority of US forces are currently expected to have left Syria by the end of April.
  • The New York Times – Rukmini Callimachi / A desperate exodus from ISIS’ final village

The Guardian – Heather Stewart / Why is May going back to the EU on Brexit? Eight key questions

  • British PM Theresa May will travel today to Brussels to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. This will mark their first meeting since the British Parliament rejected their Brexit deal.
  • UK officials and ministers have been working up potential proposals regarding the Irish backstop: an exit mechanism; an end date; and the technology-based alternatives favoured by many Brexiters. May will insist that all three options are still in play.
  • May’s government is also working on ways of getting some Labour MPs to support a tweaked version of her deal. If there is no new deal to bring back for approval, May has promised to table a motion in parliament on 13 February, which MPs could then amend.
  • An extension of Article 50 seems to be a likely scenario, although May has warned her cabinet not to speculate publicly about it. Downing Street points out that the EU27 would have to agree to an extension unanimously, and would be unlikely to do so just to allow squabbling MPs more time to coalesce around a proposal.

Financial Times – Roula Khalaf / The US goes to Warsaw to build an anti-Iran coalition

  • A little-noticed conference will be held in Warsaw on February 13: A ministerial “to promote peace and security in the Middle East.” The conference is a brainchild of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and, despite American denials, its intention is to rally countries around the Trump Administration’s hardline approach to Iran.
  • No western European capital is likely to hold an anti-Iran conference. But Poland, ruled by a nationalist government, wants to curry favour with the US. Foreign policymakers in Europe and the Middle East have scrambled to broaden the conference’s agenda so it can appear as something more than a ganging-up-against-Iran forum.
  • In any case, the US will be able to portray the summit’s Warsaw venue as a crack in the EU position. And the meeting has a second objective for the US: to join Gulf Arab states and Israel in a public forum.
  • Euractiv / Pompeo to build US ties with Hungary’s right-wing leaders

European Council on Foreign Relations – Felipe González (interviewed by José Ignacio Torreblanca) / How to restore democracy in Venezuela?

  • In Venezuela, there is a clash between democratic legitimacy and de facto power, which is typical of democratic transitions. 90 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro to go, but Maduro has 90 percent of the weapons.
  • I am worried that the conflict will escalate and become a global conflict. That is why I think it is a mistake to take it to the Security Council, as they have just done. There is a need to restore a regional dimension to the conflict and the EU should support that regional solution and establish some red lines.
  • Those who observe from a distance think that elections can be organized in 90 days. It is not true. There must be elections in the shortest amount of time possible, but this can be nine months, not 90 days. And there will never be elections that Maduro will lose if he is the one to call them.
  • The style of Trump and US National Security Advisor John Bolton resembles Maduro’s. What the international community has to say, with all clarity, is that nobody will accept a US military intervention in Venezuela. All that is required is the removal of the bayonets that sustain Maduro.
  • Foreign Policy – Amy McKinnon / Maduro vs. Guaidó: A global scorecard

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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