ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 20/02/2019

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The New York Times – Nicholas Fandos & Mark Mazzetti / House opens inquiry into proposed US nuclear venture in Saudi Arabia

  • According to a new report by US House Democrats, senior White House figures — including Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser — promoted an export plan that experts worried could violate laws and spread nuclear weapons technology in the volatile Middle East.
  • Even after Flynn was fired, the proposal — called “Middle East Marshall Plan” — appears to have lingered. House Democrats cited evidence that as recently as last week the White House was still considering some version of the proposal.
  • American nuclear energy companies, as well as the retired generals and other former government officials working with them, stood to benefit financially if the federal government signed off on the proposal for building the nuclear power sites, championed by the company IP3 International.
  • The export of American nuclear technology that could be used to create nuclear weapons is strictly controlled under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The act says that Congress must approve such exports, and at least one of the whistle-blowers that went to the Democrats claimed that officials involved ignored warnings about such legal requirements.

Al-Monitor / Iran’s hard-line MPs launch fresh drive to impeach Rouhani

  • A small group of ultraconservative Iranian lawmakers are pushing a motion to impeach President Hassan Rouhani. In Iran, an impeachment motion against a sitting president requires signatures from one-third of lawmakers to officially go before parliament.
  • So far, only 18 out of 290 parliament members have signed the motion. However, according to its architect, Mojtaba Zolnour, “some 80 other parliament members offered their verbal consent” and have promised to vote against Rouhani if an impeachment session is eventually held.
  • Largely seen as a symbolic gesture, the attempt has not been taken seriously by the Reformist media. The conservative daily Javan, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, did not embrace the impeachment idea either.
  • Although an impeachment attempt seems to have little chance of success under the current circumstances, voices of disappointment with Rouhani continue to be loudly heard even from among the Reformist camp’s top figures, as economic and budget strains continue to disrupt Rouhani’s government.

The Atlantic – Thomas Wright / The moment the transatlantic charade ended

  • For the past two years, we have been treated to a transatlantic charade. Everyone knows there’s a problem, but publicly the leaders proclaim that nothing has fundamentally changed. But at the 2019 Munich Security Conference, the charade ended.
  • In 2017, US Vice President Mike Pence spoke at length about the importance of the NATO alliance and its historic accomplishments. In 2019, there was none of that. Pence offered a litany of criticism leveled against NATO and the EU — for not doing enough on Iran, Nord Stream 2, or Venezuela.
  • The US administration’s America First approach to Europe is now riven with contradictions. Senior administration officials have repeatedly said that while the US was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, they were not calling on the EU to do the same. Now, Pence has demanded precisely that.
  • But the Europeans were not blameless either. Despite her celebrated speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not offer a way for Europe to succeed in a world defined by great-power competition. Neither did EU High Representative Federica Mogherini.
  • Rumors are rife in Washington of a new Trump move against the NATO alliance, which is preparing for a major meeting in Washington in April. Trump may believe he does not need Europe, and the Europeans may believe that America is temporarily lost, but meanwhile, China and Russia gain ground.

Brookings – Kaushik Basu / Ending America’s World Bank monopoly

  • The US nomination of David Malpass for the post of World Bank president came as something of a relief. But that does not mean that Malpass is the ideal choice for the job. Malpass is skeptical toward multilateralism, he is a Trump loyalist and — unlike the World Bank — he is conservative.
  • By now, the World Bank, the IMF, and economists have moved away from the Washington Consensus. Under Malpass, however, this progress could be undone, with the World Bank once again guided by the mantra of economic growth above all else.
  • There is no reason to think that Malpass would uphold the World Bank’s commitment to fighting climate change, or that he would encourage consideration of local realities, inclusiveness, or equitable distributive outcomes in creating policies.
  • Historically, Western European countries have always supported the US candidate to head the World Bank, while the US has always backed a European to head the IMF. These countries owe it to the world to rethink this arrangement. Europe, China, and India should be putting forward candidates as well.

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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