ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 14/06/2019

Al-Monitor – Staff / Khamenei to Abe: Iran will not negotiate under pressure

  • After meeting with US President Donald Trump in the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe traveled to Tehran in order to meet with Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, becoming the first Japanese leader to visit Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
  • Abe had sought to mediate talks between Iran and the United States after the Trump administration exited from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear deal between Iran, the European Union and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (P5+1).
  • Khamenei, nonetheless, has remained firm in his position that after the United States violated the JCPOA, it can’t be trusted to negotiate another settlement. “The Islamic Republic of Iran has no trust in America,” Khamenei explained to Abe. “And the bitter experience of negotiations with America under the framework of the JCPOA will in no way be repeated because no free and reasonable country would accept negotiations under pressure.”
  • Regarding the issue of nuclear weapons, Khamenei noted, “We are opposed to nuclear weapons and there is my fatwa that developing nuclear weapons is forbidden. But know that if we had intentions to build nuclear weapons America would not be able to do anything and America not giving permission would be no obstacle.”

Financial Times – Robert Shrimsley / Boris Johnson takes a step towards becoming UK prime minister

  • Boris Johnson has one foot over the threshold of Downing Street. No one looks close to catching him, and given his undisputed popularity with Conservative party members, it would be a brave person who bet against Mr Johnson becoming the next prime minister.
  • During the first ballot of Tory MPs, he secured nearly three times as many votes as his closest rival, Jeremy Hunt, current foreign secretary. Mr Johnson is likely to pull in more support as his status is confirmed and hardline Brexiters like Esther McVey, who has been eliminated, and, eventually, Dominic Raab, leave the race. Mr Johnson’s safety-first strategy of lying low and offering as few hostages-to-fortune as possible is paying off.
  • The battle, however, is still on the second lot on the final ballot paper. Mr Hunt will be disappointed since his pitch to be the establishment, realist candidate helped him sweep up support from most of the big cabinet names, even across the party divides, from Leavers and Remainers. But the result shows he has not established himself as the undisputed alternative to Mr Johnson. Mr Hunt and the environment secretary, Michael Gove, are within six votes of each other.
  • Tory moderates now face a real big dilemma. Do they pile in behind Mr Hunt despite fears he offers little more than Theresa May by way of solutions to the Brexit puzzle? Mr Gove, as one of the figureheads of the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign, has more credibility with Brexiters and can, therefore, attempt to make the run-off against Mr Johnson a vote on competence and ability to deliver.

The New Yorker – Robin Wright / A Tanker war in the Middle East—again?

  • The Trump Administration charged that Iran was responsible for the two attacks on Thursday, and also attacks on four other tankers, on May 12th. All six ships were struck in the Gulf of Oman, the body of water between Oman and Iran, just beyond the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told at the State Department that: “This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication”.
  • In Tehran, the Islamic Republic denied responsibility. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.” He noted that the attacks on a Japanese-owned tanker occurred while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “for extensive and friendly talks.”
  • Some experts defended that both countries share some blame, with the world shouldering the costs. “If Iran is the culprit, the Trump Administration has only itself to blame for pushing Tehran to take aggressive steps that it has eschewed since the worst days of the Iran-Iraq War,” Ali Vaez, the director of the International Crisis Group’s Iran program, stated. “If Iran wasn’t behind it, it’s being framed by those who want to see a war between Iran and the U.S.”
  • In an ominous sign for the prospects of diplomacy deescalating the Gulf crisis anytime soon, Trump responded with his own tweet. “While I very much appreciate P.M. Abe going to Iran to meet Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal,” he wrote. “They are not ready, and neither are we.”
  • The New York Times – Robin Wright / Pompeo Says Intelligence Points to Iran in Tanker Attack in Gulf of Oman

Financial Times – Tim Harford / How the US is weaponising the world economy

  • The US seems unlikely to abandon the aggressive tweaking of the nerves and sinews under the skin of the world economy. Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman — political scientists at George Washington and Georgetown Universities, respectively — have popularised the term “weaponised interdependence”, the title of a forthcoming article in the journal International Security.
  • Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman defend that supply chains and digital networks can be used both as a “panopticon” to see everything that happens and as a “chokepoint”, denying access to some vital service. Both approaches require a certain bureaucratic apparatus. Therefore, there is more going on here than the whim of “Tariff Man”.  
  • That very temptation, of course, risks over-reach. The US is not the first global superpower to consider the use of financial and communication networks as a weapon of war. In the early 20th century, modern economies were increasingly underpinned by complex financing. Britain viewed the central role of London in the world’s banking, telegraph and marine insurance system as potentially decisive when coupled with the power of the Royal Navy. Should war break out with Germany, these networks could be used to sustain the UK economy while crushing that of Germany.
  • Two questions arise: would the US be wise to use its economic leverage more sparingly? And should other nations be building alternative networks beyond the hegemon’s gaze and grip?

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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