ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 02/10/2019

CNN – Peter Bergen / A year later, what Khashoggi’s murder says about Trump’s close ally

  • A year ago, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi writer, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork, but he was never seen again. He was a critic of the Saudi regime and was living in exile in the United States. He was murdered inside the Istanbul consulate on October 2, 2018, by a team that was dispatched from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have consistently denied that crown prince Mohamed bin Salman had any direct role in the murder and instead have limited it to a rogue operation by overzealous subordinates. They charged eleven of them, five of whom face a possible death penalty.
  • The CIA concluded that bin Salman had ordered the murder of Khashoggi, and at first it looked like President Trump would distance from MBS, but a month later, Trump backpedaled, citing putative massive American arms sales to the Saudis.
  • Now Bin Salman faces what may be his most difficult foreign policy challenge yet: What to do about the drone and missile attacks earlier this month against Aramco Abqaiq oil facility, an attack the crown prince and the Trump administration have plausibly blamed Iran for. One can only hope that MBS and President Trump don’t launch a war against Iran. However, it’s hard to imagine them not responding at all since the Iranians have shown they can now attack with impunity
  • Mohammed bin Salman may be able to preside over the murder of a dissident journalist in Turkey with relative ease, but there is little in his conduct of foreign policy hitherto to suggest that he will skillfully deal with the Iranians.
  • The Washington Post / Jamal Khashoggi: A missing voice, a growing chorus

The New York Times – Choe Sang-Hun & David E. Sanger / Hours after agreeing to resume talks, North Korea launches missile

  • North Korea launched at least one ballistic missile toward the waters near Japan early Wednesday, just hours after announcing it had agreed to resume long-stalled talks with the United States concerning its nuclear weapons program. It was unclear whether the missile that launched on Wednesday was fired from a submarine, a ship, or a platform on or under the water. However, the office of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said this projectile could have been the submarine-launched version.
  • Along with its intercontinental ballistic missiles, North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile programs pose one of the biggest military threats to the United States and its regional allies because they can extend the range of the North’s nuclear missiles. Submarine-launched missiles are also harder to detect. It was the ninth time North Korea had tested ballistic missiles or other projectiles since late July, and was its first weapons test since Sept. 10.
  • Concerning the bilateral talks with the United States, they would be the first since the Hanoi summit meeting, when the United States rejected Mr. Kim’s offer to close his core nuclear site in return for the lifting of the most onerous American sanctions. It should be noted that American officials have struggled to come up with new proposals, including some that would take a more step-by-step approach to disarmament, rather than the rapid action that Mr. Trump has wanted. Among the ideas the State Department is exploring is some kind of temporary “nuclear freeze” that would keep Mr. Kim from continuing to expand his arsenal, now estimated at 30 to 60 weapons.

Financial Times – Chris Giles / Sharp US manufacturing contraction fuels global economic gloom

  • Manufacturing activity is contracting across advanced economies, according to data released on Tuesday that pointed to the impact of US President Donald Trump’s trade policies. In the United States, a key indicator measuring activity recorded its lowest level in more than a decade for September, while global data showed the sector was feeling the chill wind of recession.
  • Although manufacturing is only a small part of global economy, it is one of the most volatile sectors and often acts as a leading indicator of global swings in economic fortunes. On Tuesday, the World Trade Organization more than halved its estimate for trade growth this year, blaming “escalating trade tensions” for the cuts. This situation would leave world trade volumes growing only 1.2% in 2019.
  • President Trump went to Twitter to blame the Federal Reserve for US manufacturing woes. “As I predicted, Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve have allowed the Dollar to get so strong, especially relative to ALL other currencies, that our manufacturers are being negatively affected,” he tweeted. However, manufacturing activity has been weakening across the world since President Trump began to ramp up trade tensions in early 2018 — regardless of currency movements.

Euractiv – Georgi Gotev / Wojciechowski’s poor performance adds to Von der Leyen’s woes

  • The Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen is already busy replacing the Romanian and Hungarian Commissioners-designate, who were rejected by the Parliament’s legal affairs committee earlier this week for issues related to conflicts of interest, but she may have to deal with another rejection. Polish Commission-nominee Janus Wojciechowski also had issues with the European Anti-Fraud Office over his personal finances, but he risks rejection for another reason – his overall weak performance.
  • Wojciechowski failed to provide concrete answers to many questions and some of his answers were “really strange,” according to Herbert Dorfmann, agriculture spokesperson for the-centre right European People’s Party. The EPP group will therefore ask further clarifications before deciding its position, the spokesperson added. Indeed, Wojciechowski appeared to speak generalities and evaded tough questions on agriculture policy, pleading instead for the need of a long-term vision.
  • The Socialists and Democrats also expressed disappointment after the hearing. However the group decided to give him a second chance. Members of the centrist Renew Europe Group also concluded that his performance was not satisfactory and demanded that he further elaborates his vision for future European agricultural policy, firstly written and then in a second hearing.
  • Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for von der Leyen. Based on MEPs recommendations, leaders of the Parliament’s political groups will decide on 17 October if the Assembly has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the Parliament will hold a plenary vote on 23 October, in Strasbourg, on whether to approve or reject the Commission as a whole.
  • POLITICO / Commissioner hearings Day 3: Live blog

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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