EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 07/01/2020

Foreign Policy – Steven A. Cook / There is nothing left for Americans to do in Iraq

  • It would be one thing to kill Suleimani and bear the burden of the associated risks if there was a plausible case to be made that getting rid of him would have a salutary effect on Iraq and the U.S. ability to influence events there. That seems unlikely. Iraq is in a state of terminal collapse, and the United States is isolated and impotent there. It is thus hard to understand what Washington wants, and what the Americans who were left vulnerable to the likes of Suleimani are actually able to accomplish.
  • The truth is that the state of Iraq is lost and it is time for the U.S. to leave the country. Iraq is not a state in the sense that it has a monopoly over violence or can enforce property rights. The system of political and economic spoils set up after the 2003 invasion has led to voracious corruption, robbing Iraq of its natural wealth and impoverishing its people.
  • There is an argument to be made that the USA must remain in Iraq to fight the Islamic State. In the abstract that makes sense, but reality is different. The central government in Baghdad is contributing to conditions that are ripe for the Islamic State to reemerge as a significant threat. That would be a reason to stay in Iraq, but given the fact that the USA doesn’t have influence over Iraqi politics, U.S. forces would be reduced to a never-ending mission of whack-a-mole.
  • POLITICO – Jacopo Barigazzi / Iran told EU foreign policy chief it doesn’t want escalation
  • Financial Times – Gideon Rachman / America should drop the ‘Dr Evil fallacy’ on assassination

The New York Times – Raymond Zhong / Awash in disinformation before vote, Taiwan points finger at China

  • As Taiwan gears up for a major election this week, officials and researchers worry that China is experimenting with social media manipulation to sway the vote. Doing so would be easy, they fear, in the island’s rowdy democracy, where the news cycle is fast and voters are already awash in false or highly partisan information. China has been upfront about its dislike for President Tsai, who opposes closer ties with Beijing. The polls, however, suggest that China’s heavy-handed ways might be backfiring and driving voters to embrace Ms. Tsai.
  • Due to the fragile situation, Beijing may be turning to subtler, digital-age methods to inflame and divide. Taiwanese society has woken up to the threat. The government has strengthened laws against spreading harmful rumors. Companies including Facebook and Google have agreed to police their platforms more stringently. “We understand that the people who are sowing discord are also building a community, that they are also learning from each other’s playbooks,” said Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister.
  • Puma Shen, an assistant professor at National Taipei University who studies Chinese influence efforts, does not believe that disinformation from China is always guided by some central authority as it spreads around the internet. “It’s not an order from Beijing. Much of the activity seems to be scattered groups of troublemakers, paid or not, who feed off one another’s trolling. “People are enthusiastic about doing this kind of stuff there in China,” he emphasized.
  • The Economist / Taiwan’s China-sceptic president, Tsai Ing-wen, may win again

The Washington Post – Rachelle Krygier & Anthony Faiola / Venezuelan opposition vows to retake National Assembly after lockout

  • Venezuelan opposition politicians led by Juan Guaidó will seek on Tuesday to retake the National Assembly chamber they were barred from on Sunday, setting up a showdown over President Maduro’s attempt to seize control of the last democratic institution left in the country. Their bid to regain control of Venezuela’s assembly building in central Caracas would come two days after what the opposition has decried as a “parliamentary coup.” 
  • Maduro’s forces on Sunday locked out Guaidó along with other lawmakers. After a melee on the floor of the legislature, a lawmaker accused of taking bribes from the government was abruptly sworn in as head of the body. The move appeared to be an attempt by Maduro to sideline Guaidó by preventing his reelection on Sunday as head of the assembly. Guaidó stated that: “The dictatorship will decide tomorrow if it will continue its farce, which no one recognizes.”
  • There is some chance, senior opposition figures argue, that Maduro may back off Sunday’s action in the face of broad international condemnation. Even the leftist governments in Mexico and Argentina joined a chorus of international criticism from Washington to Brasilia to Brussels.
  • The Guardian – Tom Phillips / More than 60,000 people are missing amid Mexico’s drug war, officials say

EURACTIV – Tea Trubić / ‘Now begins a war in the party, with everyone against Plenković’

  • The Croatian citizens chose former Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Milanović as their new president in a run-off ballot on Sunday, denying conservative incumbent Kolinda Grabar Kitarović a second five-year mandate and setting the stage for a tense cohabitation with the ruling centre-right government.
  • The result has been a relevant surprise at the start of Croatia’s first EU Council presidency and makes the future of the current PM Andrej Plenković and his HDZ party (EPP) uncertain. Croatia’s president cannot veto laws but has a say in defence, foreign policy, and intelligence matters and is generally seen more as a moral authority and upholder of the constitution.
  • Her defeat is also a symbol of a ‘silent war’ simmering in the right-wing camp between Plenković’s group of the moderate centre-right and party hardliners who believe the party is moving too much to the centre. Plenković’s destiny as party leader remains unclear given the fact that the HDZ is going to hold internal elections this spring and his hard-line political opponents have already announced their candidacies.
  • The Washington Post – Associated Press / North Macedonia’s PM resigns, caretaker government elected

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.

Política Internacional |