EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 08/01/2020

Foreign Policy – Lara Seligman & Robbie Gramer / Iran launches attack on U.S. bases in Iraq

  • Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq, as the U.S. Defense Department confirmed on Tuesday. According to early reports, there were no Americans killed, but Iraqi casualties have been reported by security officials. President Trump signaled that there might be a window of opportunity to de-escalate tensions that have skyrocketed since the summer. He will address the country on Wednesday morning.
  • Tehran claimed responsibility for the strike, a rare move for a regime that primarily relies on proxies to carry out attacks. Following the Iranian missile attack, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, stated that an eventual war was not within Iranian interests: “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.” He also said that “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter.”
  • Reports trickled in overnight that U.S. forces were on high alert throughout the region in preparation for a major attack. CNN reported that U.S. troops were aware of threats from Iranian drones—the same ones that had been used to strike a major Saudi oil facility in September 2019. Since the strike on Suleimani, the Pentagon has ordered roughly 10,000 additional forces to the region, on top of the 14,000 that were sent in 2019.
  • EURACTIV – Alexandra Brzozowski / NATO, EU call on Iran to avoid ‘further provocations’
  • Financial Times – FT Reporters / Oil steadies after initial jolt sparked by Iran attack on US forces

The Atlantic – Robinson Meyer / America’s coal consumption entered free fall in 2019

  • The consumption of coal plunged last year in the United States, reaching its lowest level since 1975, as electrical utilities switched to cheaper natural gas and renewables. Over the past decade and a half, coal’s collapse has saved tens of thousands of lives nationwide, according to new research, and cut national greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 10 percent. However, outside of the power sector, the country’s planet-warming pollution continued to grow last year.
  • According to the estimate of the United States’ 2019 greenhouse gas emissions, published by the Rhodium Group, U.S. greenhouse-gas pollution fell by 2.1 percent, driven almost entirely by coal’s decline and a plodding economy. While that overall decrease is nominally good, it’s not happening fast enough.
  • The new report tells, thus, two different stores. The first is that coal consumption is cratering, while the second is that, ultimately, the electricity sector generates only about 27 percent of national climate pollution. The remaining 73 percent of national emissions are produced by the rest of the economy, and these have barely budged. Preparing the whole economy for decarbonization will take aggressive federal policy, according to Constatine Samaras, a professor of civil and environmental  engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
  • The Atlantic – Robinson Meyer / Australia will lose to climate change

Financial Times – Gita Gopinath / Digital currencies will not displace the dominant dollar

  • The global discussion on the future of money has been irreversibly altered after Facebook announced plans for a digital currency. While Libra’s own prospects have dimmed, major central banks are considering whether “public” digital currencies are needed to fill a gap in retail payment needs. Different analysts suggest that the addition of private and central bank-backed digital currencies could provide the long expected but elusive shock that finally dislodges the US dollar from its decades-long dominance in global trade and finance.
  • These are intriguing possibilities, but are improbable in the near term. Improvements in payment technology may have lowered the cost of switching from cash to digital payments, but there is little evidence they have done much to reduce the expense of moving among currencies. Advances in payment technologies do not address fundamental issues of what it takes to be a global reserve currency.
  • The dollar’s status is bolstered by the institutions, rule of law, and credible investor protection that the US is seen as providing. Simply raising the supply of an alternative currency will not be enough to surmount these considerations. Chinese efforts to internationalise the renminbi have met only limited success despite a policy push and liquidity support through bilateral swaps with more than 30 central banks. However, the world would benefit from a more balanced system in which the euro and the renminbi have a bigger role, but technology can’t solve the problem alone.

The New York Times – Declan Walsh / Libya rebels capture key coastal city  in threat to U.N.-backed government

  • The Libyan beleaguered government stated on Tuesday that Libyan rebels have seized control of Surt, a key coastal city, amid new criticism that the growing role of foreign powers in the chaotic conflict has fueled a sudden escalation in fighting. Forces loyal to the militia leader Khalifa Hifter swept into the city on Monday, days after Turkey announced that it was deploying troops to prop up the weak United Nations-backed government.
  • If Mr. Hifter can hold Surt, analysts say, his forces could stretch government forces even thinner by drawing fighters away from the defense of Tripoli. A variety of regional powers has lined up in support of Mr. Hifter, drawn by his anti-Islamist stance and an authoritarian style that some believe make him a potential leader of Libya. Critics call him a ruthless tyrant intent only on wielding power.
  • On Tuesday the Tripoli government, blaming pro-Hifter “sleeper cells” inside Surt, said it had voluntarily withdrawn its forces to avoid bloodshed. However, the loss caused consternation in Misurata, a coastal city 130 miles to the west whose fighters are the linchpin of government efforts to defend Tripoli.
  • POLITICO – Jacopo Barigazzi & Hans von der Burchard / EU ministers and Borrell urge Turkey to stop interfering in Libya
  • The Washington Post – Isabelle Khurshudyan & Sarah Dadouch / Putin meets with Syria’s Assad with the Middle East on edge

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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