Stories We’re Watching
While Trump & Tiger Were Golfing, Europe & Japan Signed World’s Biggest Trade Deal
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Japan visiting Prime Minister Abe following the inking of Saturday’s EU-Japan trade deal. Covering nearly one third of global GDP, the trade deal is the world’s largest to date. The two leaders are expected to discuss the looming no-deal Brexit, uncertainties around the US-China trade war, and nuclear security issues following the US withdrawal from the INF treaty. The UK will likely have to leave the trade agreement in the event of a no-deal exit. Trade experts have praised the deal’s cross-border data rules, a key issue in the ongoing US-China trade war.
- Deutsche Welle: Merkel and Abe meet for talks on trade and nuclear arms
- Bloomberg: Merkel, Japan’s Abe Seek to Avoid Chaos From No-Deal Brexit
- Reuters: Germany’s Merkel drops hint of a ‘creative’ Brexit compromise
- BBC: EU-Japan trade: Five things about the world’s biggest deal
- Nikkei Asian Review: Japan-EU trade deal offers model for cross-border data rules
Magic Kingdom Can’t Understand Why Women are Fleeing, Plan to Look into App That Allows Men to Control Women
Saudi state media have reported that The Kingdom will look into how the male guardianship system is being abused. Saudi women cannot get a passport, a job, a bank account, or even a loan without the permission of a male guardian. Male guardians give (or rescind) permission and control international travel with an app called Absher. Seriously. Saudi Arabia has faced growing criticism over human rights abuses following the high profile case of Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, an 18 year old Saudi who fled during a family vacation last month. Saudi authorities have begun detaining women who speak out, and activists report that the women face cruel and inhumane conditions that meet the threshold of torture.
- Reuters: Saudi Arabia to address abuse of male guardianship system
- ABC News: The women who make it and the ones who don’t
- The Independent: MPs warn Saudis they face prosecution for torturing
- The Guardian: Saudi female activists face jail conditions akin to torture
- INSIDER: Saudi Arabia runs a huge, sinister online database of women ICYMI
Trump Says US Troops in Iraq to Watch if Iran is ‘doing nuclear weapons’
In an interview last night, President Trump said that despite troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and Syria, he plans to keep US troops in Iraq to monitor Iran. The President said: “We’re going to keep watching and we’re going to keep seeing and if there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do.” The president also doubled down on his criticism of the US intelligence community in the interview. Earlier today, Iraqi President Saleh rebuked President Trump’s newly announced Iraqi plans. Insiders worry that the president’s comments could undermine weeks of negotiations with senior Iraqi officials.
- Vox: Trump was asked to defend his Syria policy. His answer is incoherent
- The Guardian: Trump wants to keep US troops in Iraq to ‘be able to watch’ Iran
- Daily Beast: Iraqi President Slaps Down Trump for Saying US Troops Will Stay
- CBS News: Full transcript of “Face the Nation” on February 3, 2019
Erdogan Insists Only Turkey Should Manage Safe Zone, Also Claims that Turkey has Maintained Contact with Assad
Yesterday, President Erdogan insisted that Turkey alone should manage the proposed ‘safe zone’ along Syria’s Northeastern border. Last month, President Trump threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if they attacked US-allied Kurds. Since then, Erdogan has grown increasingly adamant that only Turkey manage and monitor the safe zone. Yesterday, Erdogan also announced that his administration had maintained direct contact with the Assad regime. Erdogan has accused Assad of terrorism and has called on him to step down on numerous occasions. Now, analysts say that Turkey is being forced to work with Assad due to increased pressure from Russia and Iran, two of Assad’s strongest allies. Russia, Turkey, and Iran are expected to meet in Sochi next week to discuss Syria.
- Haaretz: Despite Backing Rebels in Syria, Turkey Has Maintained Intel
- Bloomberg: Syria ‘Safe Zone’ Should Be Entrusted to Turkey, Erdogan Says
- WSJ: As Syrian Regime Regains Territory, Residents Grapple With Assad’s Red Tape
Mueller Updates: Manafort’s Sealed Hearing, Trump Refuses to Commit to Releasing Special Counsel’s Report
In a sealed hearing earlier today, a federal judge heard arguments on whether President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement. Prosecutors allege that Manafort “intentionally provided false information” after making his plea agreement. In a separate case, Manafort has pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the US and conspiracy to obstruct justice but has since claimed that he was mislead by prosecutors. Manafort is expected to face sentencing for those charges in Virginia later this week. Yesterday, President Trump refused to commit to making the special counsel’s report public.
- Salon: Donald Trump declines to commit to releasing Robert Mueller’s
- Bloomberg: Manafort Judge Clears Courtroom to Hear Sealed US Evidence
- Washington Post: End of Mueller investigation could spark battle between Justice Dept and Congress over release of special counsel’s report
*Maduro: PLZ HELP!
*Pope: New number. Who this?
Earlier today, eleven European nations officially recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president (but not Italy due to a split within Italian government). Following a Lima Group meeting in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would give $53m in humanitarian aid and increased calls for ‘President’ Nicolas Maduro to step down. Meanwhile, Maduro has threatened President Trump but has also written to the Pope—just in case.
- Financial Times: European powers recognise Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela
- Reuters: Italy blocks EU statement on recognizing Venezuela’s Guaido: sources
- The Guardian: Venezuela: Maduro warns White House will be ‘stained with blood’
- WSJ: No Dialogue for Maduro
BOOK CLUB: ‘Fascism: A Warning’ By Madeleine Albright With Bill Woodward
December’s choice of book is by a woman who has spent nearly four decades as a major force in American politics and international affairs, as such her newest book ‘Fascism: A Warning’ was bound to cause people to sit up and take notice. Indeed, over half of those who voted in the poll to choose our December read voted for this book. CONTINUE
ICYMI FP INTERRUPTED: Venezuela & Afghanistan: The Intervention Issue
5,000 troops to Colombia.”
Those two lines, caught this past week on John Bolton’s yellow legal pad, not only encapsulated the week’s headlines, it summarized the administration’s schizophrenic foreign policy. (Also, has no one else noticed that he has flying elephants on his tie?!) Let’s start with the first point.In Afghanistan, the U.S. has been in talks to end the 17-year war in that country, with the very people who prompted American intervention: the Taliban. (You remember those guys, yes? Charming.) On Monday, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan, announced “a draft framework” deal, brokered between American and Taliban officials — not with the Afghan government. The deal would guarantee that Afghan territory is never used by terrorists, such as Osama bin Laden. In exchange, the U.S. would fully withdraw its troops from the country. Yes, that’s the catch: American retreat. CONTINUE