Europe/Americas update: March 8 2018

EUROPE

RUSSIA

Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen is reporting that one of the newest characters in Robert Mueller’s cast of crazies helped broker a $4.2 billion arms deal between Iraq and Russia back in 2012:

George Nader, 58, traveled to Moscow in 2012, telling Russian interlocutors that he represented Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the deal should be negotiated through him, according to two Iraqi sources. Nader’s role in the deal was controversial to Iraqi officials because Iraq’s minister of defense was in Russia to conduct the negotiations, and they were unaware that Maliki was working with Nader to bypass official channels.

 

One of the Iraqi sources, a former Iraqi official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition that he not be named, personally witnessed Nader’s interactions with Maliki in their Moscow hotel when he accompanied Maliki to Moscow in October 2012 to sign the arms deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 

Nader’s career as a deal broker in Iraq ran from the mid-2000s until Maliki left office in 2014, the Iraqi sources said. Nader then became an adviser to the powerful Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It is in that capacity that Nader’s meetings with members of the incoming Donald Trump administration in 2016-2017 — including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former chief strategist Steve Bannon — brought Nader to Mueller’s attention.

ITALY

As expected, both of the parties that came out of Sunday’s Italian election with reasonable claims to authority are casting their nets in search of coalition partners. The Five Star Movement and the League have both begun the process of demonstrating that they can form a government. Five Star is now the largest single party in the Italian parliament, but with an estimated 222-224 seats in the Chamber of Deputies they need to find around over 90 additional seats to get to a majority. The League, along with its center-right coalition partners (assuming that coalition holds together), will have about 40 more seats to begin with, so they’re only looking to make up a 50 seat or so deficit. But because the League is so hard right, it may be harder to find parties willing to serve in a League-led government.

The motherlode for radical Italian politics would be a Five Star-League coalition. That pairing would certainly be bad news for the European Union, though who cares really, but it would also be very bad news for asylum seekers and refugees. However, League leader Matteo Salvini has insisted that he will not quit the center-right coalition to form a union with Five Star. Now, Five Star and the whole center-right coalition could get together in a sort of “everyone in the pool” government, but that union probably wouldn’t be able to hold together very long. More likely is that either the center-right coalition or Five Star will find enough votes in the thoroughly beaten center-left coalition to form a government.

FRANCE

French President Brahma the Creator Emmanuel Macron is in India for the weekend, where he’s hoping to convince New Delhi to make France its new gateway unto Europe in place of Britain. There’s a lot of investment money to be made for France basically as a result of Brexit, but I’m sure Boris Johnson will be along any minute to explain to us why the rest of Europe desperately wants to cut a deal with Britain that leaves everything just the way it was.

UNITED KINGDOM

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster told a British Chambers of Commerce meeting in London on Thursday that she doesn’t see devolved rule coming back to Northern Ireland “in the coming weeks or months.” She also apparently finds it insulting when people suggest that the Troubles could make a resurgence if Brexit results in a hard Ireland-Northern Ireland border, which is her prerogative I guess but doesn’t change the fact that there is a risk of a return to those days if Brexit goes badly.

AMERICAS

PERU

Peruvian legislators are considering another attempt to oust President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski over his alleged links to the Odebrecht corruption scandal. They tried this once in December and failed, but maybe the second time is the charm.

COLOMBIA

FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, AKA Timochenko, is withdrawing from Colombia’s presidential election in May. He’s recovering from heart surgery but also, and perhaps more importantly, he’s only polling one percent higher than I am and I’m not even eligible to run. FARC is guaranteed ten seats in the Colombian Congress (five in each house) under the terms of its peace deal with Bogotá, but it might not be ready for presidential politics just yet.

MEXICO

Reunion con Andres López Obrador
The likely next president of Mexico (Wikimedia)

Another poll shows leftist Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador with a double digit lead in Mexico’s presidential race. This time Ipsos, in its first poll of the race, has found López Obrador, with 36.3 percent support, holding a 13.6 percent lead over centrist Ricardo Anaya and a 21.2 percent lead over ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate José Antonio Meade.

UNITED STATES

Donald Trump announced his half-formed steel and aluminum tariff policy on Thursday and, in a concession to people who are worried about the possibility of a trade war, he also announced that they’re going to be mostly meaningless:

President Trump has signed controversial orders imposing heavy tariffs on steel and aluminium – but some countries will be spared.

 

Mr Trump has said the US is suffering from “unfair trade” and that the move would boost US industry.

 

But countries have expressed outrage at his plans, and experts have warned of new trade wars.

 

The tariffs will go into effect in 15 days and include exemptions for Canada and Mexico.

Those exemptions–which are billed as temporary and conditional on the successful conclusion of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation–make the tariffs toothless enough. But other countries will be allowed to apply for similar exemptions if they “treat us fairly,” according to Trump. Which means he’ll exempt anyone who kisses his ass to his satisfaction. So expect a lot of countries to earn exemptions.

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2 thoughts on “Europe/Americas update: March 8 2018

  1. Hey, Derek; can you do a special column or something on Manuel López Obrador’s candidacy and what his victory will mean for Mexico and the Mexican left?

    1. I just don’t have the depth of knowledge about Mexican politics to write something like that. Help me get my Patreon up to $2K/month and I’ll be able to find and pay people who can do that kind of thing.

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