7 February 2019   Leave a comment

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested that the US has a national security interest in Venezuela because Hezbollah is active in that country. Hezbollah is an extremist group based in Lebanon and it receives support from Iran. It is hostile to Israel but also fought against ISIS in Syria, as did the US. There is no question that Hezbollah and the US are enemies, but the idea that Hezbollah would be an active agent in the current crisis in Venezuela is utter nonsense. Pompeo’s statement is clearly designed to scare people into supporting US actions in Venezuela–the terrorist card has been used many times in the past.

British Prime Minister Teresa May has redoubled her efforts to obtain some concessions from the European Union on Brexit. After her defeats in Parliament, it seems unlikely that she is going to work out a deal unless the EU allows some changes to the relationship between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Great Britain. The Economist points out the incredible difficulties in satisfying all three entities:

“Above all, the EU is not prepared to throw Ireland, which insists on keeping the backstop in order to avoid a hard border, under the bus. The interests of a member come above those of a leaver. It argues that the backstop is an inevitable outcome of Britain’s desire to leave the customs union and single market. Stopping a hard border is also seen as vital to protect the Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of sectarian “Troubles” in Northern Ireland.

“Claims that some untried new technology can avoid all checks and controls on the Irish border are still viewed in Brussels as magical thinking. Indeed, Brexiteers’ insistence on removing the backstop is treated as evidence of doubts that their own magic would work. The repeated lurches in Britain’s approaches to Brexit seem only to strengthen the case for keeping the backstop as an insurance policy.”

It now appears as if the only real option is to somehow change the deadline date of 29 March. Which means that this embarrassing mess will only continue indefinitely.

US President Trump indicated today that it is unlikely that he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before 1 March, the announced date for the implementation of new tariffs on Chinese goods imported into the US. Politico indicates that it is unlikely that the date can be changed: “The United States is not expected to extend its March 1 deadline for reaching a deal. To do so, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative would have to file a Federal Register notice, as it did in December, when it extended an earlier deadline. So far, there is no sign of that.” Reuters outlines the implications of not changing the deadline:

“Trump has vowed to increase U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports to 25 percent from 10 percent currently if the two sides cannot reach a deal by 12:01 a.m. (0501 GMT) on March 2.

“CNBC reported that the tariffs were likely to remain at the 10 percent rate. Three sources familiar with the matter indicated that report was wrong. The president has said repeatedly that the tariffs would go up if no deal has been reached, and that position has not changed, one source said.”

If the tariffs do go up by 25%, the economic shock to the global economy will be quite substantial.

Posted February 7, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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