Iran: You Want to Change What?

Yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave us a hint of what Washington’s policy towards Iran might look like now that Trump has pulled the US out of the nuclear deal. A few observations from fellow Signalista Leon Levy:


The list of demands was formidable: Stop funding Houthi rebels in Yemen. Leave Syria. Cease threatening Israel. Halt all enrichment of uranium. The only thing missing was a demand for Tehran to acknowledge it heard “Yanny” instead of “Laurel.”

But there are a few takeaways worth mulling. First, if the administration wants to present a strong challenge to Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East, it will have to find a way to do so that doesn’t clash with Trump’s pledges to bring US troops and dollars home from a region that most of his core constituents want no part of.

Second, Pompeo’s speech skirted a, maybe the, critical question: Does Washington want to force the current Iranian regime to change course, or does it want the country to change regime? Different objectives require different strategies.

Third, there was little sympathy for America’s European friends. After acknowledging that Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal “will pose financial and economic difficulties for a number of our friends,” Pompeo then, in so many words, warned that the US has every intention of imposing those financial and economic difficulties, friendships be damned. As European Council President Donald Tusk bitterly tweeted last week: “with friends like that who needs enemies?” Indeed.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky sat down yesterday with Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron for a meeting in the Elysée Palace in Paris for peace talks. This was the first-ever meeting between Putin, Russia's dominant political force since 2000, and Zelensky, who was a TV comedian at this time last year.

Not much was agreed beyond a broader exchange of prisoners and a renewed commitment to a ceasefire that has never held. Fears that Putin would use Zelensky's inexperience to back him into a deal on Russian terms weren't realized, but the relationship between the two has only just begun.

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The UK currently benefits from EU trade pacts covering more than 70 countries. But if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal in place, London could lose its preferential access to those markets. In preparation for such a scenario, the UK has signed 20 "continuity" agreements, allowing countries to keep trading with the UK under current rules even after Brexit. Here's a look at which countries and blocs have signed these deals with the UK, and the total value of each trade relationship.

Macron not backing down over pensions – Despite six days of mass unrest that has paralyzed Paris' public transport system and dented both tourism and Christmas retail, the government will stand firm on a proposal to reform and unify the country's 42 different pension plans. France's pension system, one of the most generous of any major industrialized country, has major budget shortfalls that contribute to the country's ballooning deficit. Last year, Macron abandoned a proposed fuel price hike that ignited the Yellow Vest movement. But overhauling France's "welfare state" was central to his 2017 election platform, and acquiescing to protesters this time around would be political suicide. France's prime minister – tapped to lead the pension reform project – is expected to announce the plan's final details tomorrow. We're watching to see how this might escalate things further.

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