France and Germany say Ukraine should be able to use their weapons to strike inside Russia

“France and Germany said Tuesday that Ukraine should be allowed to use their weapons against targets inside Russia from which Moscow attacks Ukraine.”

““Ukrainian soil is being attacked from bases in Russia,” Macron said during his visit to Schloss Meseberg in Brandenburg, Germany. “So how do we explain to the Ukrainians that we’re going to have to protect these towns and basically everything we’re seeing around Kharkiv at the moment, if we tell them you are not allowed to hit the point from which the missiles are fired?”
“We think that we should allow them to neutralize the military sites from which the missiles are fired and, basically, the military sites from which Ukraine is attacked,” Macron continued.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/ukraine-french-weapons-strike-inside-034116410.html

Blinken delivers some of the strongest US public criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza

“Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday delivered some of the Biden administration’s strongest public criticism yet of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza, saying Israeli tactics have meant “a horrible loss of life of innocent civilians” but failed to neutralize Hamas leaders and fighters and could drive a lasting insurgency.
In a pair of TV interviews, Blinken underscored that the United States believes Israeli forces should “get out of Gaza,” but also is waiting to see credible plans from Israel for security and governance in the territory after the war.

Hamas has reemerged in parts of Gaza, Blinken said, and “heavy action” by Israeli forces in the southern city of Rafah risks leaving America’s closest Mideast ally “holding the bag on an enduring insurgency.”

He said the United States has worked with Arab countries and others for weeks on developing “credible plans for security, for governance, for rebuilding” in Gaza, but ”we haven’t seen that come from Israel. … We need to see that, too.”

Blinken also said that as Israel pushes deeper in Rafah in the south, a military operation may “have some initial success” but risks “terrible harm” to the population without solving a problem “that both of us want to solve, which is making sure Hamas cannot again govern Gaza.” More than a million Palestinians have crowded into Rafah in hopes of refuge as Israel’s offensive pushed across Gaza. Israel has said the city also hosts four battalions of Hamas fighters.

Israel’s conduct of the war, Blinken said, has put the country “on the trajectory, potentially, to inherit an insurgency with many armed Hamas left or, if it leaves, a vacuum filled by chaos, filled by anarchy, and probably refilled by Hamas. We’ve been talking to them about a much better way of getting an enduring result, enduring security.”

Blinken also echoed, for the first time publicly by a U.S. official, the findings of a new Biden administration report to Congress on Friday that said Israel’s use of U.S.-provided weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law. The report also said wartime conditions prevented American officials from determining that for certain in specific airstrikes.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/blinken-delivers-strongest-us-public-171635775.html

Why the World Is Betting Against American Democracy

“When I asked the European ambassador to talk to me about America’s deepening partisan divide, I expected a polite brushoff at best. Foreign diplomats are usually loath to discuss domestic U.S. politics.
Instead, the ambassador unloaded for an hour, warning that America’s poisonous politics are hurting its security, its economy, its friends and its standing as a pillar of democracy and global stability.

The U.S. is a “fat buffalo trying to take a nap” as hungry wolves approach, the envoy mused. “I can hear those Champagne bottle corks popping in Moscow — like it’s Christmas every fucking day.””

“one former Arab ambassador who was posted in the U.S. during both Republican and Democratic administrations told me American politics have become so unhealthy that he’d turn down a chance to return.

“I don’t know if in the coming years people will be looking at the United States as a model for democracy,” a second Arab diplomat warned.”

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/01/15/what-foreign-diplomats-say-about-u-s-politics-behind-closed-doors-00135326

American Distillers Brace for Huge E.U. Tariff Hike

“The E.U. imposed retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey (along with other quintessentially American products like blue jeans and motorcycles) in June 2018 after the Trump administration unilaterally slapped tariffs on all imported steel and aluminum. Trump’s tariffs were sold as an anti-China measure, but covered imports from allies like the E.U. and South Korea as well. The E.U.’s retaliatory tariffs, meanwhile, occurred despite promises from Trump’s top trade adviser that other countries would not respond with tariffs targeting American goods.
Due to those 25 percent tariffs, whiskey exports to Europe fell by about 20 percent between 2018 and 2021, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), which lobbies on behalf of American booze producers. That decline in foreign sales cost American distilleries over $100 million.

Those tariffs were temporarily suspended in 2022, and exports to Europe rebounded almost immediately, according to DISCUS’ data. Over the past two years, exports to the E.U. increased by 29 percent and exceeded pre-tariff levels.

Now that recent growth is at risk. If no deal is reached by January 1, the E.U. could decide to reimpose the tariffs at 50 percent—double the previous levels—when the temporary reprieve expires.”

“Trump’s been out of office for nearly three years, but the consequences of his half-baked trade wars are still spiraling out of control—in no small part because of Biden’s unwillingness to end them. Another escalation in that conflict now looms over American distillers.”

https://reason.com/2023/12/11/american-distillers-brace-for-huge-e-u-tariff-hike/

How Qatar became a key broker in the Israel-Hamas deal

“Even before this most recent war between Israel and Hamas, the very tiny, very rich Gulf state had carved out a bit of a reputation as a diplomatic broker, especially in hostage negotiations. This has been a deliberate gambit on Qatar’s part, which has cultivated and managed pragmatic ties with the region’s main players — becoming a kind of middle man between parties that otherwise do not get along. It’s a key US ally, hosting an American military base critical to US operations in places like Syria and Iraq. Qatar also has ties to Islamist groups, including Hamas, whose political arm has an office in Doha.
This has given Qatar leverage — and, most importantly, access. The United States and Israel do not negotiate directly with Hamas. That has made the Qataris an indispensable go-between. “You have to talk to Hamas to get anything done,” said F. Gregory Gause, professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. “The Qataris are there to help you out — and they’re there to remind you that they’re helping you out.”

Qatar’s role in this conflict extends beyond this week’s deal. In late October, Qatar helped negotiate the release of a couple hostages held by Hamas, and it may be helping to tamp down a wider regional conflict, given its good relations with Iran and open channels with the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah. Qatar played a role in mediating the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, and has supported Gaza, including financing salaries for Hamas civil servants through the sale of fuel to the group — with the okay of Israel, in part because Israel saw it as a stabilizing measure.

Qatar’s diplomacy isn’t limited to the realm of Israel-Hamas, either. Qatar served as an intermediary between the US and the Taliban before the two ultimately negotiated a peace deal directly, in Doha. Qatar’s open lines with the Taliban helped facilitate evacuations from Afghanistan after Kabul’s fall in 2021, and even after. And Qatar has increasingly become known for its skill in hostage negotiations, even outside the region. It recently helped broker a deal to get Russia to return four Ukrainian kids to their families.

“It wants to be influential, diplomatically, and it does understand that, obviously, it’s not a regional superpower that can dictate things,” said Bessma Momani, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo. Yet maintaining these delicate ties — and working those connections — is a very good way for Qatar to advance its interests, and its security. That approach comes with some risks, but, at least right now, they don’t outweigh the upsides for Qatar.

Qatar finds “a way to be helpful and resourceful in specific, niche areas that can have outsized influence,” Momani said. “That’s their strategy.””

https://www.vox.com/world-politics/2023/11/22/23972238/israel-hamas-deal-qatar-broker