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For years, the U.S. has been embroiled in the fight against Islamist militant groups, snared in lengthy conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. And for years, it has been trying to find ways out.
That push-pull – the need to confront violent insurgent movements set against the desire to pull troops out of protracted and costly fights – has dogged successive U.S. administrations, including that of Donald Trump.
The president has made clear he wants out of Syria. Yesterday, he insisted that Islamic State was almost defeated, despite evidence to the contrary and pushback from his own administration against a quick withdrawal that could leave a power vacuum in a volatile region.
For Trump, the focus is on putting a noose around Iran. Even there, geopolitical realities intrude. The Iranian regime has used its backing of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria to cement itself as a key power in the country.
European allies are also refusing to join Trump in isolating the Islamic Republic. Many are expected to send only mid-level representation to a summit in Poland on the Middle East next week that the U.S. views as a platform to rally support against Iran.
As prior presidents discovered, Trump is finding it’s harder for the U.S. to get out of a fight in the Middle East than it was to get in.
Just in: Freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a sweeping package of environmental measures that has pitted fellow progressives in the House Democratic caucus against moderates over how far to go in resetting the climate change debate.
Brexit stalemate | Prime Minister Theresa May heads to Brussels seeking a compromise demanded by British lawmakers on arrangements for the post-Brexit Irish border. She’s almost certain to be rebuffed by the European Union, meaning a U.K. Parliament vote planned for next week on a revised Brexit deal will likely have to be pulled. There are now just 50 days until Britain is due to leave the EU.
Risky business | House Democrats are embarking on a battle that could turn intensely personal for Trump and risks a backlash against their new majority in the chamber – getting their hands on the president’s tax returns. The effort, which is being met with outright hostility from Republicans, could provide insight into Trump’s foreign financial connections, including any business dealings in Russia.
Trump boost | Howard Schultz is unlikely to win the White House if he makes an independent bid for the presidency, but he would probably siphon enough votes from a Democratic candidate to strengthen Trump’s 2020 re-election prospects. That’s the conclusion of a survey examining the former Starbucks CEO's political ambitions, Joshua Green exclusively reports. It found that the 65-year-old Seattle billionaire pulls twice as much support from Democrats as Republicans.
Venezuelan flashpoint | President Nicolas Maduro ordered troops to block a crossing from Colombia with containers after the Venezuelan opposition announced it planned humanitarian aid deliveries with support from the U.S. and other allies. Juan Guaido, who’s vying for power in the crisis-torn nation, is keeping mum about the timing and details of the aid while continuing efforts internationally to freeze government assets.
Maduro Sold 40% of Venezuela's Gold Last Year Amid Cash Crunch Venezuela’s Guaido Reaches Out to Italy’s Divided Populists
Democracy threat | Tanzanians already have to watch what they publish, tweet and even sing. Now President John Magufuli’s administration is poised to put opposition groups under more scrutiny by handing a regulator sweeping powers to monitor political parties' funding, membership and plans. One firebrand lawmaker in the East African nation compared the measures to legislation in Nazi Germany.
What to Watch
U.S. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler has scheduled a vote today to authorize a subpoena of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if he tries to avoid discussing his conversations with Trump and his oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation when he comes before the panel tomorrow. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has begun a new attempt to curtail Trump’s power to impose tariffs amid an escalating campaign by business groups to force congressional action as the president seeks greater authority. A party linked to exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will announce its candidate tomorrow for Thailand’s March election. There are rumors the name could be a shocking choice.
And finally…French President Emmanuel Macron can’t shake off a scandal sparked by his former private bodyguard, Alexandre Benalla, who was caught on video beating demonstrators last year. In the latest twist, Macron’s government was forced to deny accusations by press freedom advocates that it interfered in an attempted raid by prosecutors on a news site that published an investigation into Benalla. The controversy has dented Macron’s standing in polls.
--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Caroline Alexander, Stuart Biggs and Flavia Krause-Jackson.
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