The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 11/09/2017

Al-Monitor / Is Saudi Arabia ‘ready to turn the page’ on Iran?

  • There are signs that a slow thaw between Iran and Saudi Arabia may be in the works, the result of a shifting regional landscape.
  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be seeking to cut his losses on costly involvement in the Syria and Yemen wars.
  • The tipping point for Saudi Arabia may eventually be buyer’s remorse on the consequences of isolating Qatar. By shattering Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) unity, Riyadh and its partners have lost their strategic depth, compelling states to cut their own deals with Iran.
  • As for recent developments in Syria, the Russian move in Afrin and al-Shahba region comes at a time when the United States issued a demarche to Turkey over ‘multiple attacks’ by the Free Syrian Army on US troops in northern Syria in the past few weeks.

The Economist / A Communist Party gathering in China will test Xi Jinping’s power

  • Ahead of the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China, there has been speculation that President Xi Jinping may want to keep Wang Qishan –the head of the anti-corruption campaign—on the Politburo Standing Committee, breaching retirement age conventions.
  • Retaining Mr Wang would not, by itself, prove that Mr Xi is strong. It could suggest that he lacks other close allies whom he trusts to do the politically dangerous job of fighting graft.
  • It is not yet known how, or whether, the congress will change the party’s constitution to recognise Mr Xi’s contributions to Communist ideology. If it rules that the party should be guided by “Xi Jinping Thought”, that would suggest he has gained enormous power (the only other leader acknowledged to have Thought with a capital T is Mao Zedong).
  • The lack of an anointed successor need not mean Mr Xi will stay for a third term. But it does make it more likely that, even if he steps down as general secretary in 2022, he may try to hold the strings of any new leader.

The Guardian—A. Vaughan / Huge boost for renewables as offshore windfarm costs fall to record low

  • Offshore windfarms are to be built for a record low price in the UK early next decade.
  • The “exceptionally low” results of a government auction on Monday for subsidy contracts show two offshore windfarms will be built for £57.50 per MWh, way below even the most extreme predictions. The price is half of what new offshore windfarms were being awarded just two years ago.
  • The Green party said the results should sound the death knell for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, which is currently being built by EDF in Somerset.
  • Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, which represents the UK’s big energy companies, said: “Today’s exceptionally low results are further evidence of how the cost of clean energy is continuing to fall, and the move to a low carbon future is delivered at the lowest cost to consumers.”

The New York Times—A. Higgins & S. Chan / Ex-leader, now a man without a country, surfaces in Ukraine

  • Mikheil Saakashvili, who was president of Georgia until 2013, acquired Ukrainian citizenship in 2015 but was stripped of that in July after a bitter falling out with his former ally, President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine.
  • Yesterday, Saakashvili marched into Ukraine with a crowd of supporters–including former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko—who forced open a frontier post with Poland. He later appeared before reporters in Lviv, alongside the city’s mayor.
  • The Georgian authorities want Saakashvili back so that he can face charges of abuse of power and corruption, allegations that the former Georgian President has dismissed as baseless and politically motivated.
  • In Ukraine, Saakashvili has also become a highly divisive figure, revered by supporters as a zealous enforcer of clean government but reviled by enemies as a showman prone to flamboyant stunts.

 The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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