ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 27/11/2017

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The New York Times—Thomas Erdbrink / Long divided, Iran unites against Trump and Saudis in a nationalist fervor

  • Iran’s urban middle classes have been swept up in a wave of nationalist fervor, which can be attributed to two related factors: the election of President Trump and the growing competition with Saudi Arabia.
  • At the same time, these citizens now believe they have something to be proud of, with Iranian-led militias playing a central role in defeating the Islamic State militant group in Syria and Iraq.
  • The two most popular stars in Iran today are Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s regional military effort, and the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the symbol of a reasonable and measured Iran.
  • Many Iranians now cheer when a missile is tested, said Hamidreza Jalaeipour, a professor of sociology and a leading reformist, “even those who are completely secular.” The tests, he added, “are making them feel strong and safe.”
  • When Mr. Trump in October gave a speech outlining his Iran strategy, he called the Persian Gulf the “Arabian Gulf.” An Iranian journalist, Bahman Kalbasi, wrote that he “couldn’t think of a faster way to unite the public in Iran behind the government: go after the nuclear deal (vital to the economy) and don’t use Persian Gulf.”

The Economist / The strange geopolitics of rising oil prices

  • The recent surge in oil prices partly reflects optimism that when producers from the OPEC cartel meet in Vienna on November 30th they will extend an agreement with non-OPEC producers such as Russia to keep output under restraint until late next year.
  • On the other hand, it partly reflects the fear that regional tensions between Saudi Arabia and fellow OPEC members Iran and Qatar could degenerate to such a degree that they disrupt supply from the world’s biggest oil-producing region.
  • Is it feasible to imagine that people who cannot bear talking to each other can agree to onerous production cuts that are vital to keeping prices high? The short answer is yes. Indeed, one reason for the growing confidence about an extension of the deal due to expire next March is that compliance levels were 96% last month.
  • For the first time in several years, the interests of the biggest producers in keeping output under control may be aligned. Saudi Arabia wants high prices to achieve a generous valuation when it part-privatises Aramco, the state oil company. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, wants them to keep the economy—and hence his regime—stable. And shale producers want them because their investors are demanding higher returns, rather than higher volumes.
  • Besides OPEC and geopolitics, there are other reasons oil prices are on a roll. A synchronous upswing in the global economy means that demand for oil is rising.

Politico—Lili Bayer / China hits roadblocks in Central Europe

  • For years, Beijing has promoted heavy investments and a particular diplomatic format — called 16+1 — to build its influence with a cross-section of 16 Central and Eastern European countries.
  • This push is now also running into regulatory, financial and political hurdles, highlighting possible limits to Beijing’s economic and diplomatic influence in Europe. Within the 16+1 group, EU members are less welcoming to Chinese investment.
  • “The EU welcomes investment — whether domestic or foreign — as long as it is compatible with EU law,” the EU Delegation to China said in a statement regarding the Belgrade-Budapest railway project, whose planned tender process raised concerns within the European Commission.
  • This week, Hungary — the country that absorbs the most Chinese investment in Central and Eastern Europe —  is hosting the sixth China-Central and Eastern Europe summit. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will attend the summit.
  • “It has become increasingly offensive that a few developed countries have been continuously lecturing most of the world on human rights, democracy, development and the market economy,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said during a television appearance in May. “Everyone has had enough of this; and of these the Chinese are the strongest.”

Project Syndicate—Sławomir Sierakowski & Adam Michnik / Europe’s new Eastern question

  • Michnik: “I was so convinced that Andrzej Duda could not win the presidency. If I had done then what I am doing now, if I had moved my ass and traveled around Poland to campaign, at least my conscience would be clear. But I didn’t.”
  • “In my opinion, the root of the European left’s weakness is the fact that it won. The left’s fundamental goals have been realized . . . For now, we have the same old left, and the relevant context today, in my opinion, is not the left-right debate, but the conflict between open and closed societies.”
  • “I think Kaczyński is aiming for a state in which democratic institutions exist only as Potemkin villages. The government is moving toward a completely authoritarian state with elements of totalitarianism, with total subordination of all areas of public life.”
  • “If you look at Orbán’s relationship with Putin, I think it’s not impossible that we, too, will have a pro-Russian shift on the right.”

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

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