ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 12/04/2018

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Al-Monitor – Hamidreda Azizi / Have Iran, Russia and Turkey reached agreement on future Syrian state?

  • On April 4, the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Ankara to hold a trilateral summit within the framework of the Astana process to discuss the latest developments in Syria.
  • Turkey and Russia keep emphasizing that Astana and Geneva are not competing but rather complementary formats for a Syrian settlement. On the other hand, Iranian officials didn’t make any reference to Geneva, insisting solely on the role of the three Astana partners in bringing stability to Syria.
  • Rouhani for the first time clearly defended the idea of “drawing up and amending a new constitution” for Syria, as well as speeding up the political process. This could mean that Iran is gradually shifting its focus toward defining a role for itself in the postwar political scene of Syria.
  • It seems that Moscow is no longer pursuing the idea of federalism in Syria, while Tehran and Ankara, respectively, have agreed not to seek the establishment of Alawi-dominated or Sunni-dominated governments in the country.
  • Haaretz – Amos Harel & Yaniv Kubovich / Israel on high alert, prepares for possible Iranian retaliation after strike on Syrian Air Force base

The New York Times – Neil MacFarquhar / Putin, or the world? Sanctions may force oligarchs to choose

  • Washington’s imposition of unexpectedly tough sanctions against several leading oligarchs is in many respects a game changer for Russia. Establishing tax havens within the country was one reaction by the Kremlin, seemingly caught off guard as aftershocks rippled through currency and financial markets.
  • The most immediate effect is being felt by Oleg V. Deripaska and his aluminum giant, Rusal, which has lost about one-third of its value on the Moscow stock exchange. In a larger sense, the sanctions are expected to have a limited overall effect after the initial shock wears off.
  • Paradoxically, the sanctions could help President Vladimir Putin to accomplish a long-held goal of putting more of the economy under state control and pressuring billionaires to bring their money home.
  • Yet the sanctions might also work against Putin’s interests, forcing some of the wealthiest Russians to decide just how closely they want to be identified with the Kremlin by financing militias, political organizations or other adventures abroad.
  • Any broader Russian response is likely to come in places like Syria or Ukraine, analysts said, where the Kremlin might ratchet up tensions in order to leverage any solution on ending the sanctions.

Financial Times – Charles Clover / IMF’s Lagarde warns China on Belt and Road debt

  • Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said that while China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) could provide much-needed infrastructure, “ventures can also lead to a problematic increase in debt, potentially limiting other spending as debt service rises, and creating balance of payments challenges”.
  • Another challenge, added Lagarde, was “ensuring that Belt and Road only travels where it is needed … With any large-scale spending there is sometimes the temptation to take advantage of the selection and bidding process.”
  • The IMF also unveiled its first efforts to support the BRI, and Lagarde announced the opening of a joint IMF-China Capacity Development Centre, which will help train Chinese development officials to work abroad.
  • IMF encouragement has met with skepticism in some western countries, such as the US, which question whether the development effort masks a push by China to gain influence in Eurasia and Africa.

Foreign Policy – Stephen M. Walt / America can’t be trusted anymore

  • Washington cannot claim any particular virtue or trustworthiness in its dealings with others. In the unipolar era, in fact, the US repeatedly did things it had promised not to do. As the Athenians famously told the Melians, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
  • Determined to outdo his predecessor in every way, Trump uttered six times as many falsehoods in his first 10 months as president as Obama did in his entire two terms. Especially under the current conditions, why would any sensible government take America’s word for anything?
  • A larger percent of people around the world have confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin will “do the right thing in world affairs” than the current US president.
  • Neither the US nor North Korea, assuming that Trump and Kim Jong-un get together, is going to make significant concessions for the simple reason that they don’t want to be played for a sucker.
  • It would be a vast overstatement, however, to conclude that past US opportunism or the unreliable character of Trump has led others to conclude that the US as a whole is totally unreliable.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces. 

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