Greece exits its bail-out programme, but its marathon has further to go

2 August 2018

The Economist discusses the current state of Greek economy which has recently been emboldened by two years of GDP growth and the official termination of the third, last round of the IMF bailout pending this August. However, long-term structural problems- low productivity, weak economic dynamic, not particularly comfortable investor climate and a massive brain drain- continue to stifle national development. In this regard, the authors question the 3.5-percent target for primary balance by 2022, indicating to its unrealistic assumptions, adding that electoral strategy of the incumbent left-wing government may revert some of the recent policy reforms.

 

What's Behind North Korea's New Internet Opening? (By Tae-jun Kang)

4 August 2018

In recent months, North Korea has been actively promoting new mobile devices and services that allow its people to stay connected and online, giving them more open access to the North Korean network. It is evident that North Korea wants to promote and stress the idea that the country is opening up and giving its population greater access to information. Amid recent criticism over Pyongyang’s human rights violations, in particular, North Korea seems to be determined to convince the world of the freedom of its people, who are (according to these reports) able to navigate the online world and access whatever they need. It is thought that the newly-launched tablet PC, dubbed Daeyang 8321 and a new Internet Protocol television service, might just constitute more sophisticated methods of monitoring and controlling the population.

 

Turkey’s Opposition Lost to Erdogan, Then It Lost Its Mind (By Selim Sazak) 

6 August 2018

The piece by Selim Sazak deals with the post-election state of the opposition parties in Turkey. The author argues that contrary to the seeming unanimity and consolidation of a broad range of oppositional forces in Turkey during the recent campaign, since then the parties have entered a stage of tribal struggle between and within each other. Kilicdaroglu’s refusal to resign as a CHP leader in favour of the election maverick Muharrem Ince, allegations against IYI party leader Meral Akshener and ongoing contradictions between left-liberal leadership of HDP and its conservative Kurdish base- all these trends make standing against the Erdogan government even  a more futile task for them. 

 

A Top Syrian Scientist Is Killed, and Fingers Point at Israel (By David M. Halbfinger and Ronen Bergman)

6 August 2018

On Saturday, Aziz Asbar, one of Syria’s most important rocket scientists, bent on amassing an arsenal of precision-guided missiles that could be launched with pinpoint accuracy against Israeli cities hundreds of miles away, was killed by a car bomb — apparently planted by Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. Mr. Asbar led a top-secret weapons-development unit called Sector 4 and was closely engaged in building an underground weapons factory to replace one destroyed by Israel last year. It was at least the fourth assassination mission by Israel in three years against an enemy weapons engineer on foreign soil, a senior official from a Middle Eastern intelligence agency confirmed on Monday. 

 

U.S. Turns up Heat on Iran’s Economy, Adding Fuel to Massive Protests (By Keith Johnson) 

6 August 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 018)As the first wave of renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran goes into effect on Tuesday amid rising street protests over the country’s frailing economy, analysts are divided about whether popular anger over runaway inflation and unemployment will be directed at the government in Tehran—or at the United States.The sanctions, imposed as part of Washington’s withdrawal from a nuclear agreement with Iran in May, include limits on dollar transactions and trade in many industrial goods. They are the first part of a steadily increasing campaign of U.S. measures against the Islamist regime.

The protests seem to be more broad-based than in previous years. Unlike the middle-class Green Movement protests that shook Iran in 2009, the current wave appears to have swept up the blue-collar workers who were the government’s traditional base of political support. Women are increasingly emboldened, in many cases tearing off their hijabs at the protests.

 

A failed drone attack shows that Nicolás Maduro is vulnerable

7 August 2018

The Economist piece analyzes the recent assassination attempt against Venezuela’s president Maduro. It is likely that the attack was real: a group calling itself Soldiers in T-shirts claimed it. Composed of military dissidents and some of the protesters who fought the police last year, it is linked to Óscar Pérez, a police captain who led a brief guerrilla attack on the regime and was later killed by government forces while trying to surrender. Everything suggests that Soldiers in T-shirts is small, and the drone attack looked amateurish. 

Maduro leads the pro-Cuban faction in the regime. Another has closer ties to the armed forces. By blocking democratic change and by failing to halt Venezuela’s decline, Maduro has made himself vulnerable to removal by force. That could happen tomorrow—or never. 

 

Russia leads the world at nuclear-reactor exports

7 August 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 018)The nuclear power industry which had been in the doldrums since the 1980s, suffered a devastating blow in 2011 when a tsunami engulfed the Fukushima power plant in Japan, ultimately causing a meltdown. The amount of electricity generated by nuclear power worldwide had plungedby 11% in two years, and has not recovered since. Within this declining industry, one country now dominates the market for design and export of nuclear plants: Russia. Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear-power company, has been flogging its wares abroad. It is focused on what some call the “great grand middle”: countries that are close allies of neither the United States nor Russia. In April Russia started building Turkey’s first nuclear plant, worth $20bn. Its first reactor is due for completion in 2023. Rosatom says it has 33 new plants on its order book, worth some $130bn. Russia’s nuclear programme has endured for two main reasons: its designs are cheap, and Rosatom enjoys the backing of the state, which helps it absorb hard-to-insure risks like nuclear meltdowns.