Edge of Change (Issue 021)

| | 29-08-2018, 09:00

A Saudi-Iran Oil War Could Break Up OPEC (By Irina Slav)

22 August 2018

When OPEC and Russia shook on increasing crude oil production by a million barrels per day to stop the oil price climb that had begun getting uncomfortable for consumers from Asia to the United States, there was no sign of what was to come just two months later: slowing demand in Asia, ample supply, and a brewing price war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This war could effectively put an end to OPEC: it’s hard to imagine Saudi Arabia assuring Iran that its market share won’t suffer any consequences from its stated pledge to fill any supply gap left by a cut in the Iranian exports resulting from the U.S. sanctions. It’s also hard to imagine Iran shrugging and letting this go. Could OPEC be on the way out? Maybe.


The Silence of the Bears (By Alexander Gabuev)

23 August 2018

After a news came out on Tuesday of a simultaneous legal action against Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Michael Cohen, his onetime personal lawyer, Moscow is finally realizing that even if Trump survives the many scandals that surround him, he won’t be able to deliver major improvements in U.S.-Russian ties. The only upside for the Kremlin is that any political struggle to remove Trump from office that may follow will leave American politics and society more divided than ever. The only people who may be happy about Wednesday’s bombshells are those in the upper echelons of the Russian system who could capitalize on a breakdown of Moscow’s relations with the West—that is, those who benefit from sanctions and heightened anti-Americanism, such as Putin’s friends, state-owned companies engaged in import substitution, and the domestic security apparatus. For them, any new turmoil that Manafort’s convictions and Cohen’s revelations create in the United States are happy gains.


Will a flurry of diplomacy help Israel and the Palestinians?

23 August 2018

The crowd of diplomats and spies has been shuttling this summer between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza, and Arab capitals from Cairo to the Gulf, for three tracks of negotiations. One is meant to avert a war between Israel and Hamas; a second aims to reconcile Hamas with its domestic rival, Fatah, which governs the West Bank; and then there is Donald Trump’s pursuit of “the ultimate deal” between the Israelis and Palestinians. Yet when all the gabbing is done, the result will probably look much like the status quo. Militant groups have fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, and Israel has dropped hundreds of bombs on Gaza.

Veteran negotiators often treat the conflict as a problem of communication. If the parties would only come back to the table, they could make a deal. But those parties have talked for decades. Any Israeli or Palestinian can recite the details of a two-state solution. Hamas and Fatah have produced many reconciliation agreements. The issue is not a lack of talking- it is a lack of trust.


Lawmakers Want Classified Documents on Trump’s Meeting with Putin (By Robbie Gramer)

24 August 2018

Two top Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) are asking to see all notes and documents relating to U.S. President Donald Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia last month, including classified cables and notes from Trump’s interpreter, citing concerns the president may be hiding certain commitments he gave Putin.They justified their request with allegedly “extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances of President Trump’s… one-on-one meeting with a leader identified as a threat to the United States by President Trump’s own National Security Strategy”. The State Department did not immediately respond to questions on whether it would honor the senators’ requests.


A Tragedy for Turkey and the US (By Anne O. Krueger)

27 August 2018

The signs of Turkey’s emerging crisis were clearly visible before the souring of US-Turkish relations this month. But with the doubling of US import tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum, the lira plummeted by another 12% in a single day. It has now depreciated by more than 40% against the dollar this year. Unsurprisingly, Erdoğan has responded by imposing tariffs on some imports from the US; and Trump has suggested that he will retaliate further. Turkey’s currency crisis could have been a wakeup call for the Turkish government to reverse its unsustainable economic policies- but owing to the Trump administration’s actions, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can instead pin the problem on the “bullets, cannonballs, and missiles of the economic war being waged against our country.”

In most foreign-exchange crises, the afflicted country’s government can turn to the IMF and other countries for financial support as it pursues necessary reforms. But in Turkey’s case, the outlook is dire. Given that Erdoğan has already accused the West of waging economic warfare, it is hard to see how he could ever change his course and seek its support now.


China Is Treating Islam Like a Mental Illness (by Sigal Samuel)

28 August 2018

The piece at The Atlantic reveals a scale of mistreatment and oppression the Uighur minority is being currently exposed to in the Xinjiang province of China. Though their existence is officially denied, a number of internment camps have been recently established as the Chinese government purports to erase the Uighur Muslim identity which is treated as an illness; in an analogy with flu, not only “contaminated people” (nationalists or Islamists) are incarcerated but some random citizens too, just for preventive purposes. It is reported that those held in the camps are forced to abandon their identity through committing acts contrary to their belief (drinking alcohol, eating pork etc.) and express full and unswerving loyalty to the state. The author adds that technologies used in Xinjiang were already practiced, albeit on a smaller scale, against the adepts of the Falungong sect in the 2000s.


The European Priority of Emmanuel Macron (editorial)

28 August 2018

In his recent speech addressed to the French ambassadors abroad, Emmanuel Macron sounded unusually stern and personal. He emphasized the need to combat “a long struggle for the future of Europe” which has only begun. Citing Solzenitsyn’s famous 1978 Harvard speech where the Russian author decried “the Western decline of courage”, Macron called for a more self-sufficient Europe that will rely on itself for security in order to be able to remain committed to its values and undertakings and keep up the promise of the European Union that is now subject to open attacks from various populists and nationalists. For his own country, the French President ascribes a role of a “mediating power”, emphasizing that this does not mean being a mediocre one. Overall, the speech demonstrates that Mr. Macron is still endorsing the message of the days he was elected in 2017, but now realizes that it would require a lot of arduous work to fulfill it.


Ditch identity politics: fight for one person’s rights at a time (Natalie Nougayrede)

29 August 2018

In this short essay, Nathalie Nougayrede criticizes the now-ubiquitous identity politics as a wrong approach when it comes to defending human rights. She claims that as the very concept of human rights was forged to protect the rights of an individual, appealing to groups in this context would always inescapably prioritize the rights of some groups at the expense of others. The author brings several examples of how different groups, depending on their partisan commitment, practice this “selective protection”, and claims that such an approach will imperil the effectiveness and legitimacy of human rights protection; when group identity turns into an end instead of being a means, individual protection would necessarily be on retreat.