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CWA # 760, 24 July 2022
The World This Week #175, Vol. 4, No. 24
The World This Week #175, Vol. 4, No. 24
Russia: Decoding Putin’s West Asia Power play
On 19 July, Russian President Vladimir Putin started his visit to Iran for a three days tripartite summit. Putin met his counterpart Ebrahim Raisi and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to discuss security, economic and regional issues. Since the war started in Ukraine, Iran has supported Russia’s claims of NATO’s expansion as a genuine security concern.
During the meeting, the supreme leader of Iran further expressed his distress about the civilian casualties yet commented that if not for Russia, the other side would have initiated the war.
During his meeting with Raisi, President Putin said: "I am very pleased to be on the hospitable Iranian soil...We can boast about record figures in terms of trade growth. We are strengthening our cooperation on international security issues, making a significant contribution to the settlement of the Syrian conflict."
Khamenei referred to the war in Ukraine and said: "World events show Iran and Russia's need for increasing mutual cooperation. NATO is a dangerous entity. The West is totally opposed to a strong, independent Russia. If the way is opened for NATO, it will recognize no limits. If it hadn't been stopped in Ukraine, it would have later started a similar war in Crimea."
What is the background?
First, Russia’s isolation. The Ukrainian crisis isolated Moscow from the international forum through sanctions and economic hindrances, which made Russia seek new alliances in the East. From colonizing Northern Iran in 1950 to creating a new avenue of cooperation, the war has drawn the West’s geopolitical enemies together. Iran needs Russia’s help to pressurize the United States to participate in the 2015 Nuclear deal and as a counter in the region. American president Joe Biden finished the Middle East trip one day before and warned that the US would not tolerate any country’s efforts to dominate another in the region through the military build-up, incursions, and threats, directly refereeing to Iran.
Second, Russia-Iran cooperation. It was limited due to oil competition. Before President Putin’s arrival Russia’s Gazprom and National Iranian Oil Company signed a memorandum of understanding for USD 40 billion, which involves joint offshore oil projects, gas and oil products swap, completion of LNG projects, and building gas pipelines, and inclusive security deals. Both being heavily sanctioned under the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) by America, the leaders explored other alternative currencies and banking mechanisms for trade.
Third, Turkey’s agenda. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined the summit with a twin agenda; to settle the differences over Syria and to facilitate the UN-brokered deal between Russia and Ukraine to unblock the Black sea grain exports from Ukraine. First, Turkiye’s regional agenda in Syria has raised tensions. Turkiye wants an incursion on Northern Syrian border against the Kurdish fighters who sympathise with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a separatist group spearheading the cause of Kurdistan, which is a legitimate territorial concern for Turkiye. However, Russia and Iran warned about possible regional instability that could be unleashed. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian commented on resolving the issues without resorting to war and displacing more Syrian refugees; Erdogan looked for solidarity and alliance for the same. Second, Russia had besieged the transportation of the Ukraine grains shipments from the black sea ports, and Putin agreed to release the grains to ease the global food shortage.
Fourth the Syrian crisis. The Syrian crisis is another high-priority dialogue of the meeting. Iran and Russia had worked closely in the Syria crisis to reinstate President Bashar Al-Assad in power and eliminating Islamic State (ISIS) from Syrian soil. Turkiye differs and supports the armed opposition factions and opposes the formation of a successful Kurdish front against ISIS.
What does it mean?
War is not only about territories but also includes political victories. The picture of the ongoing fighting is ambiguous as the west wanted to isolate Moscow, whereas Russia wanted to stop NATO’s expansion, but neither has won. In case of political victory, Russia has won this round in West Asia. American and Russian presidents visited West Asia in the week, seeking oil and political support. President Biden returned empty-handed as the Saudis strongly claim Russia to be an integral part of the OPEC+ organization, and without Russia’s support, it is impossible to bring stability to the international oil market. For Putin, apart from the deals, it has successfully created the Anti-American Axis in West Asia, as it has revived partnerships with Saudis and Iranians.
Nevertheless, the chessboard will become interesting based on the further developments of Turkiye’s plan to invade Syria and push Kurdish fighters away when the Americans have also claimed that the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) played a significant role in recapturing the territories held by ISIS. However, with the repeated setbacks and complications in Europe, will America support the Turkish plan? To validate its effort to expand NATO to Finland and Sweden, at the price of West Asian security to bleed Russia in Europe and West Asia, this would be the next big question.
Also, in the news...
East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: Premier Li Keqiang addresses the World Economic Forum
On 19 July, China’s Premier Li Keqiang attended the Special Virtual Dialogue with Global Business Leaders hosted by the World Economic Forum. Li met with the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab, and discussed the country’s cooperation with the economic organization, noting the four decades of positive results. Li also observed that China’s reform and opening-up of the economy were in tandem with the organization. Li spoke about the Chinese economy and said it had withstood the pressures and stabilized after the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Li observed that there continued to be economic challenges and other factors that restricted the complete recovery of the economy. Premier Li pledged to deepen high-level opening-up of the economy and open its doors to the rest of the world. Li acknowledged that China cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world but also stressed that foreign economies and the global financial systems need China for their recovery.
Taiwan: China warns against US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit and threatens forceful action
On 20 July, the Asahi Shimbun reported that the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi would visit Taiwan next month, and the Chinese government issued a warning threatening to take "forceful measures" if she did. Pelosi and her team will also go to Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore, in addition to spending time in Hawaii at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's headquarters. According to Taiwan's Foreign Ministry, "no relevant information" has been received on any visit. Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill said: “We do not confirm or deny international travel in advance due to longstanding security protocols.”
South Korea: Defence minister announces resumption of joint military operations with the US
On 22 July, South Korea’s defence minister Lee Jong-sup stated that South Korea and the US would restart long-suspended live field training as part of their joint military exercises to rein in North Korea’s expanding nuclear and missile programmes. After South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged to "normalise" combined drills and increase deterrence against the North, the allies are scheduled to begin their yearly summertime exercises next month. Due to COVID-19 and initiatives to defuse tensions with the North, the two sides have reduced the frequency of their joint military exercises in recent years.
South Korea: Foreign Minister meets Japanese Foreign Minister to reconcile relations
On 18 July, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Park Jin began a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Japan Yoshimasa Hayashi to encourage reconciliation between the two countries and mend relations. The terrible effects of Japan's occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 have made ties tense for years. Conflicts range from forced labour in times of war to export restrictions. The two ministers agreed to find a resolution after Park assured Hayashi that he would attempt to fix the forced labour issue before a decision on compensation payments was made.
South Asia This Week
India: Droupadi Murmu wins the presidential election
On 21 July, Droupadi Murmu from the National Democratic Alliance won the presidential election against the United Progressive Alliance nominee Yashwant Sinha. She became the first tribal woman and the second woman to become the fifteenth President of India. She secured 66.03 per cent of the total votes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “India scripts history. At a time when 1.3 billion Indians are marking Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, a daughter of India hailing from a tribal community born in a remote part of eastern India has been elected our President!”
Sri Lanka: Appointment of President and Prime Minister
On 21 July, Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the eighth President of Sri Lanka. He won 134 votes in the secret ballot to elect the President after former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned. Ranil Wickremesinghe formerly has been the Prime Minister six times. On 20 July, the leader of the opposition Sajith Premadasa withdrew his nomination from the presidential elections. On 22 July, the leader of the House and former Minister Dinesh Gunawardena was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. He took oath in the presence of the newly elected President.
Pakistan: Doors open for the third country to participate in CPEC
On 22 July, the 3rd meeting of the CPEC Joint Working Group (JWG) on International Cooperation and Coordination (JWG-ICC) was held in virtual mode. During the meeting, co-chaired by Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary and China’s Assistant Foreign Minister, both sides reviewed the continued implementation of the CPEC and its expansion to the jointly agreed priority areas. A statement by the foreign office said: “As an open and inclusive platform, both sides welcomed interested third parties to benefit from avenues for mutually beneficial cooperation opened up by CPEC.”
Pakistan-Afghanistan: Islamabad and Kabul agree to promote trade and commercial ties
On 21 July, Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to take several initiatives to promote trade and commercial ties between the two countries. This decision came after a Pakistani delegation led by Secretary Commerce Sualeh Ahmed Faruqui was in Kabul for a three-day official visit. According to a joint statement released at the end of the visit, the two sides would continue all-out efforts to remove problems through mutual cooperation and coordination, including the quick clearance of commodities and the launch of a luxury bus service by the end of August. Additionally, Pakistan reiterated Islamabad’s promise to implement the Afghanistan and Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, which was signed in 2010.
Afghanistan: UNAMA releases report on the human rights situation since the Taliban takeover
On 20 July, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its findings on the human rights situation in Afghanistan over the ten months since the Taliban takeover in August 2021. The report cites that despite an overall reduction in armed violence, between mid-August 2021 and mid-June 2022, 2106 civilian casualties were recorded. Most civilian casualties were attributed to targeted attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province. The report also highlighted that the deterioration of women’s rights had been one of the most notable aspects of the Taliban administration. In response to the report, the Taliban’s acting Minister of Vice and Virtue said, “The report published ... by the human rights I can tell you that it is not true from A to Z,” adding, “After the Islamic Emirate swept into power, the humanitarian situation has improved in every aspect in Afghanistan, and the killing of people has been stopped.”
Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Central Asia: Presidents pledge to increase cooperation to strengthen the region
On 20 July, Presidents from the five Central Asian nations met for the Fourth Consultative Meeting of the Heads of States of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan. During the two-day summit, the leaders promised to increase cooperation to strengthen the region. The meeting concluded with the signing of the Agreement on Friendship, Neighborliness, and Cooperation for Development of Central Asia in the 21st Century by the leaders of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. At the same time, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan did not sign the document citing domestic proceedings. This meeting took place after social unrest was seen in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in the past two years, border disputes, increasing cost of living in the region, the pandemic, severe droughts, supply issues, and the war in Ukraine.
Syria: Damascus cuts diplomatic ties with Ukraine
On 20 July, Syria formally announced severing diplomatic ties with Ukraine in response to the latter’s similar decision. The foreign ministry stated that “the Syrian Arab Republic has decided to break diplomatic relations with Ukraine in conformity with the principle of reciprocity.” In June, Ukrainian President Zelensky had said that Kyiv would cut ties with Damascus for recognizing the Russian-backed breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Lebanon: Judicial raid on the Central Bank of Lebanon
On 19 July, prosecuting judge Ghada Aoun authorized a judicial raid on the Lebanese Central Bank in an attempt to arrest the Bank’s long-serving governor Riad Salameh. As a response, the employees loyal to Salameh began a three-day strike over the judiciary’s “militia tactics”. Aoun has tried previously to arrest him and has accused the Lebanese politicians of protecting him from prosecution. Salameh is being investigated in the country and five European countries for money laundering.
Iraq: Diplomatic row with Turkey over air strikes
On 21 July, Iraq summoned Turkey's ambassador to Baghdad. It sought an explanation for the alleged air strikes that targeted and killed Iraqi civilians in the Zakho district of the Kurdish region's northern part of the country. The government also stated that it would call back its representative in Turkey. Responding to the developments, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called upon Iraq not to “fall for PKK’s trap” that is directed at hindering the counter-terrorism operations in Iraq.
UAE: Emirates signs energy deal with France
On 18 July, UAE leader Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Paris and signed energy deals. French company Total Energies and UAE’s ADNOC agreed to cooperate for energy supplies.
Malawi: 76 people arrested during protests
On 20 July, 76 people were arrested amid protests against the judiciary's slow processing of corruption cases and demands for the president's resignation. The protests were organised by the Human Rights Ambassadors group, which maintained that the judiciary provided "selective justice" and accused the president of the inaction against corruption and the high cost of living.
Africa: Leaders welcome Russia-Ukraine deal on grains export
On 23 July, African Union chairman Macky Sall welcomed the deal between Russia and Ukraine to allow the export of wheat and maize from Ukraine's ports. South Africa's president echoed the same and said the ongoing war in Ukraine was a wake-up call. The president said: "Our continued reliance on massive amounts of grains from that part of the world should be seen as a risk and a real danger to African countries' 1.3 billion people." Similarly, the Ivory Coast president insisted that Africa should be given priority during the grains export "because of the fragility of its economies and the social situation in many countries."
UK-Rwanda: Home Office was warned against asylum policy, reveal documents in High Court
On 19 July, The Guardian reported the High Court proceedings on the UK's policy to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda. The documents submitted to the High Court indicate that several UK government officials had cautioned the Home Office against the policy on many grounds, including that Rwanda was accused of recruiting refugees to carry out armed operations in neighbouring countries and that the UK had placed Rwanda on the amber/red list over human rights concerns. One of the claimants in the court said: "The revelations at today’s hearing are extraordinary. They paint a picture of a home secretary desperate to railroad this policy even in the face of serious reservations being raised by senior departmental officials."
Europe and The Americas This Week
Ukraine: Odesa Port hit by Russian Missiles after the grain export deal was signed between Russia, Ukraine, UN and Turkey
On 24 July, Russian missiles struck Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa, which is key to the deal signed between the warring countries. A deal to resume grain supplies was agreed on 23 July, with two cruise missiles hitting the terminal infrastructure of the port, hammering out the months of negotiations in a day. According to the UN, the deal was the first major accord between the two countries with a humanitarian aim to “ease the hunger” crisis that is likely to affect an estimated 47 million people.
Russia: Central bank cuts rates by 1.5 per cent
On 22 July, the Russian Central Bank cut its key interest rates by 150 basis points from 9.5 per cent to 8 per cent. The bank cited the slowing in inflation as the reason. The cut marks the fourth time the Russian Central Bank lowered its rate this year. According to the bank, though the economic conditions remained difficult across Russia, there are signs of slowing inflation across the country. This is in context to the multiple waves of sanctions imposed by the West.
Estonia: New coalition government established
On 18 July, the prime minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, formed her second government and took the oath of office in the Riigikogu. She formed her new coalition government with her liberal Reform party, the Social Democrats and the conservative Isamaa party. The previous government collapsed on 03 June after Kaja’s resignation and broke up her coalition with Center Party as it collided with the opposition EKRE party. From Kaja’s party, the minister of finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannnus, minister of social protection signe Riisalo and Minister of rural affairs Urmas Kruuse retain their positions in the new government.
Germany: 13th Petersburg Climate Dialogue held in Berlin
On 17 July, Germany and Egypt hosted the 13th Petersburg Climate Dialogue in Berlin. The government representatives from 40 countries will discuss climate protection agreements and preparations for the COP27 World Climate Conference in Egypt from 07-18 November. The informal ministerial meeting proposes to build consensus and provide political direction to resolve divergences aimed at improving the implementation of climate action, the core goal of COP-27. In a video address to the dialogue, Secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned that “Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise and ocean heat have broken new records. Half of humanity is in danger from floods, droughts, extreme storms, and wildfires. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction” and called for stronger cooperation between nations.
Italy: prime minister Mario Draghi resigns amid political and economic crisis
On 21 July, prime minister Mario Draghi resigned after the coalition of his national unity government collapsed. The resignation follows after weeks of disagreements between him and the coalition parties, notably the Five Star Movement, who withdrew from the vote of confidence. President Sergio Materella called on Draghi to act as a caretaker of the government until the next elections.
The EU: Interest rate increased for the first time in the Eurozone
On 21 July, the European Central Bank (ECB) declared that they would be raising the interest rate by 0.5 percentage points to 0.0 per cent. The interest rate has been negative since 2014. ECB president Christine Lagarde mentioned that the inflation rate in the country is expected to remain high due to the energy and food crisis and may further raise the rate of interest. This step comes after the Bank of England and the United States Federal Reserve also increased their rates to address rising prices. She stated: "We expect inflation to remain undesirably high for some time owing to continued pressure from energy and food prices and pipeline pressures in the pricing chain."
The UK: World’s most extensive drone highway approved by the UK
On 18 July, the UK announced GBP 273 million funding package for a 262 km long Skyway project meant to connect towns and cities through unmanned aerial vehicles. Skyway aims to connect the airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby by mid-2024 and will receive more than GBP 12 million. Several projects around Skyway include a plan to use drones to provide regular deliveries of mail and medicine to the Isles of Sicily, and to distribute medicines across Scotland, potentially enabling some cancer patients to be treated in their local community.
The US: Google fires engineer who claimed Google chatbot was sentient
On 22 July, Alphabet Inc's Google, dismissed a senior software engineer who claimed the company's artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot LaMDA was a self-aware person. Last year, Google said that LaMDA - Language Model for Dialogue Applications - was built on the company's research showing that Transformer-based language models trained on dialogue could learn to talk about anything. The engineer was fired for violating the company’s policies on revealing the company’s product information.
The US: China tracks and follows the US Navy in the Taiwan Strait
On 20 July, the Chinese military's Eastern Theatre Command stated that it tracked and closely watched the US destroyer Benfold when it crossed the Taiwan Strait. The military said: "The frequent provocations and showing-off by the United States fully demonstrate that the United States is a destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and a maker of security risks in the Taiwan Strait." According to the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, the USS Benfold, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, made a familiar passage of the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday "through international waters in accordance with international law." The Fleet said: "The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state." About once a month, the US has been making these trips across the body of water between Taiwan and China. Beijing, who regards them as a show of support for the island, is enraged by this.
About the Authors
Angelin Archana is an Assistant Professor at the Women’s Christian College, Chennai. Akriti Sharma, Harini Madhusudan, Rashmi Ramesh and Ankit Singh are PhD Scholars in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Avishka Ashok, Abigail Miriam Fernandes, Apoorva Sudhakar, and Emmanuel Selva Royan are Research Associates at NIAS. Arshiya Banu is a research intern at NIAS.
Vignesh Ram | Assistant Professor | Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal
Harini Madhusudan, Rishma Banerjee, Padmashree Anandhan, Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan, and Avishka Ashok
Padmashree Anandhan and Rishma Banerjee
Mathew Sonu Simon
Rashmi BR and Akriti Sharma
Emmanuel Selva Royan