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Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

Turkey’s Erdogan Gives Europe the Middle Finger

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The impact of Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s move Wednesday to replace Prime Minister Ahmet Dautoglu is already being felt in the western chancelleries with the signs that the scenario now is one of an acrimonious divorce between Ankara and the European Union. The EU-Turkey deal on stopping the flow of refugees to Europe in lieu of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the Shenghen area has hit the skids. (Financial Times)

Of course, the refugee problem is an existential issue for the EU — and for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in particular, whose political prestige is at stake, since she was the architect of the deal with Turkey which she got a reluctant EU to accept. The Chancellery in Berlin warned Erdogan yesterday: “The Chancellor has worked very well until now with Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu… and we assume that this good and constructive cooperation will continue with the new Turkish prime minister”. (Bloomberg)

But Erdogan is defiant, even plainly contemptuous. He retorted, “We will go our way; you go yours” – hinting that he is slamming the door shut on the democratic reforms that EU is demanding from Turkey. He added, “The EU is telling us to change our law on combatting terrorism. [They] are allowing terrorists to raise tents and then [they] come with requirements.”
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Aleppo – Syria’s Stalingrad?

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In a message on Thursday addressed to Vladimir Putin felicitating Russia on its Victory Day, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad compared the fighting around the city of Aleppo to Stalingrad, which turned the tide of World War II. It’s a powerful metaphor for the Russian psyche, driving home that winning the Syrian war in Aleppo’s battle fields is a must and there is no scope for compromise.

Assad sent his message on the same day the US-Russia agreement extending the Syrian truce to the Aleppo theatre came into effect. Damascus insists this is only a 48-hour cease fire. Indeed, the Iranian reports on Thursday highlighted that the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters “backed up by the country’s fighter jets and Russian artillery units” continue their operations in western Aleppo, pushing back the extremist fighters.

On the other hand, Washington is anxious to interpret that the agreement with Moscow means that Aleppo falls within the purview of the ceasefire across the country. But is the ceasefire possible in a situation where the extremist groups (who have been excluded from the ceasefire) freely intermingle with the so-called moderate opposition groups?
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US-Saudi Relations: Yesteryear Days are Gone Forever

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President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday has boomeranged. His good intentions were never in doubt – mend fences between the two countries. But what emerges is that it will need much more than one visit – maybe, even one full presidency cannot fulfill such a mission. According to Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Turki told CNN’s Christian Amanpour that there is going to have to be “a recalibration of our (Saudi) relationship with America. How far we can go with our dependence on America, how much can we rely on steadfastness from American leadership, what is it that makes for our joint benefits to come together. These are things that we have to recalibrate.”

He then added, “I don’t think that we should expect any new president in America to go back to, as I said, the yesteryear days when things were different.”

When a close longstanding relationship unravels, it is always a painful sight to watch, leave alone experience. Obama experienced a humiliation in Riyadh that has probably no parallel in recent international diplomacy. He was received on arrival in Riyadh on Wednesday by a relatively less important Saudi functionary – the governor of Riyadh.
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In India, Defense Secretary Carter to Push Anti-China Alliance

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US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has outlined in some detail the purpose of his mission to India next week. Principally he hopes to discuss arms deals and explore the parameters of co-production of weapons feasible under American laws prohibiting technology transfer. His focus is on the “potential production of fighter aircraft.”

American diplomacy makes it a point to envelop arms deals with rhetoric couched in the idiom of "shared values" – even when the US wraps up highly lucrative multi-billion dollar deals with countries such as Saudi Arabia. Thus, it comes as no surprise that in an address at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Friday, entitled "America’s Growing Security Network in the Asia-Pacific," Carter endeavoured to habitate the upcoming “exciting new projects” with India within an proposed regional security architecture under US leadership.

From the US perspective, the growing “interoperability” involving the two militaries serves the purpose of anchoring India as a key non-NATO ally, which of course demands a fundamental shift by India away from its non-aligned policies and its aversion to military blocs.
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US Plotting Color Revolt in Russia?

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The annual meeting of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the successor organization to the Soviet-era KGB is an important occasion to take the temperature in the ‘East-West’ relations. (The Cold War cliche is becoming useful once again.) President Vladimir Putin’s customary address at the FSB meeting was the hallmark of the occasion on Friday in Moscow.

The sensational part of Putin’s speech is his disclosure that the FSB is in possession of definite information that plots are being hatched in the West to stir up political turmoil in Russia as the country heads for crucial parliamentary election in October. Putin avoided the use of the expression "color revolution" but hinted at it. To quote him:
Of course, you (FSB) must also prevent any attempts from outside to intervene in our election and our country’s political life. As you know, such methods exists and have been put to use in a number of countries. Let me say again that this is a direct threat to our sovereignty and we will respond accordingly.

I read the regular documents you (FSB) prepare, read the summaries, and see the concrete indications that, regrettably, our ill-wishers abroad are preparing for these elections. Everyone should therefore be aware that we will defend our interests with determination and in accordance with our laws.
Elsewhere, Putin noted that foreign intelligence agencies have “stepped up their activity” and this was “convincingly confirmed” insofar as the FSB’s counter-intelligence interdicted over 400 foreign intelligence operatives last year and criminal charges were initiated against 23 of them.
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The New Bipolar World Has Arrived

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The United States, the lone superpower, has presented two draft resolutions to the UN Security Council on the North Korea problem and Syrian conflict respectively (here and here) – based on the understanding it reached through two water-tight bilateral consultative processes with two ‘half-superpowers’ – China and Russia. Now, don’t two halves make a wholesome one? Welcome to the new ‘bipolar’ world order.

Just as Beijing would have been taken by surprise at the US-Russian deal on Syria, which came out of the blue last Sunday, Moscow would take note that Washington and Beijing simply set out the road map on North Korea sanctions without taking Russia into confidence. But neither China nor Russia can complain because the lone superpower managed to make each feel special its own way.

A Russian diplomat in New York has promptly promised to study the draft resolution on North Korea sanctions. Beijing took a little extra time — almost two days — to issue a statement welcoming the US-Russian deal on Syria. The foreign ministers of Russia and China are not known to have spoken to each other even once during this past eventful one-week period although both claim to "co-ordinate" their foreign policy moves, while both nonetheless clocked several hours with their American counterpart.

It will be a signal achievement of the US diplomacy if it has succeeded in inserting itself laterally into the much-vaunted Sino-Russian entente. At any rate, Washington has brilliantly capitalized on the intense craving felt in Moscow and Beijing for somehow engendering an uplift in their respective ties with the US.
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Turkey Flexes Muscle in Syria

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The Turkish army has continued for the second day the shelling of the positions of the Syrian Kurdish militia across the border, demanding that the latter withdraw from the territories they’ve gained lately in the northern Aleppo province, especially the strategic military base of Menagh, which is vital to the supply lines from Turkey for the Syrian rebel groups.

But the Kurdish fighters are defiant and have rejected the Turkish demand. In turn, they have warned that they will resist any Turkish incursion. The Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim told Reuters that the Turkish army will find “the entire Syrian people confronting them”.

The latest reports suggest that the Kurdish militia, with Russian air cover, are encircling another strategic town of Tal Rifat close to the Turkish border. To be sure, Ankara faces a frontal challenge from the Kurdish militia who have rubbished its ‘red lines’ to the west of Euphrates and are now steadily advancing to take control of the territories straddling the Turkish border.

The Turkish objective will be to carve out a buffer zone inside Syria, which it has long advocated, ostensibly to provide for refugee camps for people fleeing the conflict zone, but in reality to gain control of the border territories and prevent the Syrian Kurds from gaining access to them.
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