EU

New US farce in Ankara today is the latest from the West

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Two Mikes from the United States, Mike Pence (vice-president) and Mike Pompeo (secretary of state), would be in Ankara on Thursday which is the latest farce on Turkey’s invasion on Kurds in Syria, now in its 10th day.

Pence and Pompeo have been ridiculed by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan even before they have set foot on Turkish soil but that’s a badge of honour for the two who would defend president Donald Trump till the end of the world even if it tars a fresh coat on their reputation-for-ridicule as the most repulsive figure and worst secretary of state in the history of United States.

Both are on mission of “Saving Kurds” from Turkey which was facilitated in the first place by their boss himself who since then have swung from one extreme to other that would put a spider monkey and its prehensile tail to shame. Trump first questioned Kurds’ loyalty; then vowed to destroy Turkey’s economy and has now indicted latter’s state-owned Halkbank even though the real “sanction” is an eternity away.

This farce outrage for public consumption has been echoed across the Atlantic by the traditional European allies of the United States. European Union and NATO have bristled with fury, a whole lot of European nations, be it heavyweights Britain, France, Germany or lesser lights like Spain, Italy and Netherlands have put embargo on arms export but none of them have ventured to slap debilitating sanctions on Turkey. After all, who would risk millions of refugees dumped on their doorstep, and further beef-up the right-wingers in their own backyard?

Closer home, Erdogan chortled in glee when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took days to condemn his incursion into Syrian territory even though it multiplied manifold the existential threat of the Jewish nation. Saudi Arabia took the potshot against Turkey behind the veil of Arab League, another sound of fury signifying nothing. Israel and Saudi Arabia can neither count on any tangible action from their “big brother” United States in their backyard—after all, what did US do on Aramco attack?—nor have the requisite muscle of their own now that Iran-Syria-Lebanon seem set to write new rules in the “great game” of the Middle East.

Syria has predictably moved forces in its troubled northeastern part but don’t be fooled it’s an operation against Turkey. Both are sidestepping each other’s toes in perfect harmony while a nervous world is being drummed the beats of World War III in their ears by the corrupt Western media. Nothing could be farther from truth.  Both would circle each other in ring but won’t throw a punch in anger: after all its’ referee Vladimir Putin who has every twitch of their muscles on his strings.

Did I miss United Nations? Or Australia? Or Egypt? Nor should you. The cheerleaders and their pom-pom in the piece so far is an essential guide. None of them give a damn to the fate of Kurds who not very long ago were being hailed as the saviours against the Islamic State (IS).

Meanwhile swoon on Erdogan at his bombastic best. He terms US “ugly”; warns Europeans to brace for refugees and tells everyone within his earshot that he stands “tall.” This is worth an Oscar for his domestic audience; a fillip to his loss in local elections in Istanbul in June; which came close on the heels of his drubbing in Ankara and other important cities like Adana, Antalya and Mersin in the March elections. The split in his own AKP (Justice and Development Party) is imminent. The less said about the economy the better: last summer’s balance of payments crisis hasn’t gone away; his son-in-law and finance minister Berat Albayrak is already an unmitigated disaster.

But Erdogan is safe till 2023 elections: his emergency rules allow him to use all the gross revenues. It allows him to talk of Operation Peace Spring against the Kurds; talk of war against terrorism even as he pummels and opens 78 investigations against those who dare to defy him on his move. Such is the farce which is inflicted on you and me; general citizens of the world. The duplicity of the West could shame the shameless but the naked Emperor. Meanwhile, rejoice at Russia which has allowed Syria and Iran to punch farther than their reach. It’s a seminal moment in Putin’s Russia: And it is not a farce.

 

 

Modi finds his nerves tested by US on Iran

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

United States wants India to cut down its oil imports from Iran which stands as its third biggest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump has followed his pre-election promise with withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA) which had enabled China, Russia, France, Germany UK, European Union and the US itself to dilute the economic sanctions against Tehran. Now the sanctions are back in place with the deadline of November 6, 2018 and the world is in turmoil, no less India.

The Trump administration has chosen a new way to browbeat the countries which don’t fall in line. Last August, it introduced CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) to scare those away from trade relations with “hostile” countries such as Russia, North Korea and Iran. International banks and companies which defy the sanctions would bear the brunt. Less oil imports from Iran would hike up the prices and import bills, not just of India but of many around the world. It would hit both inflation and Indian rupee. Since US dominates the re-insurance and payment gateways, bypassing them is difficult.

India’s dilemma is apparent. Before 2005, it paid $12-14 billion annually to oil bills by Iran. But signing the 2005 Indo-US Nuclear Civil Deal, gave New Delhi’s leash in US hands. India voted against Iran in the IAEA General Conference in September the very year; dithered on the Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline and sounded the death knell of Turkmenistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. By 2014, India had reduced the Iranian oil imports to $4 billion annually.

The US treasury methodically shut down the banking options for India who then began paying Turkey by cash which then converted it to gold bars and sent it across to Tehran. India was in no position to pay oil bills in US dollars. India did try the balancing act: while Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ceased dealing with Tehran-based Asian Clearing Union in 2010, it came to an understanding with Iran to pay half of its bill in Indian rupees in 2012.

But once the JCPOA came into being, India-Iran trade relations grew back to 2012 days. India also decided to pay out $6.5 billion it owed to Iran, held up due to sanctions. Modi government renewed the stalled Chahbahar port project. Its’ ministers made a beeline to Tehran with promises of oil and infrastructural projects. Iran obliged on its part by granting Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) the gas fields of Farzad B for exploration. The air of optimism only grew better when Iranian president Hassan Rouhani visited New Delhi this February with his oil minister Bijan Zanganeh. India pledged it would double its oil imports from Iran in 2018-2019. Iran, on its part, promised to cut down the freight by $1 per barrel. India pledged to increase import by 500,000 barrels a day.

But now comes the fresh US imposition. Even though foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has reiterated India would only abide by the mandates sanctioned by the United Nations (UN), it’s easier said than done. India and US have a booming trade of $140 billion which could take a grave hit, as well as around $31 billion of bilateral trade surplus advantage India has. Chahbahar port project, which could save millions in trade and increase Afghanistan’s tilt towards India, stands to lose steam. Besides, it just would give a bigger fillip to China to snug closer to Iran, shutting the doors on India.

India would be encouraged by the stand of UK, France, Germany who have expressed “regret and concern over Trump’s disruptive action. The Modi government meanwhile has started to flex its own muscles: in reaction to US postponing the 2+2 dialogue, India has declined US’ offer to host Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. India also seems steadfast in increasing its military deals with Russia which faces similar offensive sanctions from United States.

The one fall-out of all this, including trade barriers ratcheted up by both US and India, is Modi government swinging back appreciably into the China-Russia zone. India has this strategic advantage where countries are looking to wow India rather than the other way around. However, India-US relations for the moment are several notches down than they have ever been since Trump came to power.