Iran may pull out of the nuclear deal before the US (by Massoumeh Torfeh) 

1 March 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 002)In the opinion piece by Massoumeh Torfeh, she claims that Iran will leave a nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)) if it cannot gain economic benefits from it. Meanwhile, the author talks about Trump’s desire to increase sanctions against Iran and his violation of deal through creating “destructive atmosphere” against Iran as put by Aragachi, main JCPOA negotiator in Iran. The author states that Trump is not happy with a deal due to three main problems which are the failure of the deal to address Iranian ballistic missile programme, terms for international inspectors’ visits to suspicious Iranian nuclear sites as well as the “sunset” clause which allows for expiration of the limits on the Iranian nuclear programme after 10 years’ time. As other counterparties rejected Trump’s “fixing clauses”, he proposed a supplement agreement to address the above-mentioned issues. 

In the rest of the opinion, Torfeh explains the motive behind Trump’s action linking it to a potentially lucrative energy agreement with Saudi Arabia since Saudi Arabia rejects any clause in the agreement regarding restricting its uranium capability enrichment unless Iranian nuclear deal is tightened. Furthermore, Iran is also not happy with the recent position of the U.S. towards Iran due to Trump’s calls for a regime change Iran as well as American and Israeli unilateral actions against Iran. 

Meanwhile, the author claims that if the JCPOA does not meet what it proposed for Iran, Iran will leave the agreement and will possibly develop its military and build naval nuclear propulsion. The author concludes that if the deal does not contribute to the economic well-being of Iran, Tehran will leave the deal due to on-going strikes as well as economic unrest. 


China’s Stability Myth Is Dead (by James Palmer)

26 February 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 002)James Palmer’s argumentative article is basically dedicated to the recent announcement regarding China’s abolishment of a two-term limit for the presidency. The author claims that Xi Jinping made this step clear by not nominating his successor; in Chinese politics, there is a rule that a president should hand over his responsibilities to his successor to attain smooth leadership transition from one generation to other. The author claims that this step is very dangerous, different from Trump’s alleged desire to introduce a similar change to the American constitution, since in U.S. the president cannot transform political fundamentals but in China, it is quite possible due to a loose rule of law, including the weak constitution. Palmer also argues that the recent event was the proof of looming instability within the Chinese political system. 

The author further explains the signals unleashed happened before this dramatic change such as propaganda attempts. In China, media, business, local governments as well as celebrities highlighted Xi’s virtues at any opportunity. Errors committed while depicting Xi, are punished brutally, with heavy fines and internal punishments such as social ostracism imposed on the violators. Furthermore, the author also states that arguments acceptable in 2009, such as calls for the development of pluralism, civil society and political reform had already been restricted by 2014. The social media are also tightly controlled: for example, Weibo (Chinese Twitter-alike) was destroyed and replaced with WeChat. In the end, Palmer also touched upon the issue of cancellation of a traditional firework during the Lunar New Year celebrations and interpreted it as a restriction towards any kind of public gathering. 


How the West got China wrong 

1 March 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 002)The main motive behind this article is to depict that contrary to the Western expectations of a more democratic or constitutional rule gradually consolidating in China with the market economy, it is leading towards a dictatorship, as the recent events have demonstrated. Further on, The Economist analyses the overall situation about Xi Jinping’s rule by discussing political and social trends, business practices as well as its position as a global player. Under Xi’s rule, China is under harsh control considering the execution of organization of People’s Liberalization Army, imprisonment of free thinkers, state surveillance aimed at monitoring discontent and deviations from the official ideology. Furthermore, despite growing Chinese economy, The Economist argues that China does not possess a full-fledged market economy but rather controls and uses its economy as a state tool. China is also trying to create an alternative to the Western rules, for example its Road and Belt Initiative that is set to expanding the influence of Beijing. According to the article, China also “punishes” its enemies through business so it puts barriers in front of certain foreign companies if there is a dispute with the country that the company is based in. Finally, the development of Chinese military is another crucial element in this puzzle. 

In conclusion, The Economist argues that to prevent possible global instability, the West should tighten its containment measures against China before it is too late to challenge it, rather than waiting for China to change itself.


Global Trade: Looking at the Big Picture (by Mark Fleming-Williams)

13 February 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 002)Stratfor sums up the major trends in the development of global trade. The crucial idea of the analysis is the acute crisis faced by liberal world order, as its long-term pinnacle, the United States, now seems to be willing to reverse the process. After the stagnation of the previously triumphant WTO process kicked in early 2000’s, Washington is now actively pressing to change the rules of the global trade game, wishing to return to the predominantly bilateral negotiation which inevitably favour bigger and stronger parties. In 2017 the United States withdrew from TPP, and now they are challenging the WTO itself by refusing to approve judges for the appellate body that handles trade disputes, while also invoking unilateral trade remedy procedures. Moreover, the leading international actors are currently looking in different directions. China, interested in liberal goods trade and restricted trade in services, is perfectly satisfied with the status-quo, while India, whose economy relies on the innovative service sector, and thus has interests diametrically opposed to China’s, is in a disadvantaged position in negotiations. Japan, outperformed for many years by its geopolitical rivals, China and South Korea, and the integration-oriented European Union are now on the liberal side, and it puts their traditionally allied relationship with the U.S. under a strenuous test. Hence, the interplay of political and economic interests means a turbulent and rather unpredictable future for the global trade- very different from the post-Cold War economic conventions.


It is beyond this prime minister to beat Brexit swords into ploughshares (by Andrew Rawnsley) 

4 March 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 002)The Guardian’s commentator Andrew Rawnsley takes a critical approach towards the latest statements made by the UK Prime Minister Theresa May regarding Brexit. He emphasizes that for the first time, she has de-facto acknowledged Britain cannot get a deal better that it has enjoyed as a EU member, and her reserved tone underlined the failure of self-assertiveness Ms. May had indulged herself in until the negotiation with Brussels almost came to a deadlock. By openly stating that Britain will have to keep making payments to Europe to remain part of its important agencies, and dropping the pretence that London can enjoy the perks of being part of a customs union while abstaining from the obligations it puts, Ms. May has at least been honest about the implications of Brexit. However, Mr. Rawnsley further argues that Prime Minister’s promises to unify a country torn apart by the Brexit debate are likely to be vain, as during her 20-month reign Ms. May’s one-sided and obstinate approach has only exacerbated internal divides both within the Conservative Party and the British society at large. He argues that her unwise approach resulted in the unprecedented swing in the voters’ mood at the latest election and a hung parliament that made negotiation even harder to pursue.


Why civil wars are lasting longer (by Lise Morjé Howard and Alexandra Stark)

27 February 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 002)L. M. Howard and A. Stark analyze the reasons why today’s civil wars tend to be much more protracted and polarized, the Syrian conflict being the most brutal but a typical example of this tendency. They explain this change through the shift in international environment, whose norms, or the expectations of appropriate behaviour, define actors’ beliefs and attitudes towards different phenomena, including domestic conflicts. Today’s civil wars demonstrate a rupture to the pattern observed in the 1990’s as they seem to be entrenched and last until one side remains definitely victorious. The authors argue that a similar pattern was dominant during the Cold War, as the examples of Cambodia or Salvador demonstrate. The two superpowers, sticking to zero-sum logic, were interested to urge their proxies to fight till the end in order to weaken their rival in the global domination game. With the collapse of the USSR and a temporary triumph of the U.S.-led liberal order, it became conventional for the West to try to mediate between the conflict parties and achieve win-win solutions: it happened, for example, in Bosnia in 1995. However, the onset of the global war on terrorism and the rise of powers challenging the global status-quo once again turned the tide. Various political forces and leaders now use the word “terrorism” to demonize certain conflicting groups, denying them chances for a diplomatic solution. This polarized discourse, as well as new geopolitical rivalries prioritize victory in a domestic conflict over negotiated resolution, and endorsing authoritarian leaders capable of delivering a needed outcome is now a norm once again. The Syrian conflict has turned out to be so long and violent because there are several external powers with divergent interests unwilling to compromise, and each of the internal forces hopes to ultimately gain the upper hand with the help of its outside protégé. Based on their arguments, Howard and Stark forecast Assad’s victory and describe the worrying international trend as a new norm.  


Italy is facing a hung parliament after the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement surged in the election

5 March 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 002)Business Insider shares a brief review of the current situation in Italy after the March 4 elections. The worsening economic situation in the country and influx of migrants led to the radicalization of the electorate who voted for the populist coalition. Due to a widespread anger among population, the ruling Democratic Party has lost its position, while the winner of Sunday elections is the 5-Star Movement, which means that now the ruling party will inevitably have to deal with the interests of Euro-skeptic coalition. This course of events may radically change Italy’s policy towards the EU. According to Lorenzo Codogno, a former chief economist at the Italian Treasury, this situation will lead to new problems within the country, and long and complex negotiations are expected to complicate the situation even more. However, while Brussels is quite uncomfortable about the government of the 5-Star Movement and like-minded forces in Italy, once the most enthusiastic of the large EU member states, it is not the worst scenario: at least the party’s new leader, 31-year-old Luigi di Maio, dropped some of the party’s radical ideas, for example abandoning the euro. One of the biggest parties now is the Lega Nord, considered by many as a quasi-fascist one, which is much more Euro-skeptic and quite comparable to France’s National Front or Netherlands’ Freedom Party. The downfall of the centre-left, a common European trend today, has been quite pronounced, as the respective parties have won only in several urban centers, mainly in well-off regions of Tuscany and Romagna.


Tarik Yildiz: “The purpose is not to structuralize Islam but to fight a particular ideology”

6 March 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 002)On the pages of Le Monde, Tarik Yildiz contemplates about the challenge of radical Islam in France. He criticizes the approach recently voiced by President Macron who proposed to “structuralize” (control at the state level) Islam: in Mr. Yildiz’s view, this would be inefficient and may only make matters worse, alienating the moderate masses. Instead, he argues, the French government would be better off if it consolidates its efforts to destroy a violent takfirist ideology which is solely responsible for Islam-related acts of terrorism. He brings evidence for the strong linkage between petty delinquency and membership of extremist organisations: marginalized young people with very superficial knowledge of religion often get radicalized, either when incarcerated or just as a result of this total marginalization. Mr. Yildiz recommends the French state to pursue a hard but fair policy vis-à-vis extremism, and avoid double standards at all measures: punish the criminal but do not exclude Muslims. He adds that in France, with its rigid bureaucracy and persisting prejudices, often the opposite is the case. The author claims that the domination of foreign-sponsored religious communities exacerbates the problem as it often instills the believers with loyalty to foreign Muslim states rather than France, so he argues for an inclusive education system and willingness of the French state to support the Muslim leaders committed to the French values.


President Donald Trump wants tariffs on steel and aluminum

2 March 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 002)Recently, Donald Trump has announced tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. The   Economist discusses the possible consequences of this decision should it ever be taken. Even though Mr. Trump’s attempt to revive U.S. steel and aluminum industries may be beneficial for some workers, The Economist refers to the disastrous results of steel tariffs introduced by George W. Bush’s in 2002 when more jobs were lost than saved, and thus predicts that higher tariffs may have negative effects. As increased tariffs will lead to higher prices of inputs for steel-consuming products which in turn will increase the price of final products, the market equilibrium will be damaged. As a result of decreased demand for those products, the jobs in steel-consuming sectors will be lost. It is not only domestic economy that’ll be affected by new tariffs. America’s close allies, such as Canada, Mexico, South Korea along with the EU countries may take responsive measures to protect their domestic economies, which will probably worsen bilateral relations between the US and the listed countries.  


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