Iran among the ruins (by Vali Nasr)

13 February 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 011)Vali Nasr provides a comprehensive analysis of the evolving role of Iran in the Middle East, arguing that demonizing Tehran and re-introducing sanctions against it is a bad policy for the U.S. He shows that the increasing Iranian influence in a range of countries- war-torn Syria, Iraq, Qatar- is due to a large extent to America’s own policy failures, namely, the demolition of the order across the Arabic world it contributed to. So, the American policy towards Iran must necessarily be an element in a comprehensive Middle Eastern strategy that would enable restoring the balance of powers in the region and thus installing relative stability. The author claims that Tehran’s ideological zeal is often exaggerated by the U.S., while in reality the regime’s approach has more in common with current realpolitik of China or Russia rather than revolutionary fanaticism, and this nationalistic approach cements the Iranian society, otherwise divided across many lines.

 

Guns and palm oil (by Yakov Mirkin)

3 May 2018

The article summarizes the outcomes of four years of sanctions for the Russian economy. The author is generally pessimistic, stating that while there has been considerable growth in several insulated sectors of the economy, overall, the trend for centralization and hollowing regions has got stronger, small businesses find it increasingly difficult to stay afloat, the state became too heavy and risks turning Russia into a mobilized, closed economy, while the problem of dependence on the developed countries for the majority of high-tech products and components has not been resolved. But most importantly, he argues, Russia will suffer on a long term from the atmosphere of a “besieged fortress” promoted by the sanctions, as well as loosing attractiveness for its major economic partners, the Eurasian Union members in particular. 

 

Could North Korea help bring the United States and China closer together? (By Patrick M. Cronin)

4 May 2018

Patrick M. Cronin on Foreign Policy highlights the North Korean issue as a key for normalizing the deteriorated bilateral relations between U.S. and China, thanks to the possible cooperation between two parties. The author states that considering the fact that North Korea poses a security threat for the both powers, they should put strategic competition away and concentrate on pressuring North Korea. Furthermore, Mr. Cronin states that China should be more skeptical towards North Korea and not relieve its pressure, while the U.S. should focus on its outcome to secure dismantlement of North Korean nuclear weapons. While Washington and Seoul combined pressure and engagement, Beijing could pursue a similar strategy if it is interested in enhancing regional security.

 

UK could stay in EU customs union for years after Brexit transition (by Tom McTague and Charlie Cooper)

4 May 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 011)Politico reports on the state of affairs in the Brexit negotiations. It seems that the proponents of the radical withdrawal who are hostile to the plans of keeping UK in the customs union. Given the fragility of Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership, she would find it increasingly hard to go against the flow, and Brexit Secretary has recently expressed his “100%” certainty that this option is now off the table.  The would-be Customs Union agreement is now ostracized in this camp as turning UK into a “vassal state”. On the other hand, there is no clear vision how Britain and the EU would settle the divorce by the end of a transition period earmarked for December 2020, and there are calls to extend it. The complexity of the situation is only exacerbated by the European officials who push the Westminster to prepare an interim plan by the European Council summit to be held this June, which, according to London, is unrealistic.

 

Trade talks expose a chasm between China and America

5 May 2018

Heated state of the trade relations between China and U.S. didn’t improve an inch after the much-awaited bilateral talks that have just taken place in Beijing. The Economist argues that as both sides will insist on their demands without making a compromise, the trade war may become inevitable, and the only way to “peace” is mutual goodwill. While the U.S. demands China to cut its trade surplus, to stop subsidizing sectors such as electric vehicles and robotics, to reduce tariffs on American products and to open its market, China in its turn expects from Washington easing control over militarily applicable technologies, opening its market to Chinese information-technology products, and claims that otherwise, it should be classified by WTO as a non-market economy. The article sees the main problem in China’s desire to become a high-tech global power, which Washington considers a threat to American companies. The article is also quite pessimistic about expecting goodwill from such unyielding leaders as Xi Jinping and Donald Trump. 

 

By ending the nuclear deal, Trump has handed a gift to Iranian hardliners (by Sanam Vakil)

8 May 2018

Sanam Vakil discusses the challenges and consequences of the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Despite Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, Trump announced to re-impose sanctions against Iran. This step will increase the role of China and Russia in the Middle East, opening the door to building strong economic and political ties with Iran and its neighbours. Iranian frustration will play into the hands of hardline political elites trying to establish conservative unity among the population. Tehran will try to push the EU to defend the deal and in case the EU fails to do so, Iran will restart its nuclear programme, which will lead other regional actors such as Saudi Arabia to take similar steps. The current state of affairs will inevitably contribute to a wider regional escalation in the Middle East, and the U.S. may become embroiled in the Middle East war. 

 

Labour needs to wage war on EU neoliberalism to prevent a Brussels sabotage (by Paul Mason)

9 May 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 011)Paul Mason discusses the possible reactions of the European Union in case Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour comes to form a UK government. He reveals Brussels’ plans to block Corbyn’s proposed radical-left policies of re-nationalisation of certain sectors of economy and boosting the trade unions’ role, which can include prohibitive measures against the City’s dealings in Europe and even a ban on British planes to land in the EU. Mr. Mason argues that the EU is predetermined to run neoliberal policies and punish those who openly challenge this consensus, as it did to Greece in 2015. Thus, he recommends the Labour party to take measures in advance and try to build a coalition of the European left capable of withstanding to the EU neoliberalism, and to devise post-Brexit plans in accordance with the Brussels’ position; though he in general prefers London to stay in the European Economic area, it should be made clear that it would be impossible if the Eurobureaucrats persist in their uncompromising approach.

 

Russian pipe dream hits raw European nerve (by Jo Harper)

9 May 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 011)The construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would let Russia to bypass Ukraine while channeling gas to the EU and double the amount of gas transported to Germany, has polarized debate in the EU and the USA. Despite recent spats over Syria and Ukraine, Russia and the EU realize that they need each other. While Russia seeks a market for its oil and gas exports, Europe needs cheap and reliable energy. Germany seems to be more interested in fulfilling its need for reliable long-term gas imports than in protecting Ukraine’s fragile economy. Professor Brenda Shaffer, a Russia expert at Georgetown University, points to 3 reasons explaining why the pipeline is needed. First of all, it means cleaner energy for Germany, still dependent on coal. The importance of the relationship with Russia for Germany is another important factor, so gas trade would be a positive component in their cooperation. And the third reason, explaining the importance of The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, is the price: transiting gas through Ukraine is going to be more expensive after Russia starts producing in the Arctic North.