Erdoğan-Putin Deal Tests Russian, Turkish Influence in Libya

Vladimir Putin Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey meet in Saint Petersburg, August 9, 2016 (Kremlin)

Days after sending military aid to prop up the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has done a deal with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to halt the fighting in Libya.

Russian mercenaries fight on the side of warlord Khalifa Haftar, who controls the bulk of the country, including its oil industry.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also support Haftar, who has reportedly received Chinese-made drones and Russian-made air defenses from the UAE.

The Arab states see Haftar as a bulwark against Islamist influences, including the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is part of the Tripoli government. Egypt’s generals overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in their country with the backing of most Arab monarchs in 2013.

It is unclear what, if any, effect the Erdoğan-Putin deal will have. Artillery and missile strikes were reported on the outskirts of Tripoli in the early hours of Thursday. The promised ceasefire could be a test of Turkey’s and Russia’s influence on their proxies in Libya. Read more “Erdoğan-Putin Deal Tests Russian, Turkish Influence in Libya”

Don’t Call Your Opponents Traitors

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump attends a World War I memorial in Suresnes, France, November 11, 2018 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

American president Donald Trump and his supporters have learned one lesson of the Iraq War: To quash legitimate concerns about an ill-advised military operation, call the patriotism of your critics into question.

It sometimes works — but only briefly, and it hurts you more than helps in the end. Read more “Don’t Call Your Opponents Traitors”

Don’t Pull NATO into the Middle East

Jens Stoltenberg Donald Trump
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and American president Donald Trump answer questions from reporters at the White House in Washington DC, April 12, 2017 (NATO)

American president Donald Trump has called on NATO to get more involved in the Middle East.

Speaking a day after Iran retaliated for the assassination of its top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq by attacking American military bases in the country, Trump pointed out that the United States are no longer dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

He didn’t elaborate, but I can think of at least four problems with the idea. Read more “Don’t Pull NATO into the Middle East”

Democratic Primary News

Elizabeth Warren
Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts visits a high school in Des Moines, Iowa, October 21, 2019 (Phil Roeder)
  • Julián Castro has thrown his support behind Elizabeth Warren. This has helped Warren move up in the endorsement primary, which tracks support from prominent party actors. She is now in second place, behind Joe Biden but ahead of Bernie Sanders.
  • Although Sanders has raised the most money in total, Biden is ahead in donations from people who also give to the Democratic Party. This is perhaps unsurprising given that Sanders, who isn’t even formally a Democrat, is running as much against the Democratic establishment as he is against the Republicans. Warren and Pete Buttigieg share second place in big-dollar donations from politically engaged Democrats, but neither is far behind Biden, suggesting there isn’t a consensus among donors yet.
  • Biden continues to lead the polls with 25-30 percent support nationwide. Biden shares first place in the Iowa polls with Buttigieg and Sanders. Each has around 20 percent support. Warren is at 15. It’s a similar picture in New Hampshire, where Sanders — from neighboring Vermont — is slightly more popular. Nevada and South Carolina haven’t been polled since November, but at the time Biden was ahead in both states.
  • California shows a three-way race between Biden, Sanders and Warren. Texas has Biden in the lead. Both states will vote on March 3, Super Tuesday, and together send 644 out of 3,979 pledged delegates (16 percent) to the convention in July.
  • Michael Bloomberg has moved into fifth place with 5-6 percent support nationally. He has also hired some 500 new staffers across thirty states, bringing his total campaign staff to 800 — more than any other candidate. Read more “Democratic Primary News”

Sánchez Wins Second Term as Prime Minister of Spain

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez gives a speech in parliament in Madrid, March 2, 2016 (PSOE)
  • Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez has won a second term as prime minister of Spain.
  • He fell short of a absolute majority in Congress on Sunday but needed only more votes in favor than against a the second ballot on Tuesday.
  • Left-wing separatists from the Basque Country and Catalonia abstained, allowing Sánchez to scrape by with a majority of two — the smallest ever for a Spanish prime minister.
  • Sánchez’ will be the first coalition government since the Civil War and the most left-wing government since the fall of the Republic. Read more “Sánchez Wins Second Term as Prime Minister of Spain”

Everything You Need to Know About the Labour Leadership Election

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016 (PES)

After leading the British Labour Party into its worst electoral defeat since 1935, Jeremy Corbyn is stepping down as leader.

The contest to succeed him will take three months and pit defenders of Corbyn’s legacy against centrists who believe the party must change.

Here is everything you need to know. Read more “Everything You Need to Know About the Labour Leadership Election”

Germany’s Surplus Obsession Hurts the Eurozone

Angela Merkel
German chancellor Angela Merkel attends the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019 (Bundesregierung)

If the German economy does poorly, so will the eurozone’s. A mere .2 percent growth is projected for the first quarter of 2020. This should be a wakeup call to German policymakers.

There are the usual suspects: underdeveloped infrastructure, underinvestment in education, export dependency.

They all stem from Germany’s obsession with surpluses. Revenues generated by exports are not reinjected into the economy. Rather, they sit comfortably in savings accounts. This is the reason for negative interest rates.

Not spending money is one way to get rich. But to grow its economy, or prevent a slowdown, Germany must put its money to work: invest in education, infrastructure and public goods.

Its reluctance to do so affects everyone in the euro area. Germany accounts for nearly 30 percent of the eurozone’s GDP. If Germany spent more at home, it would reduce its current account surplus and increase demand for the products and services of other European nations. Read more “Germany’s Surplus Obsession Hurts the Eurozone”

Democratic Primary News

Bernie Sanders
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders makes a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, July 18, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)
  • Julián Castro, Barack Obama’s housing secretary, has ended his presidential bid.
  • Bernie Sanders out-fundraised the other candidates in the final quarter of last year, bringing in $34.5 million against $22.7 million for Joe Biden. President Donald Trump raised $46 million for his reelection campaign in the same period.
  • Trump’s airstrike against Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq has divided Democrats. Only Sanders and Andrew Yang opposed it outright. Read more “Democratic Primary News”

Spain’s Electoral Commission Sidesteps Courts to Ban Catalan Leaders

Quim Torra
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14, 2018 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Spain’s electoral commission is trying to sidestep the courts in order to ban Catalan separatist leaders from office.

The commission ordered Catalan president Quim Torra to step down on Friday, although he is appealing a similar ban from office by the Catalan High Court.

It also barred separatist party leader Oriol Junqueras from taking his seat in the European Parliament, despite the European Court of Justice ruling that he must. Read more “Spain’s Electoral Commission Sidesteps Courts to Ban Catalan Leaders”

Soleimani Assassination Divorced from Strategy

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump answers questions from reporters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, July 18, 2019 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

The killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani in Iraq could turn out to be a brilliant gamble that in the long term stabilizes the greater Middle East.

More likely, it will be a major political and strategic problem for the region and the United States broadly speaking within the context of renewed great-power competition, particularly with respect to Sino-American competition. Read more “Soleimani Assassination Divorced from Strategy”