A failed coup in Ethiopia. On Saturday evening, a state president and his adviser were shot dead as armed forces tried but failed to take over the regional government in Amhara. The two were killed as they attended a meeting to discuss recent called for ethnic militias to arm themselves, according to the government. And then, just as the central government was planning its response, the army chief of staff was fatally shot by his bodyguard. The following morning Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appeared on television, decked out in military fatigues, for an address to the nation, during which he recounted the details of the attempted coup and accused Gen. Asaminew Tsige of orchestrating it. The general, an ethnic Amhara whose whereabouts are still unknown, was handed a life sentence back in 2009 for allegedly plotting a military coup but was pardoned by Abiy, an ethnic Oromo, last year and then installed as the head of Amhara’s Peace and Security Bureau. Asaminew’s pardon was one of a number of steps Abiy took to try to expedite ethnic reconciliation in the country, but evidently Asaminew was unconvinced – video spread on social media last week of the general calling for the Amhara people to arm themselves. The Ethiopian government says it now has the coup under control. Even if that’s true, the government clearly does not have control over the broader domestic political situation in the country.
An redo in Istanbul. A controversial replay of Istanbul’s mayoral election left no doubt that the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP’s) candidate had lost. The original contest on March 31 had been so close that a recount was ordered. When the recount showed that Ekrem Imamoglu, the candidate for the Republican People’s Party (CHP), won by a mere 14,000 votes, the AKP petitioned the Supreme Electoral Council to annul the vote, saying there were too many voting irregularities. Yesterday, however, Imamoglu achieved a more decisive victory, garnering 54 percent of the vote with a turnout rate of over 84 percent. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan conceded the race and congratulated Imamoglu on his victory. This is being portrayed in most Western media outlets as a major defeat for the AKP, and for Erdogan in particular, but it’s worth remembering that the AKP won 44 percent of the vote to the CHP’s 30 percent in the countrywide municipal elections, and that the result does not actually curb Erdogan’s power. It’s also worth noting that much of the Western media depicted the initial episode as evidence of Turkish democracy failing before our eyes. There are certainly points to be made in that regard, especially related to the AKP’s crackdown on journalism after the 2016 failed coup against the government, but the larger point is that Turkey is complex and divided, and for all its faults it remains a democracy, for better or worse.
The EU reconsiders. The European Commission has decided against initiating formal disciplinary procedures on Italy this week for what it says is excessive deficit spending and inadequate measures to rein in public debt. The EC hopes the delay will give the Italian government time to reconcile its internal differences and produce a plan to reduce government spending that Brussels can approve. Rome will also update the European Commission on Tuesday on the state of its public finances, which are expected to show modest improvements in revenues and savings. Whether the EC is right to hope for Italy to adjust its spending plans is a different story. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who, unlike some of the hawks in his government, has generally tried to avoid confrontation with Brussels, gave an interview to La Stampa on Friday in which he accused the European Union of excessive rigidity and of economic forecasts “that do not correspond to reality.” That puts Conte more in line with the strident views of his deputy prime minister and leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, who on Friday threatened to resign and bring down the Italian government unless the government went forward with 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) worth of tax cuts. The European Commission has already indicated it does not approve of the cuts unless they are accompanied by government spending cuts, which go against Salvini’s plans. Perhaps the EC isn’t giving Italy more time so much as it is tacitly recognizing that it has overstepped its bounds. In any case, the onus is now on Italy. The European Commission could still recommend launching formal disciplinary proceedings during the first week of July.
Middle East intrigue. Multiple U.S. officials visited multiple Middle Eastern countries over the weekend. Washington’s special representative for Iran met with Kuwait’s foreign minister while national security adviser John Bolton met with Israeli and Russian officials in Jerusalem yesterday. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed early this morning in Saudi Arabia. From there, the secretary will travel to the United Arab Emirates, where the country’s foreign minister tweeted yesterday that Abu Dhabi does not want escalation between Iran and the United States. Washington’s shuttle diplomacy has not exactly calmed the situation; the Israel Defense Forces raised its alert status yesterday while Iranian-backed Houthis carried out an attack on a Saudi airport over the weekend that killed one and wounded 21 more. Iran continues to be defiant. Its foreign minister said Iran was holding negotiations on monetary treaties with Turkey, Russia, China, India and others to circumvent U.S. sanctions, and its navy chief reportedly threatened to shoot down more U.S. drones. And still, the U.S. plans to go forward with presenting a plan in Bahrain on Tuesday to solve the interminable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- The Trump administration is mulling an executive order requiring any equipment and software used in U.S. 5G telecommunications networks to be designed and manufactured outside China – a move that would force even non-Chinese telecommunications firms like Ericsson and Nokia to relocate major operations outside of China.
- A new poll by the Sunday Times showed that 53 percent of Scots would back Scottish independence if Boris Johnson became the next British prime minister.
- Kim Jong Un said he received a personal letter with “excellent content” from U.S. President Donald Trump. Pompeo says it may lead to a resumption of working level nuclear talks between North Korea and the U.S.
- Nechirvan Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, said on Saturday that his government is seeking stronger ties for a “new era” in its relationship with Turkey.
- Roughly 250,000 Czechs rallied against Prime Minister Andrej Babis in Prague on Sunday.
- Planning has begun for a new port in Australia’s Glyde Point area, located 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of an existing port at Darwin, which would allow U.S. Marines to operate more effectively in the region.
- The Sudanese military rejected an Ethiopian proposal supported by the political opposition over the country’s transitional government, with a spokesperson insisting that it will accept only a joint African Union-Ethiopia plan.
- The U.S. announced that yet another round of talks with the Taliban will begin in Doha on June 29.
- The commanders of U.S. Africa Command held talks with the president, defense minister and army chief of staff of the Democratic Republic of Congo on increasing military cooperation.
- The German Ifo Institute’s business climate index fell for the third consecutive month in June, to 97.4 from 97.9. It was the lowest reading since November 2014.
- Trump said on Twitter that other countries should be responsible for protecting their own tankers around the Strait of Hormuz.
- Amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi, Russia’s consumer protection agency said it would be tightening checks on imported Georgian wine over concerns about quality.