U.S.-Turkey relations may be improving. It’s no secret that they have been strained lately, what with the public disagreements over Syria, the application of sanctions on Turkish individuals and the blaming of the U.S. for Turkey’s economic problems. We’ve been waiting to see how the U.S. would react to the agreement on Idlib – an agreement reached by Turkey and Russia – and the response seems positive. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. and Turkey will resume talks over the status of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, whose detention in Turkey has become a sticking point in bilateral ties (to say nothing of the acquisition of the S-400 missile system from Russia, or the handwringing over the F-35 fighter jet program). Pompeo went so far as to say a release is possible within the next month. This came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his government would create safe zones for Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria that will include U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds. Such a move helps Turkey establish control over territories farther east than it controls now – one of its primary objectives in Syria.
The EU will continue to work with Iran despite U.S. sanctions. To that end, Brussels has said it would create special payment channels to facilitate Iranian exports, including oil. The announcement came after a ministerial meeting with the remaining parties of the Iran nuclear deal – Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, China and France. That China and Russia support trade with Iran is unsurprising. What’s surprising is that the European Union had decided to enact a foreign policy that directly contravenes U.S. foreign policy.
Syria update. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Russia’s intention to upgrade Syrian defenses with S-300 missiles systems would escalate tensions in the region. The head of the U.S. National Security Council said the same. Indeed, the U.S. appears to be standing by its traditional Middle Eastern ally, saying it supported Israel’s right to self-defense against Iranian encroachment in Syria. Washington added that it would not leave Syria until all Iranian forces vacated the country. The Syrian government, for its part, needs Russian and Iranian support, but it’s increasingly clear that its fate is in the hands of Russia, Israel and the U.S.
- The head of Russia’s Security Council will visit Iran on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
- The Commonwealth of Independent States claims that the Islamic State is trying to activate sleeper cells in Central Asia.
- France announced 26 billion euros ($30.6 billion) worth of tax cuts that will primarily target workers and employers. To fund this cut the government will cap pensions, limit welfare benefits and reduce public sector jobs.
- The United States and South Korea signed an updated version of their bilateral free trade agreement.
- China is reportedly developing a national system to monitor local government revenue and spending.
- Argentina’s General Workers Confederation starts a general strike today in opposition to the government’s cooperation with the International Monetary Fund.