Is India cutting Iranian oil imports? A Reuters reports says yes – by as much as half in September and October. A report by Nikkei Asian Review, meanwhile, says no – that India plans to increase imports of Iranian oil after failing to reach an understanding with the United States at a ministerial meeting. Preliminary data suggests that India cut oil imports from Iran by 32 percent in August (month-on-month). If the Nikkei report is true, it would be quite the reversal. India’s Oil Ministry reportedly told Indian refiners in June that they should expect a “drastic reduction” of Indian imports of Iranian oil, and the U.S. secretary of state said last week that Washington would consider waivers only if India committed itself to eventually reducing oil imports. But India doesn’t really want to do that. It has a weak currency, and fuel prices are already high. Iran can’t afford to lose its second-largest export destination.
The latest on Syria. There have been nearly daily reports over the past week that Turkey has deployed more reinforcements to the Syrian border. The BBC has cited social media reports, which have been corroborated by Al-Jazeera, that a Turkish military convoy crossed the border into Syria on Thursday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to Sochi on Monday to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin about a potential cease-fire in Idlib, according to Turkey’s foreign minister. He, of course, is the same foreign minister who wrote a letter to the editor in The New York Times asking the U.S. to reconsider its alliances in the region. (Erdogan wrote a similar op-ed for The Wall Street Journal earlier this week.) On the other side of Syria, near the Jordanian border, U.S. troops and Syrian rebels wrapped up military drills, which a Syrian rebel commander said were designed to send a message to Iran and Russia. The same commander also reportedly said the U.S. would now actively seek to push Iranian forces out of Syria if they did not withdraw on their own. The U.S. has yet to comment on its own supposed threats.
- Two Mexican officials have said Mexico is ready to move forward with a bilateral trade deal with the U.S. if Canada and the U.S. don’t come to an agreement by Oct. 1.
- The European Central Bank said it would halve its current bond purchases from 30 billion euros ($35 billion) per month to 15 billion euros per month. It kept its main lending rate at 0 percent.
- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is on a four-day trip to China.
- Russia’s central bank raised interest rates for the first time in four years, increasing the benchmark by 0.25 percent to 7.5 percent.
- The Turkish Central Bank increased interest rates from 17.75 percent to 24 percent. The president said this was proof the central bank can make independent policy shortly before he warned that his “patience has limits.”
- Interfax-Ukraine reports that the EU and Ukraine have signed a memorandum of understanding on a loan worth 1 billion euros.
- A Venezuelan nongovernmental organization says a new Colombian guerrilla group is forming in the western Venezuelan states of Tachira and Zulia. If true, it is likely a rebranding effort exercise for FARC militants who don’t want to disarm.