Trouble in Sri Lanka. Today, the island nation’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, suspended Parliament until mid-November. The decision comes a day after his surprise sacking of Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister — and his even more surprising appointment of former strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Wickremesinghe’s replacement. Sirisena ostensibly suspended the Parliament to deny Wickremesinghe, whom the president has accused of supporting an India-backed assassination attempt against him, the opportunity to reclaim his post. It’s juicy political drama with a geopolitical bent. When Rajapaksa was in power, he aggressively courted Chinese military assistance and investment in a pair of strategic port projects, making Sri Lanka a cautionary tale of China’s “debt trap diplomacy.” India is believed to have helped broker the coalition between Sirisena’s and Wickremesinghe’s parties that beat Rajapaksa in the 2015 elections, and Sri Lanka has kept a more balanced strategic orientation between China and India ever since. It’s unclear just how much India and China really have to do with the power struggle in Colombo this time around; the pro-China Rajapaksa had a conspicuous meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in late August, so this shouldn’t be considered an automatic defeat for New Delhi. But considering Sri Lanka’s strategic geographic position, China and India both have a stake in the kerfuffle.
Israel and Oman. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Oman on Friday with a high-profile delegation that included his national security adviser, the Mossad chief and the director general of the Foreign Ministry. The trip appears to have been a success. On Saturday, Oman’s foreign minister said that it might be time for Israel “to be treated the same” as other states in the region and that the U.S. is helping broker a “deal of the century” to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid a visit of his own to Oman just a few days earlier.) From its strategically invaluable location at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, Oman has long been a (mostly) nonaligned country, a position that enables to it to play a quiet role as mediator in the region’s many disputes. Perhaps more notable was the reaction by other states in the region. At a summit attended by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, the foreign ministers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia said they supported the meeting and the broader peace process. The show of support subtly reveals the real target of all this diplomatic maneuvering – Iran, whose foreign minister criticized the meeting, and which Israel blamed for rocket attacks from Gaza on Friday night.
Japan and China have reconciled all of their differences. That is, if the statements following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first visit to China in seven years are to be believed. Abe said the trip was the beginning of a “new era” between the two countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping said bilateral ties have “returned to the right track and regained positive momentum.” There’s no shortage of overlapping interests here, as the $2.6 billion worth of commercial deals and cooperation agreements they reached attest. China is feeling increasingly isolated amid the U.S. aggression against it. Japan – itself uncertain about trade and about the long-term viability of its security partnership with the U.S. – sees cooperation as a way to co-opt the influence of and pre-empt conflict with China. But Abe and Xi reportedly went out of their way to avoid discussions on more contentious bilateral issues, namely territorial disputes. Their countries’ longer trajectory toward more intense competition will be hard to shift. Indeed, Abe is now off to India, where he’s expected to advance the budding partnership between Tokyo and New Delhi in the maritime sphere — a relationship driven overwhelmingly by a shared interest in containing potential Chinese aggression.
- The leaders of Russia, Turkey, France and Germany are talking Syria today in Istanbul.
- A Pakistani general said China has not requested military access to the strategic port of Gwadar.
- The U.S. Missile Defense Agency says its most recent test of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor was successful. The previous two tests failed.
- The Islamic State claimed the killing of more than 40 Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria’s eastern Deir el-Zour province.
- A senior North Korean delegation is in Moscow.
- Russo-German trade increased by nearly 25 percent through the first eight months of the year, compared with the same period last year, according to the Kremlin.