Daily Memo: The US and Iran, Turkey in the Eastern Med, the Taliban in Tehran

What's geopolitically important today.

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The U.S. considers a response. The world is still awaiting a U.S. response to the Iranian attacks on Saudi oil facilities over the weekend. U.S. officials appear to be weighing their options and trying to coordinate their next steps with allies. As GPF has noted, there are no good options on the table for Washington. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both agreed to work with international partners on a response to the attacks, but their calls for restraint suggest they may not be on board with any major U.S. action at this time. Russia has seized the opportunity to offer its S-400 missile defense system to Saudi Arabia, a move that would help expand Russia’s reach into the region. (The Kremlin also stated that it had received no formal invitation to moderate talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia.) Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s recovery time from the attacks remains in question. Aramco has already informed some customers to expect delays on October shipments, and the incident has cast doubt on the company’s much-anticipated initial public offering. We continue to watch the situation closely.

Turkish military drills in the Eastern Med. While the world remains fixated on mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf, Turkey commenced military drills in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. The exercises run Sept. 16-22 and involve land, sea and air components. According to the Turkish Defense Ministry, the drills are intended to evaluate and improve interoperability procedures, operational readiness and support capabilities among the different branches of the Turkish military. These exercises lend credence to Turkey’s assertions that it will not back down from its plans for oil exploration in contested areas off the coast of Cyprus. While the European Union has been critical of such moves, it has stopped short of taking any actions to stop Turkey. Most recently, the EU gave $38.5 million worth of funding to support Cypriot reunification, which we do not expect to happen any time soon. Greece has turned to the U.S. to help secure its interests in the Mediterranean against Turkey, though local media has been calling on Athens to secure further guarantees from Washington on this front.

The Taliban in Tehran. Following a visit to Moscow, delegates from the Afghan Taliban are now in Tehran for talks with Iranian officials. Their conversations have focused on the Afghan peace deal and, in particular, why talks with the U.S. broke down. The Taliban also sought to reassure Tehran that Iranian projects in Afghanistan would remain safe. While Iran certainly wants a secure border and buffer zone in western Afghanistan, the Taliban outreach also comes at a time when tensions with the U.S. are at a peak; Tehran is seeking all the leverage it can get to deal with Washington.

A Kyrgyz-Tajik border shootout. Tensions along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border flared up on Monday, when cross-border gunfire erupted from both sides near two Kyrgyz villages in the Batken region. The Kyrgyz border patrol has increased its presence in the affected areas, and some villagers have fled, while others traveled to Bishkek to protest, calling on the national government to do more to help the border region. The tensions stem from the construction of a military observation post on the Tajik side of the border. Protesters have also demanded stronger local governance, a crackdown on smuggling and increased presence of security forces in the region. The Kyrgyz government issued a formal protest to Tajikistan, highlighting the construction and recent fighting. Tensions in this border region aren’t unusual, but the current scuffle takes on particular significance given that it is in response to Tajik infrastructure projects that indicate a strengthening Tajik presence on the border – making locals vulnerable to border creep and increasing foreign influence.

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