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Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

US Leaves Trail of Bitterness in Syria

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On December 17, Ankara was notified of President Trump’s decision on troop withdrawal from Syria. During an earlier phone conversation between him and President Recep Erdogan on Dec 14, Trump had pointedly asked and elicited a positive response from the Turkish leader as to whether Turkey would have the capability to eliminate the remnants of the ISIS in the Syrian tract east of the Euphrates in the event of a US withdrawal from Syria. Erdogan reportedly “reaffirmed” Turkey’s commitment to fight the ISIS.
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Trump’s Fawning Over Saudi Ties Backfires

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The G20 is an economic club and it has traditionally stuck to that groove. And Saudi Arabia has traditionally been represented at G20 events by government ministers, usually the oil minister. But this time around, the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, who is just a heartbeat away from becoming the king of Saudi Arabia, showed up.
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India, Russia and the Post-American Century

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India’s impending purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system has come to be the leitmotif of the “2+2” dialogue of the foreign and defence ministers of India and the United States due to take place in New Delhi on September 6. However, the issue here is not about a single defence transaction, either. There are far wider geopolitical ramifications.

The heart of the matter is that the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was signed into law by President Donald Trump in August 2017, endangers India’s long-standing defence relationship with Russia across the board for many defence goods. The cutting edge of the CAATSA lies in regard of Sections 231 and 235 of the law. Section 231 requires the US president to impose sanctions on any entity that “engages in a significant transaction” with Russia’s intelligence or defence sectors. Section 235 provides for prohibiting transactions in US dollar (which is the currency used in India-Russia arms deals.)

Now, the US Congress has given waiver authority to the president under certain highly constraining conditions – that is, if he can certify that the waiver is fundamentally in US national security interests, that the country concerned is taking “demonstrable steps” to reduce its defence dependence on Russia and that it is cooperating with the US in advancing critical strategic interests. In effect, the CAATSA provides an underpinning for the US’ global hegemony, which is far beyond its stated purpose of sanctioning Russia over the Crimea.
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Trump Threatens Turkey with Sanctions. What if He’s Serious?

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The frequency with which US President Donald Trump holds out threats to other countries is such that he is no longer being taken seriously. The list of countries threatened by Trump so far includes North Korea, Germany, Canada, China, Venezuela, Pakistan, Syria, Iran and Turkey.

In all fairness, Trump makes no distinction between enemies, adversaries, friends or allies. Turkey, a NATO ally, holds a record of sorts as the country most threatened by the Trump administration. In separate tweets on Thursday, Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence gave an ultimatum to Turkey that unless Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical pastor of a small Protestant church in western Turkey, is released from detention immediately, Ankara should be “prepared to face the consequences” in the form of “significant sanctions.”

For the benefit of the uninitiated, Brunson who has been living in Turkey for 23 years was arrested in the aftermath of the failed 2016 coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan, charged with spying and involvement in the failed coup. The Turkish government had probably hoped for a tradeoff – Brunson in exchange for the Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen who is living in Pennsylvania whom Ankara regards as having masterminded the 2016 coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan. Ankara has been pressing Gulen’s extradition and Washington has been stonewalling. It’s a complicated case history, since Gulen has had links in the past with the CIA.
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