Wednesday, October 4

Wednesday, October 4

THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY Leaders of Iran, Turkey to coordinate response to Kurdish referendum Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with top Iranian officials today in Tehran. Topping the agenda will be coordinating their response to Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum. So far, Erdogan has threatened various economic sanctions—such as cutting off Kurdish oil transport through

THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY

Leaders of Iran, Turkey to coordinate response to Kurdish referendum

Başbakan Erdoğan – Hasan Ruhani

Photo: Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with top Iranian officials today in Tehran. Topping the agenda will be coordinating their response to Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum.

So far, Erdogan has threatened various economic sanctions—such as cutting off Kurdish oil transport through Turkey—which would devastate the autonomous region, as Turkey is its largest trading partner.

On the KRG’s eastern border, Iran has amassed about a dozen tanks and artillery. Both Ankara and Tehran have staged joint military exercises with Baghdad in response to the referendum.

Fearing a resurgence of secessionist spirit from their respective Kurdish populations, Iran and Turkey vehemently oppose an independent Iraqi Kurdistan, paving the way for cooperation between the two countries.

Given Turkey’s willingness to conduct strikes in Iraq against the PKK, it is not inconceivable that it, along with Iran, would be willing to take military action to halt a Kurdish secession from Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail. Today, expect Ankara and Tehran to explore economic sanctions in an effort to forge a united front supporting Baghdad.

A KORUS OF CRITIQUES

US and South Korean envoys to hash out trade deal disputes

Now-Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong signing KORUS trade deal in 2007

Photo: AFP

Today, trade representatives from the United States and the Republic of Korea will discuss KORUS, a free trade agreement between the two countries.

Similar talks occurred in late August and were followed by threats from the Trump administration to scrap the deal altogether. The timing of President Trump’s attacks on KORUS suggests that he is attempting to exploit increased South Korean security reliance on the US to gain economic concessions from Seoul.

Should Washington withdraw from the deal, US goods would likely face tariff rates of up to 14% in South Korea, America’s sixth largest trading partner. This would critically disadvantage US firms looking to compete with European and Canadian companies, which would enjoy tariff-free access to the wealthy South Korean economy.

In the context of the escalating conflict with North Korea, Washington needs to maintain a highly cooperative relationship with Seoul. This makes it unlikely that the US president will unilaterally scrap KORUS, and has likely contributed to Trump’s recent easing off with his critiques of the deal.

GETTING PHYSICAL

Google unveils new hardware lines amid antitrust concerns

A phone taking a photo of a Google logo

Photo: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Google will roll out a new line of hardware today, including its next-generation smartphone Pixel 2.

While the first Pixel was relatively unsuccessful, Google’s stab at the smartphone market has raised concerns that it will pursue a monopoly similar to the one it already has in search engines.

While such a scenario may seem far-fetched, given the strength of smartphone makers like Samsung and Apple, the tech giant has faced a number of antitrust charges in recent years.

In the latest example, the California-based company is embroiled in an EU antitrust case that alleges it incentivised Android manufactures to pre-load Google apps like YouTube and Google Maps. If Google were to successfully strengthen its position in the smartphone market, it could easily engage in similar tactics.

Even in the regulation-lax United States, the political winds are beginning to shift. In July, the Democratic Party put antitrust measures at the centre of its “Better Deal” policy platform.

Google’s eager expansion into hardware comes at precisely the wrong time for the company. As increased anti-monopoly sentiment raises scrutiny of the tech giant, regulators will be ready to pounce at the slightest hint of malpractice.

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

Trump in Vegas, May’s Tory conference speech, US-Pakistan relations

Cowboy boots on the ground after the Las Vegas shooting

Photo: Reuters

Two days after a mass shooting left 59 dead and injured 527, Donald Trump will visit Las Vegas. More than 40 firearms were found in the suspect’s hotel room and home, renewing calls for federal gun control legislation. But the White House has been dismissive—unsurprising given Mr Trump benefited from tens of millions of dollars of election spending by the NRA. Don’t expect any sympathy from Republican lawmakers either.

British PM Theresa May will address the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Ms May will hit back at resurgent Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who last week labelled the Tory government a ‘coalition of chaos’ and criticised capitalism. May is expected to defend free markets and further sketch out her Brexit strategy, likely towing a more Eurosceptic line than she did two weeks ago in Florence.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Asif will arrive in Washington for talks with Rex Tillerson in a bid to smooth over tensions. In August, Trump dealt a stinging rebuke to Pakistan, accusing it of “housing” terrorists and pledging to increase cooperation with India—Pakistan’s arch-rival. Lawmakers in Islamabad have since urged the government to reconsider relations with Washington. While today’s talks are likely to focus on counter-terrorism, strategic misalignment (Pakistan is a key Chinese partner) means this relationship will continue to be a troubled one.

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