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ERDOGAN GETS NAKED, PARTLY

ERDOGAN GETS NAKED, PARTLY

Moments ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a highly anticipated speech in which he had pledged to unveil the “naked truth” about what happened to Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.


As it happens, he kept some clothes on the story after all. Mr. Erdogan did divulge details suggesting the murder was a meticulously planned “political killing,” an accusation that directly contradicts Riyadh’s explanation that Khashoggi died accidentally after a kidnapping attempt went haywire. But Mr. Erdogan pointedly did not reveal any of the gruesome audio and video recordings of the crime that his top intel officials have reportedly obtained. And he did not mention Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by name.

While his speech lacked the fireworks and clarity that some had expected, it was a shrewd move to reveal less than he may truly know about the affair. This approach gives him ongoing leverage in three areas:

First, regional politics: Ankara and Riyadh have been at odds at least since 2011, when Erdogan’s support for Islamist political parties during the Arab Spring infuriated the Gulf monarchies and other regional dictatorships who saw the democratic uprisings as a threat. Ankara’s deepening ties with Iran and Qatar have rankled the Saudis as well. The Khashoggi killing has been a “gift from God” to Erdogan, giving him an unexpected point of leverage over his Riyadh rivals.

Second, domestic politics: The brazenness of killing someone within Turkey is, on its face, an affront to the country’s sovereignty. Doubly so since Turkey has made a point of shielding Islamist dissidents (like Khashoggi) from persecution in their home countries. With an economic crisis lingering at home, the spat with Saudi Arabia also offers a welcome distraction for the Turkish president. He has demanded that Turkey be permitted to conduct its own investigation – if that probe is thwarted, Erdogan has lots more to say.

Third, crackdown on press freedoms, what crackdown on press freedoms? By positioning himself as a truth-teller on the Khashoggi affair, Erdogan can distract from growing concerns in Europe and (at least beneath the presidential level) the United States, about his deepening authoritarianism. Never mind that Turkey still jails more writers than any other country on earth – helping Western capitals get to the bottom of Mr. Khashoggi’s death would win President Erdogan some breathing space. Erdogan still has that power.

In all, Mr. Erdogan may have let down expectations of a big gruesome reveal – but his real audience here isn’t us, it’s the Saudis. They know what he knows. And he knows they know it.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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