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From left to right, the presidents of Russia (Vladimir Putin), Iranian (Ebrahim Raisi), and Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) hold talks in Tehran.

utnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Tehran trilateral, EU food jitters, Sri Lankan presidential vote

Putin, Raisi & Erdogan in Tehran: friends with differences

Leaving the former Soviet region for the first time since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Tehran on Tuesday with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts. The conflict in Syria, where Russia and Iran are on the opposite side of Turkey, was the main item on the agenda, but little of substance was announced beyond a pledge to rid the country of terrorist groups and to meet again later this year. Importantly, Turkey’s recent threat to invade northern Syria to destroy Kurdish militant groups based there still hangs in the air — a point underscored by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for Russia and Iran to be more “supportive” of Turkey’s security concerns. Still, both Moscow and Tehran have warned him against an invasion. Putin and Erdogan also failed to close the remaining gaps on a UN-backed plan to restart Ukraine’s seaborne grain exports. Lastly, while Putin and the Iranians traded shots at NATO and the West, there was no public mention of the current, fast-fading efforts to revive the long-stalled 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

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Demonstrators celebrate after entering the Sri Lankan PM's office in Colombo to demand his resignation as interim president.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka slipping into anarchy

Things have gone from bad, to worse, to outright crazy in Sri Lanka since the beginning of the year.

We warned you early on that the country would default on its huge sovereign debt, which it did in May. Since then, the economic crisis has quickly morphed into full-blown political turmoil and a social catastrophe the likes of which the region has not seen for a long time.

And there’s no easy fix.

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Demonstrators gather on the lawn of the Sri Lankan prime minister's office in Colombo.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Chaos in Sri Lanka

Just when we thought Sri Lanka’s worst-ever crisis was about to end, things took another unexpected turn on Wednesday.

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A natural gas pipe in front of EU and Russian flags.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

What We're Watching: Russia-EU pipeline repairs, AMLO in the (White) House, Sri Lanka's new leader

Will Russia turn the taps back on?

“Trust us,” Russia is saying, “we’re just doing routine maintenance.” Moscow has just shut off its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a major source of natural gas for Germany, for 10 days of summer repairs. Annual checkups to these pipelines are normal, but this is no normal year. Berlin worries the Kremlin might leave the pipes closed as a way to retaliate against the EU for the bloc’s Ukraine-related sanctions. Nord Stream 1 carries about 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually to Germany, equaling about half of the country’s yearly consumption. If Moscow keeps the line shut, Europe would struggle to store up enough gas supplies ahead of next winter. Natural gas prices in Europe are already soaring, and although the EU is moving to wean itself off of Russian energy, any further shortfalls would further stoke already-high inflation, with unpredictable political consequences across the continent. Putin, of course, knows this. Keep an eye on that “closed for repairs” sign hanging on Nord Stream 1.

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Demonstrators celebrate after entering the p-presidential palace in Sri Lanka.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

What We’re Watching: Sri Lankan anger boils over, Musk sours on Twitter

Protesters occupy presidential palace in Colombo

Long-simmering public wrath directed at Sri Lanka’s leader over the country’s economic collapse finally boiled over.

Fed up with months of food and fuel shortages, thousands of protesters broke through security barricades on Saturday to invade the official residence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had fled hours earlier. The demonstrators ransacked the premises, swam in the pool, and took selfies surrounded by luxury that ordinary Sri Lankans can only dream of. They also set fire to the nearby prime minister’s home, and say they won’t leave until Rajapaksa steps down — which he has agreed to do by Wednesday.

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Indian PM Narendra Modi.

Reuters

Bombastic Modi no more?

Would the Narendra Modi of 2019 – the year his clampdown on Kashmir drew ire from human rights activists worldwide – have backed down on Prophet Mohammad-related gaffes made by members of his party? Pre-pandemic, would the bombastic Indian prime minister have missed a chance to forcefully weigh in on Sri Lankan domestic affairs amid a dire political crisis?

It wasn’t so long ago when former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa alleged in 2015, just days after voters removed him from office, that India’s spy agency, the Research & Analysis Wing, had helped oust him from power. Now, the tone of Rajapaksa’s family toward India couldn’t be more different. Namal, Rajapaksa’s son, recently thanked Modi and “the people of India” for sending aid to his country at a time when Sri Lanka is battling its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

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Sri Lankan army patrol on a main road in Colombo following clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of the Rajapaksa family.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka on the brink

For weeks, Sri Lanka has been in the grips of a deepening economic and political crisis, teetering on the brink of anarchy and chaos as a largely bankrupt state at risk of becoming a failed one. Massive protests driven by soaring fuel and food prices have forced the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and upped the pressure on the international community to help alleviate the suffering of Sri Lankans. China and India, which have both vied for influence in the small island nation, are looking on nervously. We spoke to Eurasia Group’s Peter Mumford to get a sense of what might happen next and what the geopolitical stakes are.

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Sri Lankan protesters demanding the president's resignation clash with police in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Tharaka Basnayak via Reuters.

What We're Watching: Sri Lanka's political turmoil, Putin's low-key Victory Day speech, drug cartel riots in Colombia

One Rajapaksa resigns in Sri Lanka

Following months of protests over government mismanagement and the country’s economic collapse, Sri Lanka’s embattled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has announced his resignation. Violent clashes broke out in the capital city, Colombo, on Monday between anti-government protesters and supporters of the Rajapaksa regime, which is headed by the PM’s brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. At least 150 people were taken to hospital after authorities used heavy-handed tactics to try to disperse the demonstrators. This political shake-up comes amid unrest over soaring fuel and food prices and constant blackouts. Sri Lanka’s foreign currency reserves have entirely dried up, prompting Colombo to print more money, which further pushed prices up and the currency value down. The Rajapaksa brothers had overseen the country’s warming ties with China in recent years, which has seen Sri Lanka become embroiled in a relentless debt trap set out by Beijing. Until now, Mahinda Rajapaksa had refused to step down. We're watching to see if protesters go home, or if they continue demanding the ouster of his brother.

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