discounting a limited number of handsets to CPW to try and get their huge pile of unsold
A contradiction there - if you are right, selling a limited number cheap would not fix a sales problem. Once people know a price has dropped, getting it up again can take years.
I think releasing very expensive products into an export market just as your country starts a trade war is unfortunate, but perhaps what we are seeing is that Apple is turning into a "normal" vendor, having to offer concealed discounts via contracts a few months after launch.
Xiaomi's recent announcement of truly amazing growth in a stagnant market may be a pointer. Now if only they'd release a sensible sized phone with waterproofing...