Daily Memo: Pompeo Goes to Abu Dhabi, Taiwan Looks for Allies in the Pacific, Growth Forecasts Dip

What's geopolitically important today.


Fallout from the Saudi attacks. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived today in Abu Dhabi, where he will meet with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day that it had joined the U.S.-led maritime coalition to protect regional shipping, a day after Saudi Arabia signed up. (Other members are the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel and Bahrain.) Meanwhile, the foreign minister of France, which has hitherto avoided assigning blame for the attacks on Saudi oil facilities, acknowledged that the Houthi rebels’ claims that they were responsible were not credible, but said an international investigation needed to be completed and called for de-escalation. But no one is listening to Paris. In an interview with CNN, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said a U.S. or Saudi military strike on Iran would trigger “all-out war” and dismissed the possibility of negotiations with Washington without sanctions relief. The Saudi ambassador to Germany had previously said all options were on the table, and Pompeo tweeted support for Saudi Arabia’s right to self-defense. And on Wednesday, a senior commander of the Iran-backed Houthis said his group would target the UAE’s oil companies and cities in the future.

Taiwan’s Pacific allies dwindle. The repercussions of the Solomon Islands’ decision to cut ties with Taiwan are piling up, with the prime minister of the South Pacific archipelago nation potentially having to skip the U.N. General Assembly because of concerns that the government could fall in his absence. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence earlier this week canceled a planned meeting with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on the sidelines of the General Assembly. Taiwan-supporting residents in the Solomon Islands’ Malaita province demanded independence over the government’s diplomatic switch. And a top official in the U.S. Agency for International Development said the agency was reassessing its assistance to the Solomon Islands in the wake of the country’s decision. Nevertheless, in nearby Tuvalu, the pro-Taiwan prime minister lost the premiership on Thursday, raising the prospect that China may also be able to convince that country to change its position on Taiwan. Only 16 countries still hold formal relations with Taiwan, and the apparent movement in the South Pacific is concerning for the U.S. and Australia, for whom the islands play a strategic role in maritime security objectives.

Bleak growth forecasts. As U.S. and Chinese deputies resume face-to-face trade talks in Washington after a nearly two-month hiatus, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that trade frictions risked kick-starting a “vicious circle of lower trade, investment and higher uncertainty.” Growth forecasts were cut for nearly a third of the countries the OECD examined, with U.S. growth pegged at 2 percent in 2020, Chinese growth at 5.7 percent and eurozone growth at 1 percent. Globally, the OECD cut growth forecasts for the year by 0.3 percentage points to 2.9 percent, the lowest figure since 2009.

Honorable Mentions

  • The prime minister of Finland, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council, urged the U.K. to put its Brexit proposals on paper by the end of September. The British government responded with a “non-paper” – basically informal proposals – and said formal, written solutions would come when it was ready.
  • Energy ministers from Russia and Ukraine are meeting to discuss Russian natural gas supplies and transit. Their existing contract expires at the end of the year.
  • The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force secretly visited Baghdad earlier this week and urged Iraqi militia leaders to attack U.S. interests in Iraq, according to Jordanian and Iraqi media.
  • The leader of the Blue and White alliance, which won the most seats in Israel’s legislative elections, rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer of a unity government and said he will make an effort to form his own government.
  • The Argentine legislature reinstated a national food emergency law that will increase funding for anti-hunger programs. The government also decided to raise fuel prices by 4 percent after a temporary price freeze.
  • Russia’s nuclear energy company Rosatom and Uganda’s Energy Ministry signed an agreement to produce nuclear energy and develop nuclear infrastructure in Uganda.