The EU and Japan have signed a massive free trade agreement. The FTA, which still needs to be ratified, will create a trade zone in which 30 percent of world trade by value occurs. Though the deal has been in the works for years, new U.S. protectionist trade policies gave its architects a new sense of urgency. (Also lighting the fire was Brexit, since many Japanese carmakers serve the European market from the U.K.) The FTA will provide some relief to Japan and the EU in the event the U.S. places tariffs on automobiles and other goods and services. It’s also another blow to U.S. farmers, who had hoped to offset the damage of the trade war with increased exports to both Japan and Europe.

Iran is trying to enhance military cooperation with Pakistan, the United States’ on-again, off-again ally. The leading military generals from both countries are devising ways to increase joint training, military exercises and weapons building, paying particular attention to maritime cooperation and naval maneuvers. The countries expressed a common interest in establishing regional peace and, more important, identified the U.S. as the main threat to the region. Iran has been able to improve its relationship with Pakistan partly because Washington’s relationship with Islamabad has deteriorated in recent years. This could leave India, Pakistan’s regional rival, between a rock and a hard place, needful as it is of cheap Iranian oil and of U.S. defense cooperation. If Tehran can help manage Islamabad in ways that only allies do, it would give Iran more leverage as it cultivates ties with New Delhi – at Washington’s expense.

Iraq wants Saudi Arabia to solve its energy crisis. One of the reasons there is unrest in Basra is that Iran shut off electricity to the city after it failed to make its payments. Talks to resolve the issue failed, leaving many residents without energy. And so Iraq’s electricity minister, Qasim al-Fahdawi, will visit Saudi Arabia next week to sign an energy deal. Iran’s presence in Iraq reflects Tehran’s ongoing strategic need to expand its regional influence westward. Saudi Arabia has largely stayed out of Iraqi affairs, but as a natural competitor to Iran, the government in Riyadh is always looking for opportunities to remind Tehran that it is still something to be reckoned with. The trip by the Iraqi minister is just such reminder, one that lets Iran know its influence in Iraq shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Honorable Mentions

  • Turkey is considering buying U.S. Patriot missiles. It’s unclear how this squares with the acquisition of the Russian S-400 systems.
  • The Peruvian government declared a 60-day emergency in Putumayo province, which borders Colombia and Ecuador, over concerns of possible FARC operations in the area.
  • Representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the EU met to discuss the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Ukraine’s potential as a natural gas transit hub.
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his government is studying whether to reinforce defenses in the Azov Sea, where Russia has increased the number of inspections of Ukrainian vessels.