Turkey and Russia remain friendly, for now. Turkey and Russia began patrols in Syria’s Idlib province on Friday as part of an agreement reached last September that included the establishment of a demilitarized zone there. The patrols are part of a plan to maintain the cease-fire in northwest Syria. In the Black Sea, meanwhile, the Turkish navy completed a port call in Novorossiysk and conducted joint drills with the Russian Black Sea Fleet. These shows of cooperation come just days after Bloomberg reported that the U.S. asked Germany last month to send warships through the Kerch Strait, a narrow passageway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, to counter Russian aggression. Germany reportedly refused the request. Turkey also reaffirmed its intention to acquire the Russia-made S-400 missile defense system despite U.S. warnings that it would jeopardize U.S. provision of the F-35 to Turkey. The short-term interests of Turkey and Russia appear to be coalescing, and as a result, U.S.-Turkey relations will remain strained.
Hezbollah is strapped for cash. On Friday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged that Western sanctions are hurting the group and called on supporters to donate more cash. Hezbollah is one of Iran’s most important proxy groups, so Nazrallah’s appeal has cast doubt on Tehran’s ability to finance its operations. Similar questions have been raised about Iran’s funding for the Houthis in Yemen. The appeal for money could pull other regions that have a history of supporting Hezbollah into the U.S.-Iran rivalry. The group has known financing networks in South America, for example, including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela.
Iran looks for new allies. It appears that Iran is trying to shore up support among its neighbors. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hosted his Azerbaijani counterpart on Saturday for talks on bilateral security and economic development. Zarif said his country supported a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and Iran’s economy minister called for more cooperation in the banking sector and for a bilateral monetary and financial agreement. Meanwhile, it was also announced that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will pay his first official visit to Iraq on March 11. The trip will focus on investment, energy supplies and trade and will include meetings with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Italy was working to lift international sanctions against Russia. Italy’s ruling parties believe the sanctions hurt the Italian economy, which is in recession.
- Satellite images from North Korea’s missile research center in Sanumdong show increased activity, though it’s unclear if it’s military or civilian activity.
- EU imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. have increased by 181 percent since last July, totaling 7.9 billion cubic meters. The U.S. now has a 12 percent share in the EU’s total LNG imports.
- The Pentagon said the U.S., India, Japan and Australia will continue diplomatic engagement and coordinating efforts in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Venezuela’s defense minister said the army has a plan to support and protect the country’s electricity system as nationwide power outages continued for a second day.
- Norway’s sovereign wealth fund plans to divest from oil and gas holdings. The move is aimed at making the fund less susceptible to fluctuations in oil prices.