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Watch List: Aug. 10, 2017

|August 10, 2017

The items listed below represent potential emerging issues that our analysts are tracking. These can be long term or short term, but will be updated daily. If an item on our Watch List becomes critical, we will email you a full analysis explaining its significance.

Each Saturday, we will follow up our daily Watch List for each week with our conclusions on these issues.

  • Russia-U.S.: A Russian presidential aide will meet with the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine later this month, according to Russian newspaper Izvestia. This is the same envoy who, after the sanctions bill passed the U.S. Senate, suggested the U.S. could provide defensive weapons to Ukraine. According to the report, they will discuss the Minsk accord and its implementation. Given the United States’ various aggressive moves, the Russians’ willingness to talk and the fact that they will send a heavyweight to do it opens the possibility of a shift in relations. It is also interesting that this is a bilateral U.S.-Russia discussion, and no European representatives are involved.
  • Israel: Haaretz reported that Israel, the U.S. and Russia held meetings last month in Jordan and in Europe about the situation on the Syria-Jordan and Syria-Israel borders. According to the report, the Israelis expressed concerns over a cease-fire backed by the U.S. and Russia, arguing that the two countries didn’t take Iranian forces in Syria seriously enough. This is important because it indicates U.S. cooperation with Russia is at a fairly high level. This may have broader implications for relations. It is also interesting that Israel is participating in talks with these countries as an equal, and that someone wanted to leak this information. The Israelis have been quiet lately. Let’s look into what they are up to.
  • European Union: Southern EU member states are looking to form a common bloc in their bid to host the European Medicines Agency after its relocation from London, Greece’s deputy foreign minister said. The periphery may be increasingly thinking of itself as a separate bloc. It is therefore important to track this relatively minor political issue. It will shed some light on whether such a bloc could actually form.
  • India-China: Although not much has changed in the India-China standoff in the Dolam plateau, this issue is not going away. Reuters reported that diplomatic efforts between the two sides have failed, and there are unconfirmed reports about units in the Indian army either being on alert or even moving to the border. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also planning to visit Myanmar, which indicates that the maneuvering is spreading. The one thing we need clarity on is the real reason this is happening now.
  • China: There was a bank run at a branch of Linshang Bank in Shandong province in eastern China on Aug. 7. The bank said this was the result of rumors spread by a few individuals. Let’s evaluate whether that’s true. Is it purely an isolated event or could this be a forerunner of a larger problem?
  • Turkey: Turkey closed the Bosporus to marine traffic Aug. 10 to search for a man who has been missing since last month. It does appear that Turkey communicated its decision to close the waterway with other countries, but this closure is an anomaly. Could this be due to some kind of internal security issue?
  • China: Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao published an article noting a rumor that President Xi Jinping could name himself chairman of the Communist Party and that this could mean that he is planning to eliminate term limits. This is conjecture at this point, but this is also a reliable source, and we have seen Xi emphasize the chairman role in recent weeks. This fits with our model; let’s keep an eye on it.
  • Saudi Arabia: Saudi security forces have flattened the old quarter of al-Awamiya in a broader security campaign against Shiite fighters in eastern Saudi Arabia, according to Al-Jazeera. Some of this is likely being blown out of proportion because of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as the standoff between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but pictures from the campaign appear very intense. What is the current level of unrest in eastern Saudi Arabia, and how hard is Saudi Arabia cracking down? Could this have any impact on oil production or Saudi stability?
  • India-Iran: Indian imports of Iranian crude oil fell 16.3 percent in July month over month and 20.7 percent year over year. We need to look into how important India is as a trading partner for Iran and how important Iran is as a source of crude for India. Is this, as rumored, just a spat over a gas field, or is there something deeper going on here?
  • Malaysia-China: According to an unnamed Malaysian official who spoke with the Straits Times, Malaysia is considering a Chinese proposal to set up a regional counterintelligence center and a missile system in Johor, a Malaysian state that borders Singapore. We’ve seen some flirtation between Malaysia and China over the past year, but if this proposal moves forward, China’s strategic position would significantly improve.

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