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Watch List: Jan. 10, 2018

Unstable alliance in Syria, Brent crude crosses an important threshold, drought in Turkey

|January 10, 2018

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.

  • Syria: The Turkish government summoned the Russian and Iranian ambassadors to express “discomfort” over violence in Idlib, Syria. Are we seeing a serious breakdown in cooperation among the three countries?
  • Turkey: The Turkish government said it will mediate between Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. The standoff that followed the KRG’s secession referendum in September 2017 seems to have ended – Iran reopened its border crossings with the region, and KRG President Massoud Barzani resigned. So what is there to talk about?
  • Turkey: Turkish newspaper Haberturk reported that dams near the capital, Ankara, are only 15-20 percent full, and said there is a serious drought throughout Anatolia. Let’s define the drought geographically and gauge its impact. Turkey isn’t Syria, but remember that Syria’s civil war broke out in part because water issues forced Sunni Arabs into cities because they couldn’t make a living as farmers anymore.
  • Brent crude: Brent crude is over $69 per barrel, which crosses a major threshold. The price has rallied by about 10 percent over the course of a month. Will this rise continue? Are these prices stable? What caused the rally?
  • Spain: Catalonia is set to rename Carles Puigdemont as president, and Spain’s constitutional court is considering a motion against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s suspension of home rule in Catalonia. How will the Spanish government respond to these challenges? Its first attempt to solve the Catalonia issue failed. What is plan B?
  • Iran: The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Jan. 10 that the body had told the country’s highest authorities that it could increase the speed of uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities to several times the speed at which they were occurring before the nuclear deal was signed. Isn’t this an admission that the nuclear deal isn’t actually halting Iranian nuclear activity? If Iran wants the deal to survive – and that’s what we think right now – why is it saying this?
  • Mexico: The Mexican government said it will not apply any new pressure on Venezuela to help motivate a political solution to the country’s woes. Is this a change in strategy? Is Mexico breaking from other observers of the crisis or the U.S. by taking off pressure?

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