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Watch List: June 13, 2018

Putin reaches out to the Balkans, Japan feels left out, Iraq ponders a recount

  • Last updated: June 13
  • Total word count: 533 words

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.

Balkans: The president of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, and both confirmed their commitment to cooperation. The Bosnian Serb president also spoke out against what he called anti-Russian hysteria in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Meanwhile, the European Union has decided not to impose sanctions and visa restrictions on Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to a Bosnian minister. How involved will Putin get in the Balkans, and for what purpose?

Japan: Japan has expressed concern over the U.S. decision to suspend military exercises with South Korea. Japan has been worried that it may be left out of a possible U.S.-North Korea deal as the U.S. prioritizes its own interests and relations with South Korea and China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with his Malaysian and Laotian counterparts, and during both meetings, the leaders discussed increasing bilateral cooperation on the North Korea issue. Is this a sign of Japan trying to step up as a regional alternative to China when it comes to dealing with North Korea? Is Japan acting in partnership with the U.S., or offering an alternative should the U.S. presence in the region wane? Check if Abe has met with any other Southeast Asian heads of state in recent days to talk about North Korea.

Iraq: A new alliance has formed in Iraq between the coalitions led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and pro-Iran politician Hadi al-Amiri. They are the two largest coalitions in the Iraqi parliament, holding 54 and 47 seats, respectively. Let’s re-examine Iran’s degree of control in Iraq right now. Meanwhile, al-Amiri has announced that he too supports a manual recount of 5-10 percent of the votes cast in May’s parliamentary elections. What does the growing support for a recount mean for Iraq?

Iran: Iranian President Hasan Rouhani told French President Emmanuel Macron that his government has not ruled out withdrawing Iranian troops from Syria, if there were no longer a need for foreign troops there. This comes about a month after Russia called for foreign troops to leave Syria. Under what conditions could there be a withdrawal of foreign troops? What would be Iran’s motivations for leaving Syria, and is this the first time Rouhani has made such a comment? Watch for any reactions from the U.S. and Turkey.

Georgia: Recent U.N. statistics show that poverty is on the rise in Georgia. From 2015 to 2017, the number of households below the poverty line rose from 20.7 percent to 22.5 percent, and the total number of people below the poverty line increased from 23.1 percent to 24.8 percent. Children, pensioners and rural residents are most vulnerable. Let’s assess the underlying causes of this rise in poverty. With a quarter of the population living in poverty, we would expect to see some social unrest. Has there been any?