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.
- North Korea: The USS Carl Vinson is heading back to the United States, Kyodo News reported, citing an official from the U.S. Navy. The USS Nimitz, however, continues its journey to the Western Pacific. Meanwhile, a U.S. nuclear attack submarine arrived in Busan, South Korea, on June 6. We need to see if there has been any official word from the United States, one way or the other, or if there are signs that North Korea will back down. We also need to keep U.S.-China relations in mind, especially in light of last weekend, when U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis criticized Beijing’s behavior in the South China Sea.
- Qatar: We failed to predict that Saudi Arabia would lead the charge to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. We published our first conclusions, but now we need to assess the situation comprehensively. We need to find answers to the following questions: If Qatar can retaliate, will it, and if so, how? What does the dispute mean for the fight against the Islamic State? What signals, if any, does the dispute send to the United States? To what degree was it a response to Qatari behavior toward Iran? What are the responses out of Iran, Turkey and Russia? Has the United States moved anything out of Qatar?
- Syria: On June 4, Turkey said that the U.S.-backed assault on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State, had begun. Syrian Kurds fighting for the Syrian Democratic Forces announced June 6 that the operations had, in fact, begun. Yet there has been no official comment from Washington. Russia has bombed Islamic State convoys in recent days, and civilians have been fleeing the city. Is this the beginning of a military operation, or is it just posturing? We need to ignore the comments and focus on the actual ground movements of everyone involved in the Syrian conflict.
- Yemen: A spokesman for UNICEF has said there could soon be as many as 300,000 cases of cholera in Yemen. So far, the Yemeni civil war has been largely contained in Yemen; does a serious outbreak of cholera change things? Basic infrastructure and government services tend to deteriorate in civil wars regardless of the country – Yemen is no exception – but we need to see if any developments there are severe enough to disrupt the dynamics of the region.
- Turkmenistan: In Turkmenistan, there are reports of unpaid wages, 50 percent unemployment in the capital, and government efforts to boost sagging exports. Turkmenistan is no stranger to economic hardship, but we need to see if these developments suggest the situation there is getting worse and figure out what this means, if anything, for our forecast on Central Asia.
- China: Zambia arrested 31 Chinese nationals last weekend for allegedly mining illegally. Beijing has said that the government in Zambia has not provided any evidence to substantiate the claim. We need to figure out if this is an isolated incident or if Chinese investments in Africa are souring more broadly. Meanwhile, Australia has accused China of meddling in its elections and generally spying on it more. Do we need to reassess our stance on China’s soft power?
- Russia: Reports of gross domestic product growth and plans to increase international reserves may challenge our Russia forecast. We’ve operated under the assumption that the only real economic tool Russia has is energy exports – is that still the case? We also need to determine how Russia generated economic growth.