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Watch List: March 13, 2018

China considers more sweeping changes, assassination attempt on Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, Russia tries to enhance its influence in Greece

  • Last updated: March 13
  • Total word count: 634 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.

China: The National People’s Congress continues to consider sweeping changes to China’s political system. The breadth and depth of the changes under consideration – including the creation of a new supervisory commission, a new state radio and television administration and reform to national and local taxation systems – are truly staggering. The way China worked before may be fundamentally different from the way China works after the National People’s Congress wraps up. We need to figure out if that is the case and adjust our understanding of the country accordingly.

Yemen, China: During a meeting with a Chinese envoy in Riyadh, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi made an offer to China to manage the port of Aden, according to an Aden-based website of unknown reliability. The article in question said the Chinese envoy will present the offer to the Chinese government upon returning to Beijing. This account seems dubious, but if China is being offered the opportunity to take over a major port – in a country torn apart by civil war and in need of port protection – it might make sense.

Gaza: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an assassination attempt in northern Gaza on March 13. According to local reports, the assailants detonated three car bombs and opened fire on Hamdallah’s convoy. Palestine TV reports that the PA is holding Hamas responsible for the attack. Gaza has been simmering for a while now, but this is out of the ordinary – by all accounts Hamas and Fatah were on the road to reconciliation. The PA technically controls Gaza, so it’s unclear what holding Hamas responsible means. We will try to find out who has an interest in killing Hamdallah and what their motive is.

Azerbaijan: Azerbaijan has sent a note of protest to Washington over the visit by the separatist leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, Bako Sahakyan, to the United States. An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the visit violates bilateral agreements between the U.S. and Azerbaijan, and that, in response, Azerbaijan will “proceed from the principle of reciprocity” in relations with the United States. What is at the heart of Azerbaijan’s objection, and is this an issue that might cause problems between Azerbaijan and the U.S.?

Greece, Russia: A Greek newspaper has published a report that points out Russia’s expanding influence in Greece. Greece is staunch Western ally, and the article’s evidence of Russia’s growing influence is fairly weak. It cites, for example, honorary academic appointments for Russian President Vladimir Putin and vague attempts to gin up Russia sympathy in Greece. By itself, this article doesn’t suggest there is anything happening, but considering all that is going on in the Balkans, not to mention Turkey and Russia’s general posture against the U.S. right now, we will see if there is any more to this.

Qatar, UAE: Qatar and the UAE have signed an agreement to jointly operate an oil field. Al Jazeera notes that this is the first deal of its kind since Saudi Arabia engineered a diplomatic boycott of Qatar and got the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to go along with it. We’ve pointed out that the boycott didn’t have the desired effect, so is Qatar now going to be welcomed back into the Gulf Arab family of nations? Or was this Al Jazeera making more out of a typical, routine deal than was there?