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Watch List: March 5, 2018

Italian elections reach stalemate, Kim Jong Un reached out to South Korea, Iran urges political solution in Syria

  • Last updated: March 5
  • Total word count: 523 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.

Italy: As most polls predicted, no party won enough seats in the Italian election to form a government, though the nationalist Five Star Movement party garnered more support than expected. Weeks and perhaps months of intrigue and horse trading will ensue as parties compete to form a coalition government. The result will be a government that is more hostile to the European Union than previous governments, though it is still impossible to say how far Italy will be able to push back against Brussels. What constraints will the new government face in changing Italy’s relationship with the EU? We are primarily concerned with how events in Italy will reverberate throughout Europe.

South Korea: Two recently appointed South Korean special envoys answerable directly to the South Korean president attended a dinner hosted by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on March 5. This is the first time Kim has met with officials from South Korea, and it suggests the offer made during the Winter Olympics for some kind of reconciliation was genuine. The envoys will stay another day before heading home. Then they reportedly will fly to the United States to brief Washington on the situation and discuss the next steps.

Iran, Syria: A senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said March 4 that it was time for Syrian President Bashar Assad to consider a “political solution to the crisis.” This is notable because Iran has been encouraging Assad to go on the offensive and has provided support to the regime on the ground. Our model says Russia does not want Assad to go on the offensive, but until now we haven’t seen many signs that Iran is willing to scale back. This could just be a cover, so we will need more than a statement to figure out if something has changed, but either way this is important.

Iran: The supreme leader has reportedly appointed a new representative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The outgoing representative will now become “head of the political and ideological office of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.” Meanwhile, according to ILNA news agency and social media, a protest broke out in Ahvaz in southwest Iran, resulting in the arrest of a number of workers. This may just be a routine demonstration, but considering the widespread protests that started out the year, we need to check if there is anything more going on here.

Russia: Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. said that in light of recent U.S. moves against Russia, it would be impossible for Moscow and Washington to hold strategic consultations in Vienna, which had been scheduled for March 6-7. This could be significant if it is a sign that relations are taking a turn for the worse.