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Watch List: Oct. 11, 2017

Moldova’s breakaway region, Taliban talks, Iran nuclear deal

|October 11, 2017

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.

  • Moldova: Moldova’s president called for the country’s breakaway Trans-Dniester region to be given special status within Moldova. Multiparty talks should be able to solve the dispute, the president said. He made the statements during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after U.S. and Russian officials met to discuss the status of Ukraine and its breakaway regions. The timing is no coincidence. We need to identify other areas that will be affected by a Ukraine settlement and look for subtle signs that could indicate the talks are progressing.
  • U.S., Pakistan: The U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan will meet in Oman on Oct. 16 to discuss ways to get the Taliban to negotiate. The so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group was formed in January 2016 and held its last meeting in May. Talks broke down after the U.S. killed Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Pakistan. Is this a sign that the United States has found a way to work with Pakistan on Afghanistan?
  • U.S., Iran: U.S. President Donald Trump is insisting that the Iran nuclear deal must be altered. He faces opposition from top Cabinet members as well as congressional leaders. It seems Trump will not certify that Iran is in compliance with the deal by the Oct. 15 deadline. We need to get a good sense of the road beyond that point.
  • North Korea: The U.S., Japan and South Korea have conducted several military drills together in the past couple of days. Japanese and South Korean F-15s joined two U.S. B-1B bombers in flying over the Korean Peninsula, and the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer participated in drills together. In addition, the USS Tucson nuclear attack submarine arrived in South Korea for a port call. Deployments such as these have happened before, but reports on the arrival of nuclear submarines are less common, as is the confluence of different deployment types in such a limited time span.
  • China, Thailand, Japan: The China-Thailand railway project, first announced in October 2013, has been delayed again. One Belt, One Road projects must wade through domestic politics in countries like Thailand that have an interest in using outside powers against each other to get the best deals possible. In this case, Thailand is looking toward Japan as a counterweight to Chinese funds and building expertise. What are the interests here of these three countries? Where do they intersect, and where do they diverge?
  • Japan: Japan’s Kobe Steel admitted that it falsified specification data on aluminum and copper products sold to its customers. The doctored data applies to about 4 percent of the company’s products sold from September 2016 to August 2017. Given that steel is used in all industries and that Kobe is the third-largest steel producer in Japan, this could have far-reaching effects. We need to identify which customers and which finished products may be affected and track reported failures. We also need to look at how much steel Japan supplies globally, and if there are producers to replace it.

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