Jack Merlin Watling, 29 January 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
GREECE: Will Syriza and Germany find a compromise? Athens’ new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he wants to see a pan-European deal on Greek debt to encourage growth, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is still talking tough after his party’s victory in the weekend’s elections. Germany's vice-chancellor said it was unfair of Greece to expect other states to pick up its bills. Let the renegotiation begin.
LEBANON / ISRAEL: Tensions rise after a Hezbollah attack kills two Israeli soldiers. Israel fired shells back across the border, killing a Spanish peacekeeper. While hostilities have so far been confined to the border region, neither side wishes to be seen as backing down. With an election on the way, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu may feel the pressure to launch further attacks.
THURSDAY, 29 JANUARY
EU: Extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council meets in Brussels. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini convened the council following a missile attack on the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Saturday which killed 20 people. EU leaders issued a rare joint statement condemning the attack. Further sanctions against Russia are possible, though a final decision is expected to be left until a summit next month.
USA: Senate debates a tough Iran bill. The Kirk-Menendez bill would require congressional review of any deal with Tehran, while hitting the Islamic republic with stiffer economic penalties should talks fail. It would be a Republican victory and a blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to reach a deal with Iran.
INTERNATIONAL: Human Rights Watch releases its annual World Report. It will detail the organisation’s work and assess progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries. Following a year that saw the rise of Islamic State, attacks on minorities, violations against civilians and clampdowns on press freedom, it’s unlikely to make happy reading.
FRIDAY, 30 JANUARY
ETHIOPIA: African leader meets as northern Nigeria burns. Officially, the African Union summit is being held to discuss women’s empowerment, but delegates will likely hold fringe meetings to discuss a possible African Union operation against Boko Haram, which has massacred its way through Nigeria in recent weeks and now threatens stability in Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
SATURDAY, 31 JANUARY
SPAIN: Leftist Podemos party holds a “March for Change” rally in Madrid. A recent poll put the party in the lead for Spain's next general election, which is due by the end of the year. With the rise of the far left in Greece, another debt-stricken Eurozone country, it’s an election bankers will be watching closely.
SUNDAY, 1 FEBRUARY
IRAN: Iranians mark the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. It’s the start of ten days of official celebrations, culminating in mass rallies and an address by the country's president on 11 February, marking the day on which the Shah's troops were defeated by armed guerillas. The opposition may use the celebrations to stage protest.
HONG KONG: Pro-democracy activists stage a rally through the city. It’ll be the first major march since police cleared the pro-democracy Occupy movement’s protest camps. Organisers say some 50,000 people will take part. Tension remains high in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city. On 24 January, the founders of the movement were arrested and later released as part of an ongoing police investigation.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 26 January 2015.
ONES TO WATCH:
NIGERIA: Boko Haram offensive continues; John Kerry arrives for talks. The army claimed some success on Sunday as it tried to prevent the fall of the northern city of Maidiguri to Islamist militants, but fighting is far from over. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived on Sunday for talks with President Goodluck Jonathan and opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari, stressing the need for stability ahead of next month’s potentially divisive elections.
GREECE: What’s next for Greek debt? Anti-austerity left-wing party Syriza won a sweeping victory in Greece’s general election on Sunday. The party’s leader Alexis Tsipras has pledged to renegotiate Greece’s debt arrangement with international creditors. Greeks can expect a stern reaction from Germany.
JORDAN: Will the Islamic State and Amman agree a prisoner exchange? IS has reportedly demanded that the kingdom release an Iraqi woman held in a Jordanian prison in exchange for a Japanese journalist they are holding captive. The group released a video on Saturday that showed what appeared to be the dead body of another Japanese man, Haruna Yukawa.
ISRAEL / UNITED STATES: How will the White House react to Bibi’s snub? Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has triggered a storm of protest over his upcoming visit to the U.S. to deliver a speech to a joint sitting of Congress – at the invitation of Republican House leader John Boehner, in violation of diplomatic protocol. The fallout could weaken Israel’s leverage over the Obama administration in the Iran nuclear talks.
MONDAY, 26 JANUARY
ICC: Ugandan Militia leader appears before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Dominic Ongwen, who was allegedly Brigade Commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was transferred to the ICC on 20 January 2015 after being captured in the Central African Republic. He’s charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.
INDIA: President Obama guest of honour at India’s Republic Day celebrations. Major ceremonies will be held in Delhi to mark 65 years since the country’s constitution came into force. President Obama will attend parades with President Modi as well as delivering a speech. There will be major parades in all state capitals. Pro-Pakistan Kashmiris usually mark the occasion as a day of mourning.
SYRIA/RUSSIA: Russia hosts talks between the Syrian government and opposition. It will be the first time the sides have met since a UN-backed conference early last year that collapsed in acrimony. The talks will be boycotted by prominent opposition figures who blame Russia for supporting the Assad government and prolonging the conflict.
TUESDAY, 27 JANUARY
POLAND: Holocaust Memorial Day marks 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auchwitz. The Nazis used the camp to kill 1.1 million people, most of them Jews. Countries around the world will hold ceremonies to mark the occasion.
SAUDI ARABIA: President Obama arrives in Riyadh to visit the new Saudi King Salman. Mr Obama will be cutting short his visit to India following the death of Saudi King Abdullah. The new King has promised continuity.
UK/RUSSIA: UK opens inquiry into assassination of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. The hearing will be chaired by Sir Robert Owen, who had previously been charged with conducting an inquest into the death. Mr Litvinenko’s death in London in 2006, apparently by poisoning with a radioactive substance, soured Anglo-Russian relations.
WEDNESDAY, 28 JANUARY
BAHRAIN: Bahrain’s Shi’ite opposition chief stands trial. Sheikh Ali Salman is charged with “promoting the overthrow and change of the political regime by force.” Salman, head of the largely Shiite al-Wefaq party, has been in custody since December 28 despite ongoing local protests and international calls for his release.
INDONESIA: Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee will meet the press. It’s not clear how much information they will release about how AirAsia flight QZ8501 fell into the sea on its way to Singapore on December 28th.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 22 January 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Will the ceasefire last? Yemen’s embattled U.S.-backed president has reached an agreement with Shiite Houthi rebels who besieged him in his house on Tuesday, but whether the deal will hold is another question. If the country falls into all-out civil war it would have major repercussions across the region, heightening tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
ZAMBIA: Opposition supporters teargassed as voting extended to third day. Voting in Zambia’s presidential election was disrupted by torrential rain, while supporters of the leading opposition candidate clashed with security forces in the capital on Wednesday. Ongoing political tension could cripple Zambia’s crucial copper industry.
NEPAL: Opposition threatens to burn the constitution. Nepal is paralysed by national strikes after a riot broke out in the Constitutional Assembly on Tuesday. The deadline for issuing a new constitution is Thursday, but the Maoist opposition have threatened to symbolically burn it and organise mass protests should the government proceed.
THURSDAY, 22 JANUARY
CUBA: US Envoy Roberta Jacobson visits Havana. She will be the most senior US official to visit Cuba in 35 years. While ties warmed since the White House announced an ease on its sanctions against Cuba, Havana has not yet normalised diplomatic relations with the United States. Ongoing talks could have significant domestic repercussions in the US as Obama embarks on his penultimate State of the Union tour.
EUROPE: European Central Bank meets to discuss Eurozone stimulus. The ECB is expected to buy around €50bn / month of bonds, pushing European stocks up just days before crucial Greek elections. With expectations high, a lower injection of cash could prompt a market shock. Meanwhile German chancellor Angela Merkel will be delivering her keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Merkel has long opposed an ECB stimulus.
IRAQ / UK: UK hosts anti-IS Summit. British prime minister, David Cameron, is to meet the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, in London while the UK hosts a British-American summit on fighting the Islamic State. The summit is to be chaired by British foreign secretary Andrew Hammond and US secretary of state John Kerry. Countries of the anti-IS coalition, including Middle Eastern states, are sending delegates.
USA: Senate Foreign Relations Committee discusses Iran nuclear negotiations. The negotiations are a politically fraught topic in a Republican-dominated senate and witnesses – Antony Blinken, deputy secretary of state, and David Cohen, under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence – are expected to face fierce questioning. Iran and the P5+1 countries aim to reach a preliminary agreement by 1 March 2015.
UN: General Assembly meets to discuss growing anti-semitism. 37 countries have asked the UN to discuss the issue following attacks in Southern France, Belgium and the the hostage stand-off in a Kosher supermarket in Paris.
GREECE: Final Syriza rally before election. The Greek leftist party Syriza will be holding its final election rally before polling begins in Greece. The leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, is to be joined by the head of the recently formed Spanish leftist party Podemos in a show of solidarity. Although Syriza has indicated that it does not intend to immediate leave the Euro its rise has prompted growing concern across Europe. The rally coincides with Angela Merkel’s keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
UKRAINE: The European Court of Human Rights rules in the case of Tymoshenko v. Ukraine. Yuliya Tymoshenk, a former Prime Minister, accuses Ukraine of breaching the prohibition on torture and inhumane or degrading treatment and on rights to freedom of expression among other abuses. The judgement will coincide with Ukraine’s Day of Unity and Liberty which marks the Unification Act of 1919 and is a state holiday.
FRIDAY, 23 JANUARY
ETHIOPIA: The African Union hosts a summit on Women’s Empowerment. Diplomats are likely to spend time on the sidelines discussing an African military intervention to halt the advance of Boko Haram in Cameroon, Niger and northern Nigeria.
SATURDAY, 24 JANUARY – 50th Anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death
SUNDAY, 25 JANUARY
EGYPT: Anniversary of the 2011 Revolution. Although the government is expected to close Tahrir Square and ban public gatherings, there is a very high probability of protests and violent clashes with security forces.
GREECE: General Election. Greeks head to the polls for a snap election after December’s elections proved inconclusive with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failing to secure support for his presidential candidate. Leftist anti-austerity party Syriza are expected to win the most votes, potentially marking a key turning point in Greece’s relationship with the Eurozone.
INDIA: Obama begins three day state visit. Obama is heading to India to discuss a broad range of bilateral issues relating to security and the economy. He will also be the first US President to be the guest of honour at India’s Republic Day Parade. Expanding security cooperation between the US and India coincide with growing tensions with China’s role in the region and expanding protectionist taxation of Chinese imports into the US.
YEMEN: Human Rights Watch release report on women’s rights. The report examines the role that many women played in the 2011 Arab Spring the treatment during recent political upheavals. The report coincides with increasing insecurity in Sana’a as Houthi guards stand outside the President’s Palace.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 19 January 2015.
ONE TO WATCH:
ISRAEL / LEBANON: How will Hezbollah react to Israel’s strike? A rapid escalation could be on the cards following an Israeli airstrike which killed five Hezbollah fighters including a senior commander in the Syrian Golan Heights on Sunday. The strike follows a speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah last week in which he warned Israel that the militia is still capable and willing to striking Israel in response to its operations in Syria.
MONDAY, 19 JANUARY
UNITED STATES: Nationwide protests expected to mark Martin Luther King day. Ferguson activists are planning a day of “civil disobedience and direct action” under the hashtag #WWMLKD.
TUESDAY, 20 JANUARY
YEMEN: Activists call for the state to retake the capital Sanaa. Large protests are expected in response to the kidnapping of the head of the president’s office, and demonstrators will call for the state to retake areas that have been under the control of Shiite Houthi rebels since September.
ZAMBIA: Presidential election. Voters pick the successor to interim President Guy Scott, who assumed office in October following the death of Michael Sata. The winner will only govern until next year’s general election. The resulting 18-month period of electioneering is seen as destabilising to the country’s copper-dependent economy.
GAZA: Hamas holds military training exercises for 15-20 year olds. Hamas is facing a political crisis due to disputes with rival Fatah and accusations by Israel that Hamas is preparing itself for the next round of confrontation. Our correspondent has access to the camp and can interview trainers.
WEDNESDAY, 21 JANUARY
INTERNATIONAL: Annual World Economic Forum, Davos (until 24th).The World Economic Forum brings together leaders from across government, academia, and the business community to discuss the world economy, macro-economic challenges and what to do about political instability across the globe. Likely topics will include oil, the eurozone crisis, and the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria / Iraq.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 12 January 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
LIBYA: The last chance for a solution? Factions in Libya’s complex civil war have agreed to a new round of UN-backed negotiations to attempt to end the conflict. UN envoy Bernardino Leon wants parties to attempt to form a unity government, draft a new constitution and end hostilities. The meeting will take place this week in Geneva, but the UN did not name an exact date.
MONDAY 12 JANUARY 2015
UKRAINE: Ukraine, Russia and EU diplomats hold talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. Officials said the summit needs to prove “real progress” in implementing the Minsk peace accord, but locals in Ukraine’s east express doubts about it succeeding.
HAITI: Five years since an earthquake killed over 200,000 people, a political crisis is brewing. Mass protests in recent weeks have demanded the resignation of President Michel Martelly. When parliament’s mandate expires on Wednesday, Haiti could be left without a functioning government but with Martelly ruling by decree. That could spark violent opposition. Political instability has been a major factor stalling efforts to resettle thousands of Haitians left destitute after the 2010 quake which levelled much of the capital Port-au-Prince.
TUESDAY 13 JANUARY 2015
SRI LANKA: Pope Francis visits. Catholics are expecting the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz, an Indian priest who travelled to Sri Lanka as a missionary during the Dutch occupation.
EUROPE: European Parliament meets in Strasbourg. The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, will make a statement on the situation in Libya, while the Council and Commission will make statements on recent human trafficking incidents in the Mediterranean.
WEDNESDAY 14 JANUARY 2015
FRANCE: Charlie Hebdo goes to print. It’s the first edition since the deadly attack on the magazine on 7 January. A number of journalists are reported to have come forward to ensure the magazine is published as usual. This edition will have a print run of one million, instead of the usual 45,000.
INTERNATIONAL: Human Rights Watch releases report on Israel’s treatment of migrant workers. HRW argues that the Israeli authorities are violating the rights of foreign workers in the agricultural sector. Due to a failure to enforce labor laws and regulations, workers have inadequate housing and concerns have been raised about the effects on their health. Israel’s agricultural sector is supported by over 20,000 migrant workers from Thailand, few of whom enjoy the same rights as Israeli workers.
HONG KONG: Student leader Joshua Wong appears in court. Wong, one of the most prominent leaders of the Occupy Central protest movement, was arrested after being banned by a court from going near a cleared protest site. Wong, head of the Scholarism group, was arrested along with another popular leader, Lester Shum, second-in-command of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, and pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 8 January 2015
ONES TO WATCH
AFGHANISTAN: Violence on the rise following NATO withdrawal. At least nine people were killed across Afghanistan on Wednesday, amid a Taliban resurgence that is challenging the country’s nascent security forces.
PALESTINE: Fallout continues from International Criminal Court bid. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Palestine will join the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 1 April, a move that will enable the Palestinians to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. The U.S. State Department said it does not consider Palestine a state, and threatened to withhold funding until the Palestinians withdraw their bid. West Bank public sector workers could be hit hard.
THURSDAY 8 JANUARY
FRANCE: National day of mourning for victims of Charlie Hebdo attack.Expect solidarity demonstrations organised by both left and right. Meanwhile, the search continues for the killers.
SRI LANKA: Presidential elections. Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa faces an unexpectedly tight race against top opponent Maithripala Sirisena. Many Sri Lankans are also disillusioned with what they see as Rajapaksa’s attempts to turn democratic politics into a family affair. Overseas, China stands to lose out if Rajapaksa is ousted – his opponent has promised a more balanced foreign policy.
FRIDAY 9 JANUARY
THAILAND: Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra goes on trial.Thailand’s first female premier faces impeachment for negligence over a state rice-buying scheme. She was removed from office shortly before the coup last May. The country’s senior military official has warned the army will “take action” under martial law if protesters demonstrate against the trial.
SATURDAY 10 JANUARY
FRANCE: Charlie Hebdo solidarity march. Leftist parties called for the “republican march” in protest at this week’s attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.
SOUTH AFRICA: President Jacob Zuma addresses ANC. He’ll speak at the ruling party’s 103-year anniversary celebration at Cape Town Stadium. Zuma urged his supporters telling the crowd to get to Cape Town Stadium on Saturday to celebrate “the birthday of the only political movement experienced enough” to help them.
SUNDAY 11 JANUARY
CROATIA: Runoff presidential elections. Voters in the newest member of the European Union choose their next president. The center-left incumbent, Ivo Josipovic will faces his conservative opponent, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. Although the presidency in Croatia is largely a ceremonial position, the vote represents a test for the country’s largest political parties.
Editing by Paul Raymond.