Jack Merlin Watling, 9 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
IRAQ: Government and militias advance on Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The national army, backed by largely Shiite militias and the national air force along with Iranian advisors, has recaptured parts of Tikrit and surrounding villages from Islamic State. The campaign is the government’s biggest push so far against the extremist group, and its success or failure could affect plans for an assault on Mosul. Meanwhile Baghdad has asked for international air support to protect Iraq’s cultural treasures from the group.
MALI: Attacks over weekend threaten to destabilise peace agreement. A rocket attack against of a UN base in the north and a shooting in the capital Bamako appear to be an attempt to destabilise a peace settlement reached between the government and Tuareg rebels in Algiers. The preliminary deal was meant to end fighting with northern separatists, but some rebels have demanded more time before joining the accord.
GREECE: Finance Minister warns of new elections if EU rejects debt restructuring. Yanis Varoufakis told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera on Sunday that Greece would need to consider a referendum or election if the EU did not accept Greek proposals. This is likely to be seen as a threat as the ECB begins its largest ever round of government bond purchases.
MONDAY, 9 MARCH 2015
IRAN: International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors visit Iran. If the IAEA’s push to secure access to Iran’s nuclear facilities fails, it could raise suspicions Iran is negotiating in bad faith in the P5+1 talks. On Sunday President Obama said his administration would walk away from negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program unless the United States can verify that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.
TURKEY: Erdogan chairs second cabinet meeting, replacing Prime Minister. Turkey’s first directly elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been accused of trying to establish presidential rule in Turkey. Presidents have historically stepped away from the day to day operation of government. Erdogan has also stepped up measures against journalists and political opponents.
JAPAN: Angela Merkel seeks stronger bilateral ties on state visit. The trip is Merkel’s first visit to Japan since the G8 summit in 2008. After the execution by Islamic State militants of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, Japan has sought to strengthen its partnerships in counterterrorism. Merkel is also likely to discuss Ukraine as the EU considers strengthening sanctions against Russia.
EU: European Central Bank expected to push €1.1 trillion into circulation. The ECB announced in Cyprus last week that they would be buying government bonds in a long term programme of quantitative easing to reinvigorate the Eurozone. The programme will last until September 2016. On the same day Greece is expected to provide the details of planned governmental reforms.
US: Barack Obama meets European Council president to discuss Ukraine and TTIP. Donald Tusk will seek to coordinate European plans to expand sanctions against Russia as a potential alternative to American intentions of arming the Ukrainian military. The US and UK have already deployed military advisers but have not yet supplied lethal aid. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a US-EU Free Trade agreement, will also be on the agenda.
TUESDAY, 10 MARCH 2015
EGYPT: Fate of elections in the balance after final decision on constitutionality. The Supreme Court last week postponed parliamentary elections set for 22 March, ruling the elections law unconstitutional. A final decision could push elections back indefinitely. Egypt has been ruled by presidential decree since July 2013.
RUSSIA: EU-Russia showdown at World Trade Organization over treaty breaches. The EU sought WTO arbitration after accusing Russia of violating agreed tariffs on imported goods. The WTO may require Russia to pay compensation. At the hearing on Tuesday the WTO will decide on whether to convene an arbitration panel. Russia will push to have the case dropped.
TURKMENISTAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on state visit to boost trade. Against the backdrop of the P5+1 nuclear talks which could lead to the lifting of sanctions on Iran, President Rouhani is attempting to double Iran’s trade with Turkmenistan through a new bilateral agreement.
POLAND: Minister of Defence debates threat posed by Russia. Tomasz Siemoniak will use a public debate to discuss the security situation in Eastern Europe.
WEDNESDAY, 11 MARCH 2015
ISRAEL: Citizens abroad begin to cast their votes. Postal votes kick off parliamentary elections to be held domestically on 17 March. Despite a boost in the polls after Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a speech to the US Congress last week, the election is expected to be tightly fought. Up to 35,000 people attended an anti-Netanyahu rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday at which former Mossad chief Meir Dagan strongly criticised the Prime Minister.
UKRAINE: IMF expected to approve $17.5 billion bailout for Ukraine. The Ukrainian economy is disintegrating and the IMF is expected to approve a loan to assist Ukraine in prosecuting the war ravaging the East of the country. The bailout was dependent upon a reform programme.
Editing by Paul Raymond.