Jack Merlin Watling, 19 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
TUNISIA: Test of resilience as tourists massacred in prominent museum. Masked gunmen in military uniform killed at least 19 people on Wednesday, most of them foreign tourists. The attackers were shot by security forces. The attack will have a serious impact on tourism, a crucial industry, and has raised concerns that Islamic State-linked groups are operating in the country. Tunisians have viewed it as an attack on their democracy, and the government will likely respond with further operations against militant cells.
ISRAEL: Netanyahu victory meets cold reception in Washington. Defying predictions of a leftist surge, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won around a quarter of the seats in parliamentary elections, likely giving him the mandate to form a government. The White House condemned his use of “divisive” rhetoric about Arabs and rejection of a Palestinian state, further underlining Likud’s sour relations with the Obama administration.
GERMANY: Anarchists protest opening of European Central Bank HQ. Over ninety officers were injured after protesters hurled stones and tear gas at police during the opening of the new European Central Bank building in Frankfurt. Cars and barricades were set on fire and several hundred protesters were detained.
THURSDAY, 19 MARCH 2015
THAILAND: High Court decides whether to prosecute former Prime Minister. The attorney general pressed criminal charges against Yingluck Shinawatra in February, alleging negligence related to a rice subsidy programme. Shinawatra was forced out of office by a military coup in May last year. If convicted she could face ten years in prison.
MOROCCO: Libyan rivals meet for UN-backed talks. Indirect negotiations between Libya’s House of Representatives and the General National Congress have so far made little progress towards a political settlement. On the ground, both sides have taken to tit-for-tat bombing of infrastructure.
RUSSIA: Iraq’s foreign minister visits Moscow. Iraq is looking for more support as its army, backed by Shiite militias, continues an offensive against the Islamic State. Russia is the second largest exporter of arms in the world, and broadly backs Baghdad’s allies in the region.
EGYPT: Al Jazeera journalists appear in court. Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed face their second trial for “aiding a terrorist organization” and “spreading false news”.
JAPAN: Bilateral security talks with China. One of Asia’s key rivalries has been particularly tense of late, with shows of force and anti-Japanese protests in China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. This meeting of Foreign Ministers is the first of its kind in four years and may herald easing tensions in the South China Sea.
INDONESIA: Australian drug traffickers make final appeal against execution. Indonesia has refused to pardon two Australians believed to be leaders of the ‘Bali Nine’ drug gang. Along with fellow South East Asian states, it maintains a hard line on drug trafficking and the appeal is unlikely to be successful. This hearing was scheduled for 12 March but was delayed by one week.
UNITED STATES: House Foreign Affairs Committee debates negotiations with Iran. The hearing, amid repeated Republic attempts to undermine the Obama administration's talks with the Iranians in Geneva, is likely to be a robust exchange of views.
FRIDAY, 20 MARCH 2015
AUSTRIA: Summit on tracking Jihadis travelling through Europe. Balkan foreign and interior ministers meet to coordinate their departments’ efforts to prevent foreign fighters from travelling to Syria. Italy is also expected to attend.
KAZAKHSTAN: President meets Russian, Belarussian counterparts to discuss security cooperation. The three founders of the Eurasian Customs Union will address problems in integration created by ongoing fighting in Ukraine. The Eurasian project is widely seen as an attempt by Putin to rebuild Russian political control over former Soviet states.
SOUTH SUDAN: Supreme Court reviews legality of elections. Political wrangling in South Sudan continues as the opposition seeks to challenge the legality of scheduled elections. The challenge is fraught with political dangers as fighting has lessened during AU mediated peace talks in Addis Ababa.
SATURDAY 21 MARCH 2015
INTERNATIONAL: Persian New Year “Nowruz”. Celebrations are held worldwide for the Persian New Year, with national festivities in Iran and Kurdish areas. Attempts by minorities in Crimea, Waziristan and North West China to celebrate Nowruz could provoke a reaction from local authorities. President Obama’s Nowruz message, at a sensitive time in Iran-US relations will also be worth watching.
TURKEY: PKK Leader expected to give Nowruz message. Nowruz celebrations will be politically sensitive, especially in Diyarbakir (Turkey). The imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, is expected to deliver a speech to his supporters as peace talks between Turkey and the PKK have stalled. Turkish security forces will respond severely if protests mount.
SOUTH KOREA: South Korea meets Japan and China for security talks. In a busy week for East Asian diplomacy, these talks aim to alleviate tensions between the three states and to pave the way for increased economic cooperation.
SUNDAY 22 MARCH 2015
PAKISTAN: Chinese President on state visit. China has placed considerable pressure on Pakistan to tackle extremists operating out of North Waziristan and crossing into China. This culminated in a costly and ineffective offensive by the Pakistani military in the summer of 2014. Bilateral relations have been unstable, but China is Pakistan’s main arms supplier. Beijing will be aiming to increase its influence as the US reduces its involvement.
US: Afghan President on state visit to extend US troop deployment in Afghanistan. The US has planned to withdraw large numbers of troops from Afghanistan, but President Ghani has said that these troops are essential and will be addressing a joint session of Congress on 24 March to encourage policymakers to extend US commitments in his country.
Editing by Paul Raymond.