Jack Merlin Watling, 9 April 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
IRAQ: Baghdad and Washington debate next stage of push against Islamic State. Iraq’s leadership is keen to liberate the western Anbar province, where it could achieve a swift “all-Iraqi” victory against IS forces. US officials argue ousting the group from Mosul would be a better long-term strategy - but that would require US airstrikes, which many Iraqi Shiite militias are reluctant to accept. PM Haydar Al-Abadi has confirmed the Popular Committee militia will be under his office’s command from now on.
YEMEN: “Ground forces will enter the war.” Egyptian and other officials have confirmed that the Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi militants will send ground troops into Yemen in the coming days.
THURSDAY 9 APRIL 2015
GREECE: Deadline for €450 million payment to IMF. Responding to speculation that Greece may default on the payment, the deputy finance minister has said Greece will honour its debts once salaries and pensions are paid. Today’s deadline comes days after the Greek government declared that Germany owes it $382 billion in war reparations.
SOUTH KOREA: US Defense Secretary visits Seoul as North holds parliamentary session. Ashton Carter will review South Korean defences after North Korea successfully tested a long-range missile on 3 April. Carter is fresh from a visit to Japan, during which he urged states in the region to demilitarise to avoid tensions. In Pyongyang, a meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly is likely to examine chronic food shortages.
IRAN: Nuclear Technology Day. The public holiday, started in 2006 by former President Ahmadinejad, celebrates Iranian progress in nuclear technology. Speeches by the president and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran will be watched closely for official messaging around the P5+1 parameters.
INTERNATIONAL: Human Rights Watch report on legality of autonomous weapons. The use of drones has already proved highly controversial, but the deployment of fully autonomous robots that can decide to kill without human involvement poses new legal challenges, HRW will call for new legal structures.
UN: Security Council to debate Mali. A series of deadly attacks on UN bases has prompted a Security Council debate on the future of the UN peacekeeping mission to Mali, deployed in 2012 after Al Qaeda linked rebels seized the north of the country. A recent peace deal with Tuareg rebels has been tested by ongoing violent attacks including in the capital, Bamako.
FRIDAY 10 APRIL 2015
FRANCE: Indian Prime Minister on European Tour. As part of his efforts to reform India’s economy, Narendra Modi is touring Europe to promote Indian exports. In France he is also seeking to close a $23 billion purchase of Rafale fighter jets and to secure French agreement to assist in building modern nuclear power plants in India.
PANAMA: Cuba attends Summit of the Americas for the first time. The inclusion of Cuba is a key test of the extent of the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. America’s recent imposition of sanctions against Venezuela, a long-standing Cuban ally, is likely to put strains on a very fragile relationship. The situation in Venezuela is expected to be high on the agenda.
UNITED KINGDOM: Defence Secretary to outline his party’s defence policy ahead of general election. Foreign policy has been virtually absent from the election campaign so far, but many commentators fear that Britain is becoming introspective. British allies will likely pay close attention to Michael Fallon’s speech, as the Conservatives have made considerable cuts to the British defence budget, much to the discomfort of the United States.
PAKISTAN: Chinese President on second visit in a month. After attending Pakistan Day celebrations in March, Xi Jinping is returning to Pakistan to sign over two dozen preliminary agreements on trade, energy, nuclear power and investment. He is also expected to address Pakistan’s parliament. China recently penned a deal to build a pipeline to bring natural gas from Iran to Pakistan.
MYANMAR: Negotiations on Constitutional Amendments. Although the military have released political prisoners, reform in Myanmar has been slower than many hoped. The negotiations will aim to alter the constitution and will hear input from opposition figures including Aung San Suu Kyi.
SATURDAY 11 APRIL 2015
NIGERIA: State gubernatorial elections. The governors of Nigeria’s 36 states hold considerable constitutional powers and the winners of these elections will have an impact on Muhammadu Buhari’s pledges to tackle corruption and fight Boko Haram.
SIERRA LEONE: Citizens ordered to stay at home in anti-Ebola campaign. The epidemic is in decline, but the government is using day long campaigns to conduct house to house checks, distribute medical supplies and provide training in a bid to ready the country for schools to reopen on 14 April.
GULF: Australia drives for Free Trade Agreement with Gulf states. Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment will be touring the region, to advance negotiations for a lucrative free trade deal with Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.
EGYPT: Grand Mufti’s final verdict on execution of Muslim Brotherhood leadership. 14 members of the Muslim brotherhood, including its leader Mohammed Badie, face the death penalty after being found guilty of planning attacks against the state.
SUNDAY 12 APRIL 2015
INTERNATIONAL: Orthodox Easter. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on Sunday with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem leading an Easter procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Meanwhile President Vladimir Putin will be attending the Easter Service in Moscow of the Russian Orthodox Church.
AZERBAIJAN: Human Rights Watch reports on Azerbaijan in run-up to European Games. Azerbaijan will host 6,000 athletes in Baku in June 2015. In the run up to the games, the government has silenced critics, detaining and imprisoning dozens of journalists, human rights defenders, political activists, and others on criminal charges, reports HRW.
Editing by Paul Raymond.