What We’re Watching

What our analysts are watching and key events they are keeping an eye on
1st November 20216 min

G20 summit offers little new. The summit that gathered the world’s 20 largest economies that account for 75% of global GDP in Rome, Italy over the weekend ended with little concrete proposals. Leaders of the group of 20 major economies agreed on a final statement on Sunday that urged “meaningful and effective” action to limit global warming, but offered few concrete commitments. US President Joe Biden said he was disappointed that more could not have been done and blamed China and Russia for not bringing proposals to the table. Although the G20 pledged to stop financing coal power overseas, they set no timetable for phasing it out at home, and watered down the wording on a promise to reduce emissions of methane. The final summit document said current national plans on how to curb emissions will have to be strengthened “if necessary” and made no specific reference to 2050 as a date to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

Climate Change Summit. The COP26 conference on Climate Change kicks off this week in Glasgow. The summit will bring together more than 190 world leaders to discuss climate change. Britain’s Boris Johnson will be trying to reach an agreement with the other nations on how to tackle climate change. The absence of China and Russia and with previous meetings being more about geopolitical struggles than about helping solving global pollution, it remains to be seen if much will be achieved.

Anti-coup demonstrators stage a ‘million-strong’ march.  Sudan has descended into crisis after the military dissolved the country’s shaky power-sharing government and declared a state of emergency on Monday 25th October. The move has crushed hopes for a peaceful transition of power following the ousting of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, ending his brutal three-decade-long rule. Sudan’s military leadership along with the opposition groups established the Sovereignty Council in order to transition to a formal governemnt.  But the military made its move and takeover on Monday 25 October, within hours of Jeffery Feltman, US special envoy to the Horn of Africa leaving the Sudanese capital. Feltman had been taking part in talks to ease tensions between Sudan’s military and civilian leadership. General al-Burhan has said that he is prepared to appoint a new prime minister after Abdulla Hamdouk refused to resume his role. But military forces shot dead three people during nationwide protests Saturday 30 October. We will be watching if the appointment of a new prime minister will be enough to pacify the masses.

Iran cyber attack closes petrol stations across country. Iran has said a foreign country was behind a cyberattack that paralysed its petrol distribution network on Tuesday 26 October. A group called itself Predatory Sparrow claimed it carried out the hack, but Iran’s top internet policy-making body blamed an unnamed “state actor”. President Ebrahim Raisi said the attack was about “stoking public anger”. The attack hit an intranet-based system that lets motorists buy subsidised fuel with government-issued smart cards, causing long queues at petrol stations. Most people depend on subsidised fuel in Iran, whose economy has been badly damaged by years of US sanctions, as well as government mismanagement and corruption. This attack has the hallmarks of the shadow war between Iran and Israel and we will be watching for Iranian reprisals.

Read our analysis on the Israel-Iran Shadow War

Iran-US nuclear talks to possibly resume? A date for the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and the US may be announced this week as Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani announced on 27 October that Iran had agreed to resume talks by the end of November and that a date for the resumption would be announced in the coming week. Negotiations were stalled ever since Ebrahim Raisi won the presidential election back in June. We will be watching, if the negotiations are announced, and whether the new Iranian administration wants to reopen the previous rounds of negotiations.

Read our analysis on Iran’s New President Faces Major Challenges

Russia and China conduct first Pacific patrols. From 17 October to 23 October 2021 Chinese and Russian naval forces carried out their first joint sea patrol in the waters of the Western Pacific  covering 1,700 nautical miles. The joint naval ships formation which included a total of 10 warships and six carrier-based helicopters carried out the joint maritime patrol in the Sea of Japan, the Western Pacific and the East China Sea, during which they organized exercises over joint sailing and joint maneuvers and conducted live-fire drills. The objective of the joint patrol was to “demonstrate the state flags of Russia and China, maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and also protect facilities of both countries’ maritime economic activity,” the statement read. These exercises come in the context of the recent AUKUS alliance. We will be watching to what extent China and Russia can really push back against the US led alliance. 

Anglo-French Tensions. France has detained a British fishing vessel and announced it will close nearly all of its ports to trawlers from the UK, in a major escalation in its ongoing spat with the UK over post-Brexit fishing rights. “Aside from a few exceptions, all French ports will no longer be accessible to British boats,” France’s European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said in an interview on French TV station CNEWS, referring to vessels that offload fish and produce. A UK government spokesperson said the proposed French actions were “unjustified” and “do not appear to be compatible” with the Brexit agreement or wider international law. “We regret the confrontational language that has been consistently used by the French government on this issue, which makes this situation no easier to resolve,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the government has decided to summon the French Ambassador. The rift between Britain and France is a historical one. But the recent dispute over fishing rights is unprecedented since post-WWII. The waters between the two powers are now being contested over as Britain is no longer in the EU and France see’s no reason to abide the union’s rules on territorial waters.

Russia holds Afghan Talks. Russia’s top diplomat told Afghanistan’s neighbours on Wednesday 27 October to refuse to host US or NATO military forces following their withdrawal from Afghanistan. “We … call on Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries not to allow a military presence of U.S. and NATO forces which plan to move there after leaving Afghan territory,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. The diplomat made the remarks in a speech by video link at a conference held in Tehran on Afghanistan attended by China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. After America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russia sees an opportunity to fill the vacuum in the region. It exacts its influence in the region through frequent military drills with Central Asian militaries and arranging meetings among regional nations. We will be watching for any tangible gains by Russia.

Saudi comes to Imran Khan’s rescue. In an agreement reached during PM Imran Khan’s visit to the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia has agreed to give Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports to help stave off a current account crisis, Pakistan’s government said on Tuesday 26 October. The facility is expected to help Pakistan convince the IMF about its financing plan and help the debt ridden country to alleviate oil and gas shortages that are crippling the economy and people’s livelihoods through power cuts and fuel disruptions. The opposition parties blame the crisis on lethargy and mismanagement by the Prime Minister Imran Khan-led PTI government. Pakistan’s energy woes had been compounded when a 2018 deal inked with Saudi Arabia had turned sour when bilateral relations deteriorated and Islamabad had to return $2 billion of the $3 billion deposits.

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