Israel, Palestine: Making of a martyr.
Also: China, Myanmar, Pacific, Ukraine, Russia, Sudan and Chad.
ISRAEL. PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES. Making of a martyr.
The death of a Palestinian hunger striker is a lightning rod.
Israel carried out airstrikes in Gaza on Tuesday, following rocket attacks in response to the death of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesman. Khader Adnan had been on hunger strike in Israel's Nitzan Prison for three months.
INTELLIGENCE. Since the inauguration of Benjamin Netanyahu’s sixth government in December, tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Territories have risen dramatically. The first death of a hunger striker in 30 years will serve as a further source of friction, with far-right members of Netanyahu’s coalition demanding a stronger than usual response to any dissent notwithstanding the agreement of a ceasefire overnight. Adnan’s death follows the killing of a 17-year-old Palestinian on Monday and a 16-year-old last week. Israel celebrates 75 years of statehood on 14 May, while Palestinians mark the 75th year of Nakba (catastrophe) the next day. Amid discord over Israel’s proposed judicial reforms and a slowing tech sector, Netanyahu will need all his political dexterity to hold his country together.
FOR BUSINESS. Israel’s politics is endangering regional stability. Expect more strife through this term of government.
CHINA. MYANMAR. Good neighbours.
China endorses the regime and sidelines Southeast Asia.
China’s foreign minister met with Myanmar’s military leader in Naypyidaw on Tuesday, saying Myanmar appreciated “China's objective and impartial position on Myanmar-related issues, where China is welcome to play a greater role.”
INTELLIGENCE. China’s first bilateral foreign minister visit to Myanmar since the 2021 coup (Minister Qin Gang’s predecessor attended a regional meeting in July), is to date Beijing’s most visible show of support to the junta, which also seeks closer ties with India and Russia as it drifts from Southeast Asia. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations originally sought to resolve Myanmar’s crisis, but has lost influence. Delhi reportedly hosted a secret dialogue with Myanmar and neighbouring states last week and Moscow has maintained arms sales. Industry data, meanwhile, suggests Russia has shipped 3 million barrels of oil to China since February via Burmese pipelines. For China, Myanmar is an important buffer state, with access to the Indian Ocean. Its authoritarian character is a plus.
FOR BUSINESS.Traditionally wary of larger neighbours, Myanmar is finding itself increasingly beholden to Beijing.
PACIFIC. UNITED STATES. Island hopping.
Washington returns diplomats to a hitherto ignored region.
America’s top Asia diplomat told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday the US was on track to open an embassy in Tonga this month. He also told senators the US continued to engage Kiribati and Vanuatu on opening new missions.
INTELLIGENCE. Despite its importance to America’s World War II victory over Japan, the South Pacific was largely ignored in Washington until Beijing began to make its presence felt. Sparsely populated, but with enormous territorial waters and astride supply lines to allies Australia and Japan, the Pacific will feature in any Taiwan crisis. In 2018, Australian media reported Chinese plans to build a base in Vanuatu. The same happened in 2021 for Kiribati and in 2022 for Solomon Islands, the latter where the US reopened a hastily prepared embassy this February. The so-called US Free Association states – Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau – are also receiving attention, including insofar as they may be backup to the concentrated US presence in Guam. Expect China to up its own efforts in turn.
FOR BUSINESS.US investments in the Pacific are driven by interest, not sentiment. This will make them sticky.
HONG KONG. No politics is local.
The territory’s administration ends the last vestige of democracy.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive released plans on Tuesday to reduce the share of directly elected district council seats from 90% to 20% of the total. The rest will be filled by appointees and delegates from chiefly loyalist local committees.
INTELLIGENCE. After quelling the pro-democracy protests of 2019-2020, Hong Kong’s government and its Chinese masters will have little to fear in terms of a backlash to the announcement. Hong Kong’s recovering business sector will also likely shrug as more attention is given to riding the resurgent Chinese economy (and waves of mainland visitors). Nonetheless, the move shows that Chief Executive John Lee is not taking chances. Unlike his predecessor, who after a laissez faire approach was forced into draconian action – thus hurting Hong Kong’s international reputation – Lee wants to leave no room for anti-establishment voices. With the domestic press largely silenced, and Western advocates focussed on other causes, this will prove the final end to Hong Kong’s brief democratic chapter.
FOR BUSINESS. Hong Kong’s economy has recovered, but its role as a hub will be limited by latent authoritarianism.
UKRAINE. RUSSIA. Home fires.
The war in Ukraine bleeds into Russia amid a new US weapons pledge.
The governor of Russia's Krasnodar region said early Wednesday a fuel storage facility had been set ablaze. A goods train in the Bryansk region was derailed on Tuesday, its governor said, the second such incident in two days.
INTELLIGENCE. Ukraine’s much-hyped spring counteroffensive is yet to be launched, but Kyiv (or its sympathisers) are taking the fight in other ways with a string of attacks inside Russia. The latest incidents follow the April bombing of a Saint Petersburg cafe and March attacks in Kursk and Belgorod. The strikes led to the cancellation of Victory Day parades in several cities on 9 May, though some have attributed this to fears of anti-war protests. Still, while reliable data is patchy, domestic support for Putin remains strong and civilian attacks risk only galvanising Russian resolve. Unless a negotiated settlement is reached, the war will more likely be won or lost on whose munitions can last the longest. The US on Tuesday pledged a further $300 million in military aid, its 37th package to Ukraine.
FOR BUSINESS.Attacks within Russia raise the stakes for Putin, but on balance this will remain a war of attrition.
SUDAN. CHAD. Spillover.
Sudan is not the Sahel’s only failing state.
A major NGO warned on Tuesday that up to 100,000 Sudanese refugees could flee to neighbouring Chad, which already hosts half a million asylum seekers. The UN predicted on Monday that up to 800,000 could flee Sudan’s violence.
INTELLIGENCE. The warning by the International Rescue Committee comes at a time when landlocked Chad, one of Africa’s least-developed countries, is experiencing its own turmoil. At least 17 were killed last month when armed militants based in the neighbouring Central African Republic attacked herders in Chad’s south. Tensions have increased between Chad and the CAR, which supports rebel groups, allegedly with the backing of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group. Wagner, which has also backed Sudan’s insurgent Rapid Support Forces, has lucrative contracts in several Sahel countries, though not Chad, which is still broadly aligned with the West. Countries with a major Wagner presence – the CAR, Mali and Burkina Faso – have recently expelled Western troops, aid workers and diplomats.
FOR BUSINESS.Chaos in Sudan risks engulfing the region, posing grave security and border control risks for Europe.
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