Israel, Lebanon: Eve of destruction.
Also: Turkey, Syria, Ukraine, Russia, the US and Mexico.
ISRAEL. LEBANON. Eve of destruction.
Worries rise that others will enter the fray.
The Pentagon said Wednesday there were no indications of additional players in the Gaza conflict, as Hezbollah was warned not to escalate. Iraq's prime minister called on Vladimir Putin to mediate in the war, after the two leaders met.
INTELLIGENCE. Hamas is a terrorist group that acts as a quasi-state. Hezbollah is a quasi-state that conducts terrorist acts. Though ideologically similar, the latter is more sophisticated and better armed. It also has more to lose, as it discovered in its war with Israel of 2006. Hezbollah’s wider circle of friends pose risks of regional entanglement should it get involved, but besides Iran, which is also close to Hamas, Syria and Russia are expected to act as a brake.
FOR BUSINESS. Muslim-majority states have publicly condemned Israel’s reprisals on Gaza, and from the comfort of Qatar, Hamas’s former chief has called for a global “day of rage” this Friday, but behind the scenes, officials are eager to contain the crisis. Alongside an Arab League meeting in Cairo, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and Iran’s president spoke for the first time since their detente. The UAE, Russia and Turkey are meanwhile seeking off-ramps.
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TURKEY. SYRIA. Don’t look now.
Scores are settled as the region is preoccupied.
Damascus called for a ceasefire in Idlib on Monday after jihadists successfully hit military positions held by regime, Russian and Iranian forces. Syria-based Kurds on Wednesday accused Turkey of war crimes after over 200 air strikes.
INTELLIGENCE. While attention lies on Israel, the map is being redrawn in Syria’s civil war. A truce with non-Islamic State jihadists in Syria’s north could give Damascus more room to fight US-backed rebels instead. Some of these rebels, including Syrian Kurds, are meanwhile fighting NATO ally Turkey in what is now an increasingly complex battle to create facts on the ground. The upside is that Damascus’s pressure will likely disincentivise a new front with Israel.
FOR BUSINESS. Turkey was compelled to hit back at Kurds in Syria and Iraq following a 1 October attack in Ankara. Recep Tayyip Erdogan however has bigger priorities in the Caucasus, Cyprus and the Black Sea, not to mention Turkey’s economy, where inflation remains stubborn despite tightening monetary policy and a lower current account deficit. Syria, meanwhile, remains a basket case: another reminder to Hezbollah of the perils of unceasing war.
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UKRAINE. RUSSIA. Fear of missing out.
The White House says funding is ‘at the end of the rope’.
Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise visit to NATO on Wednesday and promised to visit Israel in a sign of solidarity. Russian forces on Wednesday closed in on the heavily fortified city of Avdiivka, north of Donetsk, in Ukraine’s east.
INTELLIGENCE. Zelensky’s visit to Brussels resulted in a pledge for the US to lead a “capability coalition” to develop Ukraine’s air force, including training for F-16 pilots. But amid the Pentagon’s pledges to replenish Israeli defences and ammunition, Washington requires Congressional approval to give Kyiv what it needs, and the odds aren’t great. As the White House said: “you don’t want to be trying to bake in long-term support when you’re at the end of the rope.”
FOR BUSINESS. Unless Congress can pass further aid, Ukraine will need the EU to help it survive the winter. Germany pledged a further €1 billion on Tuesday (and two drones on Thursday), but others are backtracking. Poland is evasive ahead of Sunday’s elections. Slovakia’s new government on Wednesday formed a coalition with a pro-Russia party. In a visit to Bucharest on Tuesday, Zelensky was heckled by senators calling for the return of historic Romanian lands.
UNITED STATES. A house still divided.
A vote for the speakership is at an impasse.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise appeared short of a full chamber vote for House Speaker on Wednesday, having only been nominated by 113 of 221 Republican members for the role in a secret ballot. Scalise needs 217 votes to succeed.
INTELLIGENCE. Scalise will hope he can win over the 99 representatives who voted for rival candidate Jim Jordan, but several have suggested that they won’t under any circumstances. The hardliners, several of whom precipitated the unprecedented ousting of former speaker Kevin McCarthy, will be betting that Republicans will have no choice but to unite behind Jordan, despite his anti-Ukraine position, lest the speakership go to a Democrat or remain vacant.
FOR BUSINESS. There is almost no chance that any Democrats will vote for Louisiana’s Scalise, who once compared himself to the head of the Ku Klux Klan. And hopes moderate Republicans will vote for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries appear as improbable as Donald Trump being co-opted. Jordan, despite saying he will now back Scalise, could ultimately win. Congress needs a speaker to fund Israel and Ukraine, not to mention the rest of the government.
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MEXICO. Cross at the border.
It’s not just Americans who are angry about migration.
Mexico's president rejected on Tuesday a proposal for US-funded transit centres, where migrants could apply for US visas. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador meanwhile blamed Texas state inspections for a 19,000-truck queue at the border.
INTELLIGENCE. Unlike Joe Biden, with a 40% approval rating, AMLO is backed by 65% of Mexicans. Still, with a record surge of migrants transiting Mexico and the country’s own presidential race underway, AMLO must act to ensure his protégé Claudia Sheinbaum wins in June. Blaming the US is a frequent tactic of Mexican leaders, but AMLO needs to take matters into his own hands. Later this month, he will host 11 Latin American leaders for a summit on the crisis.
FOR BUSINESS. AMLO's populism has crimped what should be an even bigger boom on the back of full US employment and reshoring from China, but Mexico-first policies win votes. If migration cannot be solved, he will need to double down on the economic side of nationalism. Last month, Mexico revoked nine concessions from Gangfeng Lithium, a Chinese battery producer. On Saturday AMLO ordered the energy ministry to step up nationalisation efforts.