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Showing posts from December 9, 2013

The Future of OPEC

Pump jacks in the Kurdish town of Derik, on the border with Turkey and Iraq, Nov. 25. (ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


The prospect of revitalized oil production in Iraq and Iran may add to tensions between those two countries and Saudi Arabia over export quotas. On Dec. 4, representatives of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will meet in Vienna to discuss a number of topics. OPEC is facing two challenges. First, OPEC's historically biggest consumer -- the United States -- is rapidly increasing its own domestic production. At the same time, OPEC must deal with plans to expand oil production envisioned both by Iraq and Iran, which could lead to lower prices than the cartel desires. Ultimately, however, emerging markets in Asia will set global demand, and their energy thirst will determine the scale of the problem OPEC faces.

Analysis


OPEC was organized in the early 1960s by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Venezuela with the primary goal o…

Regional Developments Are Pulling Israel and Turkey Together

Israeli Environmental Affairs Minister Amir Peretz (R) attends a meeting in Istanbul on Dec. 5. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


With the U.S.-Iranian rapprochement and a sectarian conflict brewing to its north in Syria, Israel will likely work closely with Turkey and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to secure its interests. Given that Israel has not normalized relations with Saudi Arabia, that track will probably be pursued behind the scenes. However, Israel can work much more robustly with Turkey, despite the rupture in relations since the 2010 flotilla incident. For its part, Turkish regional interests have been set back by the rise of jihadism in Syria and the eclipse of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt -- events that have forced Ankara to adjust its attitude toward Israel.

Analysis


On Dec. 5, Israeli Environmental Affairs Minister Amir Peretz became the first Cabinet member to visit Turkey since bilateral relations took a plunge after the flotilla incident that left nine Turkish nati…

Kenya's Dominance in the East African Community

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (C) arrives at Munyonyo resort Hotel in Kampala on Nov. 30, to attend the 15th Ordinary Summit of the East African Community Heads of State. (ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Kenya is positioning itself to become the dominant power in the emerging East African Community, which includes Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi in addition to Kenya itself. On Nov. 30, the heads of state of the five member countries signed a monetary union protocol, the third of four steps that could lead to a politically unified East African Federation. As a regional export and financial hub, Kenya has been fundamental to this process. However, Nairobi wants to reinforce its position as a gateway into East Africa and wield greater political power within the community -- and ultimately, the federation.

Analysis


For the East African Community, a common currency makes sense, especially for Uganda and Kenya. Both countries are net importers, but there is an imbalanc…

France Struggles to Retain Colonial Ties in Africa

French President Francois Hollande addresses the Franco-African Economic Conference in Paris on Dec. 4. (ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


France wants to remain an influential player in Africa, particularly among its former colonies, but its wishes may surpass its ability. Speaking at the Franco-African economic forum on Dec. 4, French President Francois Hollande said he wants to double trade with Africa within five years. According to the president, such a deal could create some 200,000 jobs in France.

However, Hollande's announcement takes place at a time when French exports are losing ground in Africa as a result of decreased competitiveness at market and increased presence from other players, most notably China. France may keep some of its political and economic prominence in Francophone Africa, where it can offer some of what its former colonies need -- namely, security and investment -- but its economic problems may prevent it from exerting its power across the contine…

Air Zone Tensions Continue Over the East China Sea

Lt. Gen. Liu Shou-Jen of the Taiwanese Air Force introduces a map of the contested air space above the East China Sea during a press conference in Taipei on Dec. 2. (Mandy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


U.S. Vice President Joe Biden returned from South Korea on Dec. 7, having also visited Japan and China during a week of diplomatic upkeep. Biden's trip was planned before China's Nov. 23 declaration of an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, in the East China Sea, but the controversy over Beijing's move, while not the only topic discussed, dominated the vice president's trip.

In Japan, Biden and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempted to show a unified position over China's new zone, which overlaps with Japan's own air zone and, in particular, the Japanese-controlled Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, over which China claims sovereignty. The two leaders pledged to reject unilateral attempts by China to change the status quo in the region and agreed to oppose any threats t…