Stratfor's Geopolitical Intelligence Guidance For The Week Of February 20, 2011

As we pointed out earlier, the upcoming week will be quiet on economic and market events. What it, however, will be heavy on is revolutions, riots and the good old ultraviolence. Below is a useful primer from Stratfor for what is becoming an increasingly more complex geopolitical chess game, for the time being confined in the Maghreb, but soon spreading all across the Muslim crescent and soon thereafter into East Asia.

The following is an internal STRATFOR document produced to provide high-level guidance to our analysts. This document is not a forecast, but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions on areas for focus.

New Guidance

1. Protests and Unrest: There has now been some spark of unrest in places as far afield as Cote d’Ivoire and Iran. For the most part, these protests are limited in size and scope, and not all of them are connected. But are some? Are there protests unified by common themes? Are there common forces at work behind the scenes in some cases?

Examine the following countries in particular:

  • Bahrain: There is a dissonance between the protesters in the street and the organized political opposition. How does this play out? To what extent is Iran meddling in a meaningful way with these protests? Is there any indication that this unrest will spread to Kuwait or the Shiite areas in eastern Saudi Arabia?
  • Libya: After several days of agitation, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam delivered a speech on national television. The content of the speech indicates the state believes it is facing a serious uprising and a potential civil war. We need to know which military units have been involved in trying to tamp down unrest and which have been kept in reserve. We also need to dig deeper into the allegations that mercenaries and hired thugs are behind the unrest, specifically who organized them. Seif al-Islam implied in his speech that he has the support of his father and the military, but we have to test that claim and watch for fractures within the military. We also need to be monitoring any moves by members of the military’s old guard as well as another of Gadhafi’s sons, Libyan National Security Adviser Motasem Gadhafi, who is Seif al-Islam’s rival.

    If the situation spirals out of control, it is not clear that the Libyan military would be capable of ousting Gadhafi and his family from power as a way to preserve order, as the militaries in Tunisia and Egypt were able to do with the leaders of those countries.

  • Yemen: The situation is escalating, with the opposition seizing on President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s weakness. Where do tribal loyalties currently lie and how committed is the army to backing the Saleh regime? At what point are they likely to break with him?
  • Tunisia: The protesters have remobilized to demand the ousting of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, a remnant of the Ben Ali regime. How the army deals with these protests will be telling.

2. China: Following a call for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China, several gatherings took place in different Chinese cities Feb. 20, including Beijing and Shanghai. It is important not to look at the China gatherings only through the lens of a Tunisia- or Egypt-style “revolution.” Where did the call originate? Why were there no organizers present at the announced rally sites? Why were the 13 targeted cities chosen, but others left off the list? Why distribute a call for a popular protest in China over websites and blogs commonly blocked or monitored in China. Was there external involvement? Is this a one-off incident, or does it portend further attempts or the potential for a wider movement of activism across China?

3. Iran: We need to continue gauging the breadth and significance of Iran’s efforts to take advantage of unrest around the region. The looming passage of a small Iranian warship and a support vessel through the Suez Canal is one aspect of this certain to provoke rhetorical bluster. But where and how aggressively is Iran pushing across the region. What new insight can we gain into its efforts from recent developments?

Existing Guidance

1. Iran, Iraq: Our focus in the region needs to return to Iran and Iraq, which remain central to our outlook for the year. Where do we stand on understanding the likely status of American military forces in Iraq beyond the end of the year? Have the first 45 days of the year at all altered our assessment of or shed new light on how Washington and Tehran will interact and maneuver this year?

2. Israel: Israel has dodged a bullet, at least for now, with the military regime in Cairo remaining at the helm. How will Egyptian-Israeli interactions change? How do Israeli policies and priorities shift? We need to understand Israel’s position moving forward

EURASIA

  • Feb. 21: EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss engagement with Bosnia-Herzegovina and reforms as the Balkan country aspires to join the European Union.
  • Feb. 21: Lithuania’s Special Representative for Protracted Conflicts Giedrius Cekuolis will visit Azerbaijan and meet with officials to discuss ways to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
  • Feb. 21: Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman will meet in Vienna with U.N. Office on Drug and Crime Executive Director Yuri Fedotov and International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano.
  • Feb. 21: An EU expert mission will visit Serbia to investigate reforms in Serbia’s judiciary and law enforcement, as well as the fight against corruption and organized crime.
  • Feb. 21-22: The anti-terrorism center heads from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member states will meet in Moscow in accordance with the CIS Cooperation Program, which covers measures against terrorism and other violent acts of extremism for 2011-2013, and the Action Plan of the Anti-terrorist Center for 2011.
  • Feb. 22: The Bulgarian Consultative National Security Council, summoned by President Georgi Parvanov after the recent governmental wiretapping scandal, will meet to discuss internal security and meeting Schengen requirements.
  • Feb. 23: Greece’s largest labor union will hold a general strike over proposed austerity measures.
  • Feb. 23: Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Uruguayan Foreign Minister in Kiev to discuss bilateral and regional cooperation.
  • Feb. 23-24: Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro will visit Spain.
  • Feb. 24: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will meet with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels to discuss energy and trade foreign policy.
  • Feb. 24: Russia will launch the new-generation Glonass-K navigation satellite.
  • Feb. 24-25: King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain will visit Russia to meet with President Dmitri Medvedev and participate in the opening of the Prado in the Hermitage exhibition for the Year of Spain in Russia and Year of Russia in Spain events.
  • Feb. 24: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will travel to Ukraine to meet with President Viktor Yanukovich, Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov, and Foreign Minister Uruguayan Foreign Minister. He will also lecture students at a Kiev university.
  • Feb. 24-25: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Russian government will meet with the European Commission in Brussels to hold direct talks on energy trade, human rights, food import standards and conflicts in which Russia is suspected of being involved.
  • Feb. 25: Irish elections will be held.

MIDDLE EAST/SOUTH ASIA

  • Unspecified Date: Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq is expected to announce the ministers of his new emergency Cabinet.
  • Feb. 21: The budget session of the Indian Parliament will begin.
  • Feb. 21: Iraq’s train network will cease all operations because of a cut in state aid needed to pay staff.
  • Feb. 21: The High Court in Mumbai, India, will decide the fate of Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab, an alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist in the Mumbai attacks.
  • Feb. 21: Georgian Foreign Minister Girgol Vashadze will continue his two-day visit to Qatar, his first official visit to the country.
  • Feb. 21-25: Taiwanese Minister of the Council for Economic Planning and Development Christina Liu and five other federal ministers and high-profile business leaders will travel to India to promote Taiwanese business opportunities.
  • Feb. 22: Afghan President Hamid Karzai will inaugurate his country’s new parliament after a monthlong delay due to a special court’s decision on electoral fraud.
  • Feb. 22: French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde will visit Tunisia to discuss economic cooperation and to show France’s support for the new Tunisian new government.
  • Feb. 22: A U.S. Congressional delegation will visit Middle East. Consisting of seven Republicans, the delegation will visit Syria, Turkey and Israel and will discuss regional issues and relations with the United States.
  • Feb. 22: EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton is expected to visit Egypt to hold talks with Egyptian officials.
  • Feb. 22-24: Iraq is expected to sign an agreement for the Akkas natural gas field after a delay in January.
  • Feb. 23-24: Iran will hold its first International Clean Energy Conference in Kerman where discussions will focus on technological developments in clean technology energy projects and issues related to electric power distribution and energy conservation.
  • Feb. 24: A Bahraini criminal court will resume the trial of 25 suspects held on terrorism-related charges.
  • Feb. 25: A “Revolution of Iraqi Rage” demonstration demanding change, freedom and genuine democracy will be held in central Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.
  • Feb. 25: French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit Turkey to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss Turkey’s EU membership bid, France’s G-20 presidency and regional issues.

EAST ASIA

  • Feb. 21-22: Thailand’s Internal Security Act will continue to be enforced on the Phra Nakorn, Wattana, Pathumwan, Pomprab Sattru Phai, Wang Thonglang, Ratchatavee and Dusit districts of Bangkok in order to manage protests.
  • Feb. 21-22: Honduran President Porfirio Lobo will continue an official three-day visit to South Korea and meet with President Lee Myung Bak to strengthen bilateral economic ties and to discuss regional and global security issues.
  • Feb. 21-23: Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev will pay an official visit to China to meet with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, and leading legislator Wu Bangguo.
  • Feb. 21-23: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, parliamentary leaders and businessmen in Japan to strengthen bilateral relations and open new avenues of cooperation.
  • Feb. 22: The economic cooperation committee formed by China and Taiwan will hold its first meeting. The committee will discuss the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and other economic cooperation opportunities.
  • Feb. 22: Foreign ministers from Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states will meet to discuss the recent conflict between Cambodia and Thailand.
  • Feb. 23: Honduran President Porfirio Lobo is scheduled to visit Singapore.
  • Feb. 23-25: Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi will visit South Korea to meet with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Song Hwan, and discuss a number of issues, including North Korea. He will then travel to Mongolia to meet the Mongolian foreign minister.
  • Feb. 23-25: The Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee will meet to make final preparations for the next annual session, expected to convene in March.

AMERICAS

  • Feb. 21: UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan will visit Brasilia.
  • Feb. 21: Venezuelan state electric firm Corpoelec will cut off power to 11 mayoralties in Bolivar state if it does not receive payments owed for electric service.
  • Feb. 21-23: Latvian Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis continues his five-day visit to Washington to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as well as with officials from the Defense Department, National Security Council and the Defense Logistics Agency.
  • Feb. 22: The first Pakistan-U.S.-Afghanistan trilateral talk will be held in Washington. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Pakistani and Afghani counterparts will attend the summit.
  • Feb. 22: French Foreign Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie is scheduled to visit Brazil.
  • Feb. 22: Cabinet ministers from the Venezuelan economic and productive sectors will address the National Assembly.
  • Feb. 22-25: Peru and Mexico will hold a meeting in Mexico City to make a legal revision to the text for the approval of a bilateral free trade agreement.
  • Feb. 23: Salvadorian President Mauricio Funes will visit Colombia. Funes is scheduled to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and business representatives.
  • Feb. 25: Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo will meet with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to discuss impediments to imports of Paraguayan products into Argentina.

AFRICA

  • Feb. 21: The heads of state from South Africa, Chad, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Mauritania will meet in Cote d’Ivoire as constituents of an African Union panel tasked to solve the ongoing crisis in the country.
  • Feb. 21: Sudan’s National Assembly will resume sessions and will approve the Southern Sudan referendum results.
  • Feb. 22-25: A British parliamentary delegation led by Baroness Glenys Elizabeth Kinnock will travel to Sudan to meet with Sudanese officials and discuss the post-referendum situation.
  • Feb. 25: Petroleum companies Royal Dutch Shell and BP will meet with South African Energy Minister Dipuo Peters to discuss the South African purchase of a stake in their Sapref oil refinery, located in Durban.