🌍 Iranian President flies to China to meet with Xi
Plus: NATO ministers discuss weapons stockpile
Hi there Intriguer. Like many businesses in the digital age, we’ve asked Google to let us know when the phrase ‘International Intrigue’ pops up online. Well, you can imagine our surprise when our earnest Google Alert breathlessly informed us about a hard-hitting new article delving into the very essence of why we started International Intrigue: ‘Owners of field where Prince Harry lost his virginity joke about having ‘blue plaque‘. Oh dear. 😳
Today’s edition is a 5 min read:
- 🇮🇷 Iranian President Raisi seeks reassurances from China.
- 🛡️ NATO defence ministers affirm commitments to Ukraine.
- ➕ Plus: Rising sea levels, how the papers are covering inflation in Argentina, and what we’re reading about Big Oil’s big profits.
– VC & EP
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan: The Collective Security Treaty Organization (or CSTO, Russia’s teetering version of NATO) will hold joint military drills in Kyrgyzstan after Armenia declined to host. CSTO’s chief of staff said member countries weren’t expected to fight in Ukraine.
- 🏴 Scotland: In a surprise move, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s pro-independence leader since 2014, announced on Wednesday (15 February) she would step down. Support for Scottish independence has only marginally increased since a failed referendum in 2014.
- 🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea (PNG): The United States and PNG are progressing a defence cooperation agreement after discussions in Hawaii last week. The agreement would be a win for US efforts to compete with China’s growing influence in the Pacific.
- 🇭🇹 Haiti: US officials arrested several more US citizens in relation to the assassination of former Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Investigators say the men were hoping to win lucrative government contracts from whomever succeeded Moïse as president.
- 🇧🇮 Burundi: Authorities arrested four Umurundi (the name for people from Burundi) human rights activists at Burundi’s main airport on their way to a conference in Uganda. President Ndayishimiye has cracked down on dissent since he allegedly foiled a coup attempt last year.
🇮🇷 IRAN | FOREIGN POLICY
Iran’s Raisi and Xi Jinping break bread in Beijing
Briefly: On Tuesday (Valentine’s Day no less), Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. They pledged to deepen their ties after a period of stagnation, and discussed issues like investment, oil, and the Iran nuclear deal.
China and Iran have a nuanced friendship. On the one hand, presenting a united front and pushing back against the US encourages a more multipolar world order (aka less US-dominant), while providing both countries with material advantages (China is Iran’s biggest oil client).
On the other hand, China has been cosying up to Saudi Arabia (Iran’s main regional rival) and that has put Iran on edge. Despite Beijing’s pledges to work on their ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’, Tehran hasn’t exactly become a hub for Chinese investment. Raisi even bemoaned bilateral relations having “seriously fallen behind”.
President Xi is still talking a big game: “No matter how the international and regional situation changes, China will unswervingly develop friendly co-operation with Iran”.
Intrigue’s take: Iran needs friends and customers, possibly one and the same, and it needs them urgently. Unfortunately for Iranians, the country’s economic outlook is weaker than KFC’s commitment to nutrition. And sanctions relief is nowhere on the horizon. Add to the mix the growing prospect of a China-Saudi friendship and you’ll understand why Raisi jumped on the first plane to Beijing.
Also worth noting:
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How different newspapers covered: the latest inflation numbers coming out of Argentina.
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🛡️ NATO | DEFENCE
NATO defence ministers meet as Russia advances in Ukraine
Briefly: NATO defence ministers gathered in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday (14-15 Feb) to discuss maritime defence strategy, Finland and Sweden’s membership bids, and the preponderance of strange aerial objects over NATO airspace.
But NATO’s strategy in Ukraine topped the agenda. Russia’s long-anticipated offensive in eastern Ukraine seems to have started, with tens of thousands of troops massing around the city of Bakhmut. And NATO officials warned that Ukraine’s artillery-centric strategy – Ukrainian forces fire around 6,000 shells a day – could outpace NATO’s ability to resupply.
NATO ministers said they instead want to train Ukrainian forces in tactical manoeuvring that would limit reliance on artillery and help repel Russian advances.
Intrigue’s take: As the Russo-Ukraine War nears its first anniversary, NATO unity shows no signs of breaking. Several member countries, maligned in recent years for failing to achieve their defence spending targets, have now themselves called for bigger defence budgets and bolder commitments to Ukraine. Clearly, reports of NATO’s death are greatly exaggerated.
Also worth noting:
💬 TWEET OF THE DAY
When the sea comes to you…
… you should pay attention. According to the World Meteorological Organization, average sea levels have risen faster since 1900 than during any time in the last 3,000 years.
As global temperatures rise, nearly 1 billion people living in coastal areas could be affected by flooding, land erosion, and salinisation. The danger is even more acute for island nations across the Pacific and the Caribbean.
As UN chief, Guterres is doing his darndest to highlight the issue, including via a grim speech this week to the UN Security Council (which held its first ever debate on rising seas).
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
What we’re reading about the five major oil companies – Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Total Energies, and Shell – reporting $200B in combined profits in 2022.
🗳️ POLL TIME!
Is the Iran nuclear deal dead?
Yesterday’s poll: What do you think China’s objectives are in the Arctic?
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🔬 Just some good ol’ fashioned science (2%)
🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️ ⛏️ Fisheries, energy and resources (38%)
🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🚢 Securing new shipping routes (10%)
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🌏 Intelligence gathering and strategic advantage (50%)
Your two cents:
- 🌏 T.M: “China likely doesn’t throw away money and military bases are more expensive than a dock in a harbor.”
- ⛏️ V.B: “China wants to lock up the precious metals resources. If it gains strategic advantage, that’s bonus”.