Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Agnese Boffano discuss how the escalating Israel-Hamas war is fueling fears of regional spillover, plus more on the US-EU Summit, the opening of the Pan Am Games in Chile, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returning to the country and opposition primaries in Venezuela.
CORRECTION: The original interview in this episode contained an error. Our editor misspoke when referring to a protest near an Israeli embassy, saying it was in Lebanon. In fact, the embassy she was referring to is in Jordan. We have edited the original audio accordingly.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Agnese Boffano, Alex Moore, Joe Veyera, Awais Ahmad and Irene Villora. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.
Today is October 19th.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got a look at the Israel-Hamas war, the United States and European Union Summit, the opening of the Pan Am Games in Chile, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returning to the country and opposition primaries in Venezuela.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
Fears of regional spillover in Israel-Hamas war
Information compiled by Agnese Boffano
JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at regional concerns linked to the Israel-Hamas war. For more on that I’ve got fellow Factal editor Agnese Boffano.
JIMMY: Hello, Agnese,
AGNESE: Hey, Jimmy,
JIMMY: I know you were here just last week talking about the situation in Gaza, but things have definitely not improved since then. In fact, now the war is fueling fears of regional spillover. So I guess to start, can you give us an idea of where things are at the moment? You know, how's the war affected the Arab world's relationship with Israel?
AGNESE: Yeah, you're right. The latest situation has not improved since we spoke last week and, in fact, the death toll has just been going up drastically in Gaza. The health minister said this Wednesday that the death toll has surpassed 3,600 dead across the [Gaza] Strip. So, when it comes to the Arab world and its relationship with Israel, I know last week we talked about the prospect of an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, but we also touched on the tense situation with Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups along the Lebanon border, as well as some incidents over on the Syrian side. But now after more than 10 days since the October 7 Hamas offensive, we're really, really starting to see these tensions with the Arab world heightened, and heightened security situations no longer as speculations, but as a real risk of a spillover internationally because the Arab world's relationship with Israel is definitely hitting critical points this week. Just as an example, weeks ago, a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia seemed inevitable, but this has been put on hold – although this might change if Iran gets involved, but I think that's another conversation to have. But I think most significant has been a devastating event from Tuesday in Gaza City in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed from an airstrike that fell on a hospital housing hundreds of wounded individuals. And this – the nature of the incident – has been disputed on both sides. Israel has blamed a failed rocket launch explosion from Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a reason behind the incident and then Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have both denied the reports and claimed that it was targeted in an Israeli airstrike. But as a result of this, we can definitely see the tensions with Israel getting higher. Egypt has been in tense negotiations with Israelis over the Rafah border, not only over the supply of aid into Gaza, but also assessing the possibility of the large-scale humanitarian crisis that is already unfolding in the Palestinian territory, but having discussions on what this would look like if that were to spill over to Egypt. And also Jordan canceled a four-way summit that was supposed to take place with Biden over the hospital bombing – that was canceled over the hospital bombing. So these are just some examples of, kind of, where the relationship with Israel and the Arab world stands.
JIMMY: I know the dust has hardly settled, but what other type of regional effects or implications are you seeing in the wake of the deadly hospital bombing?
AGNESE: There's definitely been a lot of anger and popular unrest as kind of the main response to the past days of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, but especially, as you said, following the deadly hospital strike. And these types of incidents have manifested in countries where Iran has a certain sphere of influence, like in Lebanon, where protesters were met with tear gas and water cannons while they were demonstrating outside the US Embassy on multiple occasions in Beirut. And also even in Iraq, where protesters attempted to cross the bridge into Baghdad's Green Zone earlier this week. But also, neighboring countries with a large Palestinian refugee population. For example, in Jordan, where we've seen this anger toward Israel being manifested with, again, protests and tear gas fired outside the Israeli embassy. And this has been felt across Turkey, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, and so on. So these are definitely some security risks that are being felt across the region because of the past seven days of strikes, but also of the hospital bombing.
JIMMY: How has Israel responded to the increasingly irate reactions from many in the region? And how about Israel's allies in the West?
AGNESE: I think Israel has so far engaged with Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan to a certain extent, in kind of direct or indirect negotiations, but really to no significant success in stopping the actual war. Israel has continued to condemn attacks as kind of its reaction to the anger and it being manifested against its diplomatic buildings, as well as Israel has continued to condemn the kind of threats of mass mobilizations that have been called by Hamas and Hezbollah leaders. And Israel allies have been very vocal; we've also had a lot of foreign leaders visiting Israel recently. Germany, for example, which has the biggest Palestinian population in Europe, but who is also a strong ally of Israel. Chancellor Scholz was visiting Israel on a solidarity visit earlier this week, where he said that Hamas' actions against Israelis were the worst since the Holocaust, is what he said, in a press conference with Netanyahu. I think the most significant visit has definitely been from US President Joe Biden, who landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday. And again, on a joint press conference with Netanyahu, he commented on the hospital bombing and he said that, at first glance, evidence pointed that the hospital incident, he blamed it on, he said, as the “other team.” So he didn't mention Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but he did say those words, which was quite curious. A lot of countries have also issued restrictions as a result from neighboring countries as a security risk to the events unfolding, for example in Lebanon, where American authorities urged citizens not to travel to the country, because of what it said was an unpredictable security situation there. So in short, security – a tightening of security – has been the main reaction of international actors. And this has mainly been because of the anger and the popular unrest that we've been seeing across multiple days.
JIMMY: You know, with things moving so quick I hate to even ask this, but I'm going to anyway, what do you think folks should be watching for next?
AGNESE: I mean, I'd say that it's not likely that the security measures that a lot of governments have put in place – whether [on] their own soil or towards their citizens and assets in the region – it's not likely, I would say, that these will subside anytime soon, and definitely not as long as the state of war persists in the same sense since it was announced by Israel on October 7, that kind of state of war. And of course, I think now that Biden's visit has come to an end, the prospect of a Gaza ground invasion is back on the table. The implications of what this might look like, based on, kind of, the Israeli military rhetoric that has been circulating is -- looks like it's really going to be something unprecedented. I mean, we're talking about the possibility of urban warfare that a lot of analysts are comparing to the Battle of Fallujah, if you're familiar with that, in like 2004. But on Gaza, you know, unless the entire population of Gaza is pushed towards Egypt – which, you know, Cairo doesn't seem to be too eager to facilitate – unless that happens, we'll be talking about urban warfare in an enclosed and densely populated area. Let's not forget that Israel has called up 300,000 reservists, which added to the approximately 30,000 troops that Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades is estimated to have, you know, plus other militants taking defense positions in this densely populated area. It's, you know – we're going to have to brace ourselves for a level of warfare really unprecedented and deadly on both sides if the Gaza invasion does actually take place.
JIMMY: Well, Agnese, we'll pause there, but as always I thank you greatly for your time and your insight. Appreciate it.
AGNESE: Thanks, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care.
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: U.S. President Joe Biden will host European Council head Charles Michel and European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen in Washington tomorrow.
The meeting will mark the second between the leaders since Biden took office.
In a joint statement, both sides said they are set to discuss continued support for Ukraine as well as shared economic efforts and climate change.
Now, at the top of the agenda will likely be ongoing negotiations to avert the reimposition of Trump-era tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports.
Though the tariffs were paused two years ago, a broad solution remains elusive as the two sides seek an agreement by January.
Reports indicate that the two sides may agree to another two-year pause on the tariffs in the event that a comprehensive settlement is out of reach.
Pan Am Games open in Santiago
Information compiled by Joe Veyera
JIMMY: More than 6,800 athletes representing 41 countries across the Americas will compete in the Pan American Games starting Friday.
The games are being held in the Chilean capital of Santiago.
The continent's largest multi-sport event is held every four years, and serves as a direct qualifier for the Olympics in 20 sports.
The Chilean government is estimating 1.1 million spectators will visit the various venues, including around 90,000 tourists.
More than 3,000 security officers are also expected to work the 17-day competition.
Now, according to a recent study, the event is forecast to add more than $900 million to the country's GDP.
And after the games, the Athletes' Village in Santiago's Cerrillos community will be repurposed into housing for more than 1,300 families.
Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan
Information compiled by Awais Ahmad
JIMMY: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will return to the country on Saturday.
The move will end his over four-year self-imposed exile ahead of a tumultuous election season.
Sharif, who’s also the head of the Pakistan Muslim League party, was disqualified from running for office in 2017 after being convicted of corruption and ousted as prime minister.
He was later declared a fugitive from justice after refusing to return home from seeking medical treatment abroad.
The end of his self-imposed exile was made possible by a June 2023 bill that reduced lawmakers’ disqualification period to five years.
Now, whether or not Sharif will face any charges for his previous convictions remains to be seen.
And while he’s expected to lead the party’s campaign in the general election, he will return to a very polarized political landscape.
His party is facing criticism over decisions made by his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif during his stint as prime minister following the ouster of Imran Khan.
Venezuela opposition primaries
Information compiled by Irene Villora
JIMMY: Venezuela’s opposition parties will hold primaries on Sunday. That, ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.
The primaries will take place amid attempts of political negotiations between the Venezuelan opposition, the government and international mediators, including the US and Norway.
They’re trying to reach a political agreement that allows democratic elections in the country amid years of power struggle and a deep socioeconomic crisis.
The vote has led to reconciliation efforts from different opposition parties after months of internal divisions in the Venezuelan dissidence.
Now, the primaries will choose a unity opposition leader among the 12 candidates running with the goal of facing current President Nicolás Maduro in the 2024 presidential elections.
Former deputy María Corina Machado leads the race despite a disqualification sentence that bans her from holding public office.
That ban was issued by regime authorities in 2015 and was renewed earlier this year.
JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.
Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Joe Veyera, Awais Ahmad and Irene Villora. Our interview featured editor Agnese Boffano and the podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe