Weekly Geopolitical Report – After Soleimani (January 13, 2020)

by Bill O’Grady

(Due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, our next report will be published on January 27.)

On January 3rd, the U.S. launched a missile strike that killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  As a high-profile commander, his death rocked the region and raised fears of a broader confrontation.

Although the situation remains fluid, Iran and the U.S. appear to have come to a point of stasis; in other words, the odds of further immediate escalation have declined.  In this report, we will discuss recent events and examine the context surrounding these events.  As always, we will conclude with market ramifications.

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Weekly Geopolitical Report – The 2020 Geopolitical Outlook (December 16, 2019)

by Bill O’Grady and Patrick Fearon-Hernandez, CFA

(This is the last report for 2019; the next report will be published January 13, 2020.)

As is our custom, in mid-December, we publish our geopolitical outlook for the upcoming year.  This report is less a series of predictions as it is a list of potential geopolitical issues that we believe will dominate the international landscape for 2020.  It is not designed to be exhaustive; instead, it focuses on the “big picture” conditions that we believe will affect policy and markets going forward.  They are listed in order of importance.

Issue #1: U.S. 2020 Presidential Election

Issue #2: Iran

Issue #3: China’s Debt

Issue #4: Demographics

Issue #5: North Korea

Honorable Mentions…

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Weekly Geopolitical Report – Exit the Shark (February 6, 2017)

by Bill O’Grady

On January 8, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack.  The 82-year-old cleric was a major political figure in Iran and his passing is a significant event for Iran and the region.

Analyses of history usually follow one of two lines—the “Great Man” or the “Great Wave.”[1]  The former postulates that the progression of history is shaped by strong personalities that bend the path of society through the force of their will.  The latter says that history is a progression of impersonal forces which shape society and the people who participate are simply playing their role.  In reality, both describe history, although we tend to lean toward the Great Wave explanation.  This is because there are trends that develop in economies, societies and institutions that affect how history evolves, and the great people are usually those who correctly figure out the trends and move them forward.  There are always those who resist; if the wave is strong enough, they tend to fail.

However, people do matter.  Some personalities are so strong that even though they may not be “on the right side of history,” they slow the progression of a trend.  And, if they are part of the trend, history suggests their support accelerates the movement.

Rafsanjani was this sort of figure, and so we want to mark his passing with a dedicated report.  We are not suggesting that he was a good man; if anything, he was involved in many activities that harmed the U.S.  Still, as we will discuss below, he was a pivotal figure in Iranian history and his death changes how Iran’s leaders will act going forward.

Our analysis will begin with a description of the structure of Iran’s government.  A short biography of Rafsanjani will follow.  We will discuss his influence on Iranian society and the political system, then examine how his death may affect future Iranian activities.   We will conclude with potential market ramifications.

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[1] See WGR, The Great Man or the Great Wave, 1/13/2014.