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Forecast: Israel strikes Iranian consulate building in Syria, solar eclipse, and Ireland’s new prime minister sworn in

Two women lay in cut grass looking up at the sky. They are wearing protective lenses.

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

An airstrike widely attributed to Israel on Iran’s consulate building in Syria this week killed at least a dozen people, including a top Iranian general. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Agnese Boffano discuss Iran’s threat to retaliate and the significance of the situation in the region.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Week of April 5-12
A Look Ahead

April 6 – Slovakia presidential runoff  

On Saturday, voters in Slovakia will cast their ballots in the second round of the country’s presidential election.

What’s happened so far 
The first round of Slovakia’s presidential election, held on March 23, failed to provide a decisive result with none of the nine candidates winning a majority of the votes cast. Independent candidate and career diplomat Ivan Korčok led the round in a surprise win with 42.52 percent of the votes, beating out second place Peter Pellegrini, a politician seen as a close ally of pro-Russian Prime Minister Robert Fico. Pellegrini won 37.03 percent of the votes, though opinion polling, which has narrowed, still shows he’s likely to win the second round.

The impact 
Former Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok is seen as a pro-Western figure and may be able to act as a vocal check against Fico. If Pellegrini wins, it may allow him to consolidate his grip on power amid continuing anti-government protests, though little is expected to change given the role of president is largely ceremonial. The winner will succeed Zuzana Čaputová, the country’s first female president, and will become the country’s sixth head of state since its 1992 independence.

April 7 – China commerce minister visits EU  

China’s commerce minister is expected to travel to France and Italy beginning Sunday to discuss the European Commission’s ongoing investigation into the country’s electric vehicle industry.

What’s happened so far 
Back in October 2023, the European Commission launched a 13-month probe into whether Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers were unfairly benefiting from state subsidies. The commission is considering imposing tariffs on vehicles from China, in an effort to protect European makers. China, keen to avoid an escalating trade war, sent its foreign minister to France earlier this week, where he pledged to import more French goods and services, along with continuing negotiations with his French counterpart.

The impact 
China’s commerce minister Wang Wentao will spend several days in France before traveling to a business forum in Italy on April 11, according to Italian authorities. He’ll reportedly be accompanied by representatives from three Chinese vehicle manufacturers who have already been audited as part of the EU investigation. Wentao’s visit precedes a larger diplomatic push in May, when China’s President Xi Jinping is expected to visit France to commemorate the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations between Paris and Beijing.

April 8 – Solar eclipse  

An estimated 44 million people living in parts of Mexico, the United States, and Canada will be in the path of totality of a total solar eclipse on Monday, weather permitting.

What’s happened so far 
Shortly after 11 a.m. PT, Mexico’s Pacific Coast will be the first location in continental North America to experience totality. The path then moves through 15 states across the central and northeast United States, including major cities like Dallas, Indianapolis and Cleveland, before eventually exiting over Atlantic Canada at around 5:15 p.m. NT. In anticipation of large crowds several areas, including Canada’s Niagara Region and Travis County, Texas, have preemptively declared a state of emergency or disaster declaration. Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Transportation said they’ll treat the day like a major travel holiday, restricting roadwork to accommodate extra traffic. 

The impact 
Severe thunderstorms could wreak havoc for post-eclipse travelers in the Dallas area, raising additional concerns that a significant increase in fatal car crashes seen around the 2017 eclipse could repeat itself with millions of additional drivers on the road.

April 9 – Irish parliament meets after PM resigns  

Ireland’s Simon Harris will be voted in as the country’s next prime minister Tuesday during a parliament meeting.

What’s happened so far 
Leo Varadkar, who became the country’s prime minister after the center-progressive party Fine Gael entered a coalition with two other parties in 2020, resigned last week after suffering a resounding defeat in a referendum proposing a more liberal wording of the constitution on family and care. Simon Harris, the minister of education, achieved support from other party members to become the next taoiseach, making him the youngest prime minister in Ireland’s history. 

The impact 
Fine Gael’s support has been teetering for some time and Varadkar’s decision to change up the prime ministership also comes just before European and local elections in the country, with a hope to strengthen the coalition’s position during the votes. The new taoiseach will have several items to address before the June elections, primarily a housing crisis and immigration, both of which remain at the forefront of public opinion. 

April 10 – South Korea legislative elections  

South Korean voters will choose new lawmakers Wednesday for the next four years, amid an ongoing doctors’ strike and concerns over misinformation and political violence.

What’s happened so far 
Current President Yoon Suk-yeol has faced major roadblocks since his election in 2022 due to an uncooperative legislature controlled by the opposition Democratic Party. Political tensions have been high in recent months, with politicians from both major political parties targeted in violent attacks in January and AI-fueled disinformation campaigns threatening to influence the outcome. Voters will also likely be concerned about an ongoing, prolonged strike by thousands of doctors over medical admissions reform proposed by Yoon’s government. 

The impact 
The elections are a major crossroads for Yoon, with the vote determining whether his People Power Party will finally achieve the legislative backing needed to carry out his agenda. New political parties that splintered off from the opposition, however, may jeopardize Yoon’s chances at finally winning a plurality or majority of seats. 

April 10 – U.S. House sends impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to Senate  

The U.S. Senate will receive articles of impeachment on Wednesday, alleging the head of Homeland Security committed high crimes and misdemeanors over his handling of the ongoing border crisis.

What’s happened so far 
On Feb. 13, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives impeached Mayorkas, saying he violated immigration laws and called him responsible for “releasing millions of illegal aliens” into the country. The measure passed by only one vote after a previous attempt failed. Mayorkas is only the second Cabinet member to be impeached in American history.

The impact 
Republicans are expected to fall well short of the 67 votes needed to convict Mayorkas in the Senate. But the trial will give Republican impeachment managers, including firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene, a platform to speak about the border, an issue on which President Joe Biden has low approval numbers

April 11 – Biden hosts Japanese prime minister and Philippine president  

The leaders of Japan and the Philippines will make their way to Washington on Thursday to discuss geopolitical challenges facing the rapidly-intensifying Asian security environment. 

What’s happened so far 
The Philippines and Japan are some of America’s strongest geopolitical allies in the region and are crucial partners in America’s long-term vision of checking China’s growing power, and the meeting is the first between the three leaders. While the White House highlights “inclusive economic growth” and climate cooperation over security considerations, the meeting comes amid growing strategic tensions, highlighted by China’s recent high-pressure hosing of a Philippine Navy operated-vessel that was supplying an outpost on the Second Thomas Shoal, internationally recognized as Philippine but claimed by Beijing, and amid ever-present weapons tests and novel spy satellite launches from North Korea. It also closely follows a rare wrinkle in the U.S.-Japan relationship, with President Joe Biden opposing the purchase of the iconic U.S. Steel by Japan’s Nippon Steel.

The impact 
Politico reports, citing an unnamed diplomat, that the leaders will unveil at the summit a bevy of programs to strengthen regional security, headlined by a joint maritime patrol between the three countries in the South China Sea, where the bulk of Beijing’s disputed land claims lie. These programs will also allegedly include a U.S. proposal to involve Japan in the AUKUS strategic partnership with the U.K. and Australia in a technological capacity. More abstractly, the meetings serve to underscore America’s security commitments to the two countries, which they frequently describe as “unwavering” and “ironclad,” and are deeply symbolic of a strategic relationship which the Biden administration has worked toward deepening.

What Else Matters

Suspected Israeli missile strikes targeted the building adjacent to the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, during the day on Monday. (Photo: Raja News)

Suspected Israeli missile strikes targeted the building adjacent to the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, during the day on Monday. According to a Syrian war monitor, the strike killed more than a dozen people, including a senior member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Reza Zahedi, as well as a member of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Although Israel has not officially acknowledged being behind the attack, both Tehran and Damascus have attributed the incident to Israel, which often carries out airstrikes from the occupied Golan Heights on government-controlled areas in Syria.

Watch for: This latest incident marked the fifth suspected Israeli strike in Syria in the past two weeks, the latest in a series of assassination attempts of Iranian, Lebanese and Palestinian officials since the start of the war on Gaza began in October 2023. But analysts suggest this latest incident was the most high-level targeted killing of an Iranian official since the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in 2020. As a result, not only have both Damascus and Tehran condemned the incident, but Iran has also vowed for swift retaliatory actions against Israel and its allies’ positions in the region.

FARC dissidents announce new militant bloc 

Colombia’s militant group FARC announced the creation of a new bloc on Monday in response to military operations targeting the Jacobo Arenas Western Bloc after the suspension of a ceasefire. President Gustavo Petro unilaterally revoked the ceasefire agreement on March 17, a day after the killing of Nasa Indigenous leader Carmelina Yule Paví in an armed attack by FARC dissidents in Cauca. Representatives of FARC’s leading bloc Estado Mayor Central have said that the creation of this new arm will not interfere with the group’s intentions to achieve a peace agreement amid ongoing negotiations with the state. 

Watch for: The bloc will operate in Huila, Tolima, Valle del Cauca and Quindío departments under the name Isaías Pardo. Government officials argue that the creation of this new named arm responds to the restructuring of existing FARC resources rather than to an expansion of the guerrilla’s militant capabilities and recruitment efforts. State security forces have announced an increase of intelligence services and enhanced military presence in the regions where the new armed structure is expected to operate. 

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

April 5-12 

April 6

  • Slovakia presidential runoff

April 7

  • China commerce minister visits EU

April 8

  • Total solar eclipse

April 9

  • Irish parliament meets after PM resigns

April 10

  • President Biden to host Japanese Prime Minister Kishida for state visit
  • South Korea legislative elections
  • U.S. House sends impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to Senate

April 11

  • 2024 Masters at Augusta National
  • Japanese Prime Minister Kishida to address U.S. Congress

April 13-19 

April 13

  • Songkran

April 15

  • Boston Marathon

April 17

  • Solomon Islands general election
  • Croatia parliamentary elections

April 19

  • India general elections begin

April 20-26 

April 20

  • Togo legislative elections

April 21

  • Basque regional election

April 22

  • UN and Nigeria lead joint counter-terrorism summit in Abuja

April 23

  • UK-African Investment Summit in London

April 27-May 3 

May 1 

  • Deployment of U.S. Gaza aid landing jetty

May 2

  • UK’s Blackpool South constituency by-election

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