Homing in on North Korea: An emerging nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula will rise to the top of the United States' agenda this quarter, reducing the priority of less pressing issues as Washington works furiously to avoid — and prepare for — the worst. Thoroughly distracted, the United States will have little time and few resources to spend on other foreign policy matters, including its nuclear deal with Iran. Though Washington will try to counter Tehran's regional power grabs where it can, it will not risk triggering another diplomatic meltdown by abandoning the agreement. The White House will similarly shelve the most aggressive moves in its protectionist trade agenda until next year.
The Debate Over Europe's Future Begins: Europe, for its part, will turn its attention inward to wrestle with weighty questions about its future. But discussions of reform will be fraught with thorny issues that lay bare the fundamental differences among European Union members. As France lobbies to more closely knit together the Continent's core, Central and Eastern European countries will be torn between their desire for the security and financial perks that deeper integration could bring and their determination to keep institutions in Brussels at arm's length. All the while, the bloc's leader, Germany, will be preoccupied with the task of cobbling together a ruling coalition after September elections produced a divided parliament, forcing parties to enter into complex negotiations in hopes of forming a government.
Pragmatic Cooperation Masks Deeper Competition in the Middle East: As U.S. pressure gradually builds against Iran, the government in Tehran will try to relieve it somewhat by easing tension with its regional rivals, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. At least, that is, on the surface. Though Iran will find common ground with each country in places such as Iraq and Syria, its pragmatic cooperation will remain just that — pragmatism — as its long-standing feuds persist beneath the surface in proxy battles scattered across the Middle East. But Iran is not the only external power involved in these conflicts, and as common enemies like the Islamic State are beaten back, the risk of clashes breaking out between the partners of the United States and Russia will only increase, potentially pulling their larger patrons deeper into the fray.
In a Volatile Region, Japan and China Seek Stability at Home: Though North Korea will pose the greatest security threat to the Asia-Pacific this quarter, leaders in China and Japan will have other problems on their minds. The Chinese Communist Party is gearing up for a crucial congress in October, where President Xi Jinping will take the opportunity to further concentrate power among a circle of trusted allies. In much the same way, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will work to shore up his support base during snap elections in October with an eye toward his party's leadership contest next year.
India Finds the Enemies of Its Enemy: The tense standoff between India and China on the Doklam Plateau has ended, but it exposed the neighbors' age-old dispute over much of the mountainous border separating them. As India races to expand its infrastructure in the region in case tensions flare again, it will also reach out to Japan and the United States to deepen its defense relationships in hopes of countering the rising power looming on its doorstep.