FirstFT: American troops at risk across Middle East, US warns

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The US has warned that American troops and other personnel in the Middle East face the risk of a “significant escalation” of attacks against them as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to broaden into a regional conflict.

Lloyd Austin, the US secretary of defence, yesterday said he was “concerned about potential escalation” of fighting in the region. The US is worried the war between Israel and Hamas, which began on October 7 when the Palestinian militant group launched attacks that killed more than 1,400 people in southern Israel, will draw in Iran-backed militants across the Middle East.

Militants attacked two military bases housing American troops in Iraq last week. The US has about 2,500 troops in the country, where Iranian-backed militants have evolved into the dominant military and political force, and about 900 in Syria, which is also home to Shia militias supported by Iran.

Washington has ordered all non-emergency US government personnel and family members to leave Iraq. The state department cited “increased security threats against US government personnel and interests” for the order.

Austin said the US had a “right to defend ourselves” and was sending more air defences to the Middle East, including a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system, which can shoot down ballistic missiles. Here’s the latest updates on the Israel-Hamas war.

Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • Politics: Republicans will hold another contest to select a new candidate for the speakership after ditching populist firebrand Jim Jordan.

  • Diplomacy: EU foreign ministers will discuss the Israel-Hamas war, Russian aggression against Ukraine and the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. The World Trade Organization holds a meeting with ministers and deputy ministers in Geneva, Switzerland.

Five more top stories

1. Chevron has agreed to buy rival oil and gas producer Hess Corporation in a $53bn all-stock deal. The deal is the latest step in the consolidation of the US energy sector and comes after ExxonMobil acquired Pioneer Natural Resources earlier this month for $60bn. Here are the deal’s details.

  • ‘We are not selling a product that is evil’: In an interview published before the deal was announced, Chevron chief executive Mike Worth defends oil companies and the business he joined 41 years ago.

2. Argentina’s economy minister Sergio Massa has pulled off a surprise win over libertarian challenger Javier Milei in the first round of the presidential election despite a mounting economic crisis. The surprise result sets up a polarising run-off on November 19 between the political veteran Massa and his insurgent opponent who has promised to slash public spending and replace the peso with the US dollar. With 98.5 per cent of the votes counted, here’s the latest.

3. Chinese shares fell to the lowest level since before the Covid-19 pandemic, as Beijing’s latest efforts to prop up the country’s stock market failed to stem a sell-off driven by slowing economic growth, a liquidity crisis in the property sector and geopolitical tensions. Downward pressure on prices has persisted despite Chinese authorities rolling out support measures in recent weeks. Here’s more on today’s price moves.

4. Private equity firms are facing the worst year in a decade for selling portfolio companies after higher interest rates and geopolitical tensions ended the buyout industry’s boom. In the first nine months of the year, buyout firms generated $584bn from either selling companies outright or through taking them public, according to data from PitchBook. Read more on the findings.

5. China has launched an investigation into Apple iPhone maker Foxconn over tax and land use, Chinese state media reported yesterday. Foxconn was founded by Terry Gou, who is running as an independent candidate in Taiwan’s presidential elections in January. He retains a 12.5 per cent stake in the company. Foxconn said it would co-operate with the investigation. Here’s more on the Chinese media reports.

The Big Read

© FT montage/Getty Images

For Xi Jinping, last week’s forum to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his Belt and Road Initiative was a chance to further embed China’s influence across the developing world. Yet with a price tag of $1tn over the past decade, critics ask whether the enormous cost is worth it.

We’re also reading . . . 

Poll of the day

One of the best-read stories on the Financial Times website last week concerned Citibank analyst Szabolcs Fekete. His expenses claim for two coffees and two sandwiches was questioned by his employer, which said he lied and sacked him for gross misconduct. Fekete sued for unfair and wrongful dismissal and lost. The most surprising thing about the story, writes Pilita Clark, was the derision directed not at Fekete but at Citi. Who do you think was right in this case? Vote in our latest poll.

Take a break from the news

From deep morning meditation practice to catching an evening train to Lake Como, spend a perfect Saturday in Milan with La DoubleJ founder JJ Martin.

JJ Martin with her dog, Pepper
JJ Martin with her dog, Pepper © Martina Giammaria

Additional contributions from Grace Ramos and Benjamin Wilhelm

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