Morning Brief

Sudan’s Transition Talks Suspended

The transition in Sudan is put on hold amid violence, Europe balks at the U.S. military response to Iran, and the United States hits Chinese firm Huawei with sanctions.

Sudanese protesters wave flags during a sit-in outside military headquarters in Khartoum on May 15.
Sudanese protesters wave flags during a sit-in outside military headquarters in Khartoum on May 15. MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images

Sudan’s Transition Hits a Wall

From FP’s Jefcoate O’Donnell:

Sudan’s Transitional Military Council announced that it has put talks with opposition protesters on hold for 72 hours, citing “media escalation” amid violence. The military council demanded that barricades outside a designated area be removed and at least nine protesters were injured on Wednesday when Sudanese forces reportedly fired live ammunition to disperse demonstrations in Khartoum, the country’s capital. Five protesters and a soldier were killed the night before.

The violence overshadowed the talks between the military and the civilian opposition, which seemed to be on track to form a three-year transitional government, including a 300-seat legislative council with a majority of seats going to the opposition coalition.

Who is responsible? There were reports that men in uniforms bearing the markings of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces were responsible for the live rounds on Wednesday, but it is still unconfirmed who was firing into crowds of protesters. Irfan Siddiq, the British ambassador in Khartoum, condemned the use of live ammunition by “Sudanese security.”

What is clear, however, are the deep divisions within Sudan’s military—a central part of ousted ex-President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year legacy, as he engineered a factionalized military to prevent a coup. “What we’re seeing now is that the remnants of the regime are convulsing as some elements are trying to destabilize the process of transition,” said Ahmed Kodouda, a PhD candidate at George Washington University.

What’s next? Sudan’s transition initially appeared to be unfolding peacefully, but it is becoming increasingly confrontational. “The protesters are learning the lessons of Egypt—where the military fully led the transition and basically ensured that any democratic governance that takes over was set up to fail,” Kodouda said.

What We’re Following Today

Europe balks at U.S. line on Iran. Citing safety concerns, the United States recalled non-emergency staff from its diplomatic missions in Iraq on Wednesday amid heightened tensions with neighboring Iran. But European allies of the United States are beginning to question the wisdom of U.S. military escalation in the region and fear the risk of an accidental conflict, Lara Seligman and Robbie Gramer report. Germany and the Netherlands have suspended their military training exercises in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iran has officially gone ahead with halting some commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, including its adherence to limits on the accumulation of low enriched uranium and heavy water—a move that was motivated by domestic political pressures, argues Mahsa Rouhi in FP. Iran notified the remaining signatories to the deal of the decision last week.

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United States blacklists Huawei. Amid the deadlocked trade dispute with China, the U.S. Commerce Department added Chinese telecoms firm Huawei to a list that bans the company from procuring U.S. technology without government approval. The announcement came just after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to prevent U.S. companies from using equipment that poses a risk to national security, without naming a specific firm.

Venezuelan talks in Norway. Representatives for the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and its opposition have traveled to Norway for potential talks on the country’s political crisis. The move suggests the two sides are seeking a new approach after the failed uprising against Maduro led by challenger Juan Guaidó.

A rebuke to Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil. Education spending cuts in Brazil have galvanized the first nationwide protests against the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, drawing tens of thousands of demonstrators in cities across the country. Bolsonaro’s approval rating has fallen as he grapples with a weak economy and infighting in his cabinet. He called the protesters “idiots and imbeciles.”

Fighting in Yemen’s strategic port city. Houthi and pro-government forces fought on Wednesday in Hodeidah, a port that serves as Yemen’s main entry point for humanitarian aid. The fighting could undermine the Houthi withdrawal agreement intended to precede larger peace talks, which was seen as a significant breakthrough in the effort to end Yemen’s four-year war.

Keep an Eye On

Facebook’s livestream rules. After governments and tech companies pledged to combat online extremism in Paris on Wednesday, Facebook said it would ban users who broke the site’s rules from using its livestream tool. So far tech companies have held a double standard when enforcing hate speech rules—banning jihadis but not white extremists, Bharath Ganesh argues for FP. “Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube are increasing their efforts to disrupt white supremacist users on [their] platforms, but they must do more,” he writes.

Cathedral protests in Russia. For the third consecutive day, thousands protested against plans for a new cathedral in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city. The demonstrations reflect tensions between the public and the growing role of the Orthodox Church.

WhatsApp clones in India. As voting in India’s elections continues, political activists are using spoof versions of WhatsApp to get around anti-spam restrictions put in place by the messaging app, which is owned by Facebook. The workarounds demonstrate the challenges of restricting online abuse in India, Facebook’s largest market.

EU banking reforms. The European Commission is preparing post-Brexit financial reforms that could limit British access to the European bloc, Reuters reports. It would mark the largest regulatory push on European banks since the 2008 financial crisis.

Climate Check

North Korea is experiencing its worst drought in 37 years, compounding the food shortages already affecting 40 percent of the population after a poor harvest. The United Nations warns that the crisis will worsen without immediate outside aid.

Authorities in Mexico City declared an environmental state of emergency and restricted the number of cars on the roads for much of Wednesday, as smoke from nearby wildfires fueled a haze of harmful pollutants. Air pollution levels have risen in Mexico City in recent years.

This week Brazil canceled a United Nations event on climate change set to take place in the country in August, delivering another setback for climate policy under President Bolsonaro. Earlier this year, Brazil backed out of hosting the 2019 U.N. climate summit.

Odds and Ends

Netflix is receiving criticism in Kenya for “laughable” translation after it added Swahili subtitles to its content in the country this week.

A Sherpa climber, Kami Rita, reached the summit of Mount Everest for the 23rd time on Wednesday in Nepal, breaking his own record for the most successful ascents of the mountain.


In a new FP column, The View From There, foreign correspondents in Washington talk about what’s making news in their home countries. Amy Mackinnon interviewed Karina Orlova, the Washington correspondent for the Echo of Moscow, Russia’s best-known independent radio station. Orlova describes alleged vote-buying in a children’s TV talent show, why she fled Moscow, and the challenges of being a Russian journalist in Washington.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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