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Iran in Retreat From Nuclear Deal

Plus: Hong Kong enters its second week of protest, Mexico begins its migration crackdown, and what to watch in the world this week.

By Audrey Wilson, an associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani attends the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek on June 14.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani attends the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek on June 14. VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Iran announces a further retreat from the nuclear deal, the second week of protest begins in Hong Kong, and Mexico says it is stepping up its migration efforts.

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Iran Deals Another Blow to Nuclear Agreement

Iran is expected to announce a further retreat from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers today, according to the country’s Tasnim news agency. The report says Iran will likely begin increasing enriched uranium stocks and producing heavy water at the Arak facility. Tehran stopped abiding by some obligations of the deal last month.

The announcement comes amid rising tensions between Iran and the United States, which withdrew from the 2015 agreement last year and resumed sanctions on Iran, including on oil. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed Iran for carrying out attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. Some U.S. allies balked at the accusation. Tehran denies it.

Oil routes on alert. The two tankers in question are being assessed for damage off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia—which is involved in proxy conflicts with Iran—demanded action to protect Gulf oil supplies. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the United States did not want military conflict but would take necessary action to protect oil transit routes. “We don’t want war. We’ve done what we can to deter this,” he said. Oil prices rose again following his comments.

Can the deal be saved? Meanwhile, EU diplomat Helga Schmid has voiced the bloc’s continued support for the nuclear deal—despite Iran’s continued retreat—and announced a new payment system to circumvent U.S. sanctions for Iran’s trade with France, Britain, and Germany. Schmid, who helped negotiate the 2015 agreement, visited Tehran last week.

What We’re Following Today

A second week of protest in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s political crisis begins its second week today, following a huge demonstration on Sunday demanding that Chief Executive Carrie Lam resign. The protest’s organizers claimed that it drew almost 2 million people, which would make it the largest in the city’s history. The protesters rebuffed an apology from Lam over the handling of the controversial extradition bill, which has been delayed. The government’s headquarters remains closed. China maintains its support for Lam, but her concession could be bad for President Xi Jinping’s image.

The protest movement got another boost earlier today when a student activist known for his role in the 2014 pro-democracy protests, Joshua Wong, was released from prison. (He was serving a three-month sentence for contempt.) Hong Kong’s protest veterans have developed effective tactics: to shut down busy roads, resist the police, and evade arrest. To instill fear, the police could soon respond with their own, Trey Menefee writes for FP.

Mexico’s migration policy ramps up. The Mexican National Guard has begun patrolling its southern border with Guatemala as the country steps up its efforts to crack down on illegal migration in order to avoid the tariffs threatened by U.S. President Donald Trump. Over the weekend, Mexico’s migration agency said it detained 791 undocumented migrants in the state of Veracruz—one of the largest raids in months. The head of the agency resigned on Friday and was replaced by the former chief of Mexico’s prison system.

Unprecedented blackout in South America. A massive blackout cut power to all of Argentina and Uruguay on Sunday, affecting close to 50 million people and slowing busy Buenos Aires to a crawl, where traffic lights stopped working and car crashes reportedly increased. The electrical failure also affected parts of Paraguay, Chile, and southern Brazil. Argentina’s energy secretary, Gustavo Lopetegui, has not announced a cause but he appears to have ruled out a cyberattack.

Algeria continues political purge. Two former Algerian officials, including an ex-prime minister and a powerful businessman, appeared in court on Sunday over corruption accusations. The army is pushing a number of cases against powerful figures connected to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was ousted in April. Protesters are still calling for the interim president to step down after authorities indefinitely postponed the July presidential election.

The World This Week

Indian doctors have called a nationwide strike today, which could bring hundreds of state-run hospitals and clinics to a standstill. The action follows protests by medical workers for better security after an attack on doctors in Kolkata last Monday. The organization that called the strike represents nearly 350,000 doctors.

Beginning on Tuesday, Britain’s Conservative Party continues voting to narrow down its leadership contest to two candidates. Boris Johnson, who holds the lead after the first round, did not participate in a televised debate on Sunday, drawing sharp criticism from the other candidates.

On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House. The leaders are expected to discuss a new North American trade agreement and the case of two Canadians detained in China.

The EU’s 28 national leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday in Brussels to discuss finalists for the bloc’s top jobs, including the next EU Commission president. Other major issues on the agenda include climate policy and EU-Swiss relations. A draft agreement between the European Union and Switzerland has stalled in negotiations.

The Istanbul mayoral election will be re-run on Sunday, following appeals from the ruling party. The opposition candidate declared the winner in April, Ekrem Imamoglu, leads narrowly in the polls. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not been campaigning for his party’s candidate and he could avoid fallout from a potential loss. The main candidates held an unprecedented live TV debate over the weekend.

On Sunday, protesters have planned a rally  in the Czech Republic to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who is accused of misusing EU funds. The protest is expected to be larger than the one earlier this month, which drew 120,000 people. It will be held in Prague’s Letna Park—the site of a 1989 rally that signaled the fall of the communist regime.

Keep an Eye On

Venezuelan asylum seekers in Peru. Peruvian authorities introduced tighter border restrictions over the weekend, and thousands of Venezuelans rushed across the border before they took effect. Until now, Venezuelans haven’t needed a passport or visa—only a national ID card. A record 4,700 people without the right documents filed asylum requests. Very few are likely to qualify as refugees.

A politician’s murder in Germany. German authorities have arrested a man in connection with the murder of the politician Walter Lübcke in the central German town of Kassel, a local politician  with pro-migrant views, earlier this month. The police declined to comment on motive, but local media reported that the suspect has connections to the far-right. Investigators will release more information this week.

ISIS trials in Iraq. Between 800 and 1,500 foreign fighters from the Islamic State have been detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces, including 450 French citizens. Some have been transferred to Iraq to stand trial, with more prosecutions expected. Despite reports of abuse, the trials in Iraq allow Europe to sidestep the issue, Pesha Magid reports for FP.

El Salvador’s president. On June 1, Nayib Bukele was sworn in as El Salvador’s president, the first from neither the establishment left nor right. He is seeking to redefine El Salvador’s image. That could involve warming up to U.S. President Donald Trump, Melissa Vida writes for FP.

Odds and Ends

Grappling with a severe drought, Namibia is auctioning off 1,000 animals from its wildlife parks. The sale is intended to limit animal deaths from poor grazing conditions and raise $1.1 million for conservation. Namibian authorities declared a national disaster last month.

Over the weekend, Paris’s Notre Dame held its first mass, led by priests wearing hard hats, since the devastating fire in April. Reconstruction is already underway, with 150 workers on site. French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the cathedral in five years, but experts say it could take a decade.

Key Statistic

India’s Parliament convenes today for the first time since the general elections. Nearly 43 percent of new lawmakers in the country’s lower house of Parliament face criminal charges, the Associated Press reports. In India, politicians may take office despite criminal charges, but not once they are convicted. (The courts have an estimated backlog of 30 million cases.) The phenomenon of accused criminals in Parliament is not new, but it is increasing: The number has risen by 9 percent since the last national election, in 2014. That year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned on a promise to reduce corruption.

That’s it for today.

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