What Comes Next With Iran
Plus: Another EU summit looks likely, Turkey prepares for mayoral election showdown, and the other stories we’re following today.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Tensions rise after Iran shoots down U.S. drone, the European Union is likely to call a new summit, and Turkey prepares for an election showdown in Istanbul.
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U.S.-Iran Tensions Reach New Heights
What signal did Iran mean to send by shooting down a U.S. reconnaissance drone on Thursday? U.S. officials say the drone was flying over international waters, while Iran claims that was in Iranian airspace. But U.S. President Donald Trump said that he suspected the downing was a mistake, suggesting that he is not eager to escalate tensions with Iran into full-blown conflict.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels also attacked a Saudi water plant on Thursday. The incidents follow a series of attacks on oil tankers that the United States credits to Iran, which has stopped complying with parts of the 2015 nuclear deal. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Thursday that there is “no appetite” for war with Iran.
A step toward war? Some U.S. lawmakers fear that the drone incident will lead administration hawks to push for war. But officials and Trump himself are at odds over how to respond to Iran’s threats, Keith Johnson reports. The clearest red line? That the United States would retaliate if Iran’s actions killed U.S. service members. “Deliberately targeting an unmanned, unarmed drone would seem to be a calculation by Iran to stay below that threshold,” he writes.
Complicating factor. The U.S. Department of Defense got a new acting chief at a critical moment, and it’s not yet clear how Army Secretary Mark Esper will deal with Iran. But his relationships with members of Trump’s national security team will likely help him navigate the job, Lara Seligman reports. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton is set to hold regional security talks with Israeli and Russian officials this weekend.
Down the line. As it prepares for the 2020 presidential election, the U.S. Democratic Committee has adopted a resolution that aims for U.S. reentry into the Iran nuclear deal. That’s not practical, Ariane Tabatabai and Elisa Catalano Ewers write for FP: “Too much has happened since the agreement was first inked in 2015.”
In a bid to save the deal, which the United States abandoned last year, the European Union will hold a meeting with the countries involved at the end of next week.
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What We’re Following Today
European Union likely to call another summit. EU leaders struggled to reach a deal over top jobs in the bloc on Thursday, meaning they will likely have to call another meeting as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel disagree over how to choose a new Commission head. “Yesterday I was cautiously optimistic. Today I’m more cautious than optimistic,” current EU Council President Donald Tusk tweeted. The leaders were also unable to get full commitment on another key issue: setting a goal for the European Union to go carbon neutral by 2050.
Close vote expected in Istanbul election re-run. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is preparing for a challenge on Sunday in Istanbul, which will re-run the mayoral election after an AKP appeal. Opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won the first vote and is leading in the polls, while the AKP candidate has struggled to win over voters—especially the Kurdish constituency. Imamoglu secured key support from a jailed Kurdish political leader this week.
Thousands of Georgian protesters storm parliament. Police and protesters clashed outside of the Georgian national parliament on Thursday, where demonstrators gathered to demand that the country’s government resign. Those protesting were upset by the appearance of a Russian legislator and Putin supporter inside. There is strong animosity toward Russia in Georgia, which lost territory to the country in a 2008 war.
And Czech leaders expect fresh protests on Sunday. Activists in the Czech Republic are planning to hold the largest demonstration yet against Prime Minister Andrej Babis on Sunday. Organizers say they expect 250,000 people in Prague’s Letna Park, where demonstrators brought down the country’s communist government in 1989. Babis, accused of corruption and fraud, has brushed off the protests and an EU audit.
Keep an Eye On
Myanmar at the ASEAN summit. Thailand hosts Southeast Asian leaders at this weekend’s ASEAN summit, where they are expected to discuss the U.S.-China trade war and tensions in the South China Sea. Diplomats will also discuss a much-criticized ASEAN report that outlines a repatriation strategy for Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar, Bloomberg reports. Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is scheduled to attend the summit.
Death threats against German politicians. At least two German mayors with pro-refugee politics have received death threats in the mail in the wake of local politician Walter Luebcke’s murder by a suspected right-wing extremist. The government says the killing should be a wake-up call, with some politicians holding Germany’s anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party at fault. The AfD lost its first mayoral election earlier this week.
Venezuelans in Colombia’s paramilitaries. Colombian rebel groups and paramilitaries are recruiting desperate Venezuelan migrants into their ranks, Reuters reports. Despite a 2016 peace deal, violence remains in Colombia. Military commanders say the armed groups—in need of recruits—are targeting the migrants at illegal border crossings.
LGBT rights in Kenya. Kenya’s government has ordered a group of 76 refugees to return to a camp where they said they suffered homophobic attacks. The refugees left Burundi and Uganda for Kenya, which has been a rare refuge for LGBT people in the region. Last month, Kenya’s High Court upheld colonial-era laws against gay sex, delivering a setback to the country’s activists.
The spin on Trump’s human trafficking report. The U.S. government just released its top human rights report, which ranks states by tier. Anti-trafficking experts worry that the U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration damaged the report’s impact by not acknowledging its own failings, Jenna Krajeski writes for FP.
Odds and Ends
Ten cities have appealed to the European Union for help in their fight against short-stay rental website Airbnb, which they say is pushing locals out of their neighborhoods. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Krakow, Munich, Paris, Valencia, and Vienna want fewer protections for Airbnb and similar online platforms.
Vietnam has requested Russian expertise to help preserve the embalmed corpse of its founding leader, Ho Chi Minh. Ho’s body was first embalmed 50 years ago and is on display in a mausoleum in Hanoi, which attracts thousands of tourists annually. Russia has kept the body of Vladimir Lenin on public display in Moscow since 1924.
Five endangered eastern black rhinos from European wildlife parks will be delivered on Sunday to Rwanda, where the species was wiped out during the country’s genocide in the 1990s. The rhinos will live in Akagera National Park. Their trip will be the largest rhino transport from Europe to Africa.
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The Democratic Republic of the Congo is grappling with the second-worst Ebola outbreak on record, and so far the international response has been a combination of piecemeal support and indifference. For Time, Sally Hayden reports on the epidemiological frontlines, where many fighting the outbreak are local Congolese works on temporary job contracts—with some are even are paid by the day until money runs out. Robbie Gramer, staff writer
Later today on FP’s podcast, First Person: Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, died in a Cairo courtroom while on trial for espionage on Monday. The United Nations has called for an independent investigation into his death. Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, explains the rise and fall of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt on this week’s episode.
That’s it for today.