Morning Brief

With Bolton Out, Will Trump Meet Rouhani?

Plus: The Bahamas’ missing people, another Democratic debate, and the other stories we’re following today.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek on June 14.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek on June 14. ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. President Donald Trump might seek a deal with Iran, the Bahamas announces 2,500 people are reported missing after Hurricane Dorian, and the top U.S. Democratic candidates take the stage for another presidential debate.

We welcome your feedback at morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.


Bolton’s Departure Could Pave the Way for Big Meeting

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to fire National Security Advisor John Bolton on Tuesday occurred after a series of disagreements within the administration. Bloomberg reports that one such argument centered on the idea of easing sanctions on Iran in order to arrange a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly later this month.

Just a day later—with Bolton gone—Trump appeared to subtly indicate that he might still consider easing sanctions, the New York Times reports. “I do believe they’d like to make a deal,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “If they do, that’s great; and if they don’t, that’s great too. But they have tremendous financial difficulty, and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.”

What would Rouhani do? It is not yet clear if Rouhani would agree to meet with Trump at the United Nations (Trump will address the General Assembly on Sept. 24, with Rouhani speaking the next day.) So far, Iran has rejected the possibility of talks while the U.S. sanctions remain in place. Iran’s state news agency said on Wednesday that the United States should “distance itself from warmongers” if it wants to negotiate.

Who will replace Bolton? A number of names have emerged on the shortlist to replace Bolton as national security advisor, with his successor likely to be named next week. The new appointment could pave the way for talks with Rouhani—but it also might have little impact on matters of policy within the administration, FP reports.


What We’re Following Today

Bahamas announces number of missing. The Bahamas government said Wednesday that around 2,500 people have been reported missing since Hurricane Dorian struck the islands on Sept. 1, though the names have not been checked against lists of evacuees. The confirmed death toll remains at 50—a number expected to rise. “No living Bahamian has ever seen anything like this in their lifetime,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a televised address. At least 4,000 people have left for the United States. A U.S. official said on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump does not plan to grant temporary protected status to the evacuees.

U.S. Democrats take the stage for another debate. Tonight marks the first time that the Democratic Party’s top 2020 presidential candidates will appear together in a single debate, with 10 candidates taking the stage in Houston. That means that Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden will finally face off. Many of the other candidates are hoping to gain some momentum, as Biden has positioned himself as the candidate who can beat Trump.

Bolsonaro returns to work. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro returns to work today after undergoing surgery earlier this week to repair a hernia caused by a stabbing during his campaign last year. He comes back to the presidency amid some scandal: It was announced Wednesday that his son Carlos is under investigation for corruption by the Rio de Janeiro prosecutor’s office. Carlos is also under fire for tweeting to over 1 million followers: “The transformation Brazil wants will not happen at the speed we yearn for through democratic means,” a comment condemned as “coup-mongering.” President Bolsonaro will soon travel to the United States, where he will speak at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 24.


World leaders convene in New York for the U.N. General Assembly later this month, and from Sept. 23 to Sept. 27, Foreign Policy will publish a one-week-only newsletter devoted to on-the-ground coverage and in-depth analysis of the goings-on at the 74th U.N. General Assembly. Sign up here for U.N. Brief, written by FP’s Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer.


Keep an Eye On

Japan’s new environment minister. Shinjiro Koizumi, appointed Japan’s environment minister on Wednesday, is already making waves—announcing in his first press conference that he would support bringing an end to nuclear power in the country after the Fukushima disaster. The proposal isn’t likely to please the ruling party. Koizumi, son of a former prime minister, is already viewed by some as a possible successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A dictatorship museum in Portugal? On Wednesday, Portugal’s parliament voted to condemn a planned museum dedicated to the regime of the late dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, who ruled Portugal from 1932 to 1968—making him Europe’s longest-serving right-wing dictator. The decision to go forward with the plans now lies with the authorities in his hometown, Santa Comba Dão.

No-deal Brexit plans. On Wednesday, British officials were forced to release a secret five-page document detailing Operation Yellowhammer—the government’s plan for a no-deal Brexit. The details of the document were similar to those leaked last week and highlight the risks of delays at the border and shortages of food and medicine.

A U.N. climate summit no-show. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be in the United States for talks with Trump administration officials, but he won’t attend the U.N. climate action summit on Sept. 23, the Guardian reports. (The foreign minister will go in his place.) The move is a likely signal that Australia won’t pursue any new emissions targets or climate commitments.

Robert Mugabe’s burial. The body of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s founder and ex-leader, arrived in the capital, Harare, from Singapore on Wednesday—but it’s still not clear where he will be buried: His family and the government disagree over his final resting place. The state funeral is set for Sunday.


Ballot Box

Sri Lanka’s top presidential candidate, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, still faces a corruption trial after the country’s top court rejected his petition to have the charges dismissed. Rajapaksa is the brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. The trial, which begins on Oct. 15, could harm his candidacy in the election later this year.

In Spain, negotiations between the Socialists and the far-left Podemos party remain deadlocked as time runs out for them to establish a coalition government—by Sept. 23. Reuters reports that the Spanish King is expected to meet with the parties early next week. If they do not form a government, an election will be held on Nov. 10.


Odds and Ends

After a five-year ban, Botswana has reintroduced the right to hunt elephants but hasn’t yet set a price for the 158 hunting licenses it will sell, Bloomberg reports. Foreign activists say the move may threaten the country’s tourism industry. But President Mokgweetsi Masisi has seized on the issue as October elections approach, saying that the country’s elephant population (the world’s largest, at approximately 130,000) is too big and a threat to rural villagers.

UNESCO has announced that reconstruction of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, Iraq, will begin next year. The 12th-century mosque was destroyed by the Islamic State in 2017, and its restoration is part of a $100 million reconstruction project—the largest in Iraq’s history.


That’s it for today. 

For more on these stories and many others, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign-up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com

Photo: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images

Audrey Wilson is the newsletter editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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