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When Trump Speaks at U.N., Is Anyone Listening?

Plus: U.K. Supreme Court rules that Boris Johnson acted illegally in suspending Parliament, a potential unity government in Israel, and the other stories we’re following today.

By , an associate editor at Foreign Policy.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence applaud after U.S. President Donald Trump spoke during a meeting on religious freedom at U.N. headquarters on Sept. 23 in New York City.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence applaud after U.S. President Donald Trump spoke during a meeting on religious freedom at U.N. headquarters on Sept. 23 in New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Trump speaks at the U.N. General Assembly, Britain’s Supreme Court rules that Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was illegal, and Israel’s Netanyahu meets with his opponent over a potential new government.

We welcome your feedback at morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.


Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Trump speaks at the U.N. General Assembly, Britain’s Supreme Court rules that Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was illegal, and Israel’s Netanyahu meets with his opponent over a potential new government.

We welcome your feedback at morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.


As Trump Speaks at the U.N., Who Is Listening?

Today marks the first day of the high-level debate at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, with U.S. President Donald Trump set to deliver his third speech on the world’s biggest diplomatic stage. This year, the issues at the top of the U.N. agenda may differ from Trump’s. The president’s address follows Monday’s U.N. climate summit—where the most striking speech was delivered by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.

One topic that could capture attention in Trump’s speech? Iran. The U.S. president has already said that he will discuss regional tensions in the Persian Gulf in his address. On Monday, the leaders of Britain, France, and Germany backed the United States in blaming Iran for the recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities and endorsed the idea of talks with Iran over a new nuclear deal.

Chipping away at a legacy. The Trump administration has been quietly eroding one of former Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign-policy legacies, Colum Lynch reports. The 1999 Helms-Biden act resulted in the repayment of nearly $1 billion to the United Nations. But under Trump, the United States has stopped paying hundreds of millions in dues—potentially damaging Washington’s standing at the United Nations.

Another president’s speech. As is tradition, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro will open the U.N. General Assembly debate today, speaking immediately before Trump. Bolsonaro—still recovering from abdominal surgery—will stay in New York only briefly. His speech is expected to irk other world leaders, particularly as he defends his controversial environmental policies, which many observers blame for contributing to fires and deforestation in the Amazon.

Sign up for FP’s pop-up U.N. Brief for daily on-the-ground coverage and analysis on the events at UNGA this week, from FP’s Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer.


What We’re Following Today

British Supreme Court rules that Boris Johnson broke the law. The British Supreme Court ruled today that Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the law when he asked Queen Elizabeth to suspend Parliament “because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.” In a strongly-worded unanimous judgment responding to a series of cases brought by the anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller and others, the 11 justices ruled that Johnson’s move was “unlawful, void and of no effect and should be quashed.” The court left it to House of Commons Speaker John Bercow to decide how and when to reconvene, but made it very clear that in the eyes of the law, “Parliament has not been prorogued.” Bercow called on lawmakers to “convene without delay.”

Johnson has already indicated that he will not resign if the Supreme Court rules against him, and he won’t rule out another suspension. Meanwhile, at the opposition Labour party’s annual conference this week, disagreements among delegates have emerged: On Monday, a proposal by activists urging the party to commit to campaigning explicitly in favor of remaining in the EU—if there is a new Brexit referendum—was voted down.

Israeli government negotiations continue. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his opponent Benny Gantz have begun talks over a potential unity government after neither Likud nor the Blue and White party managed to secure enough seats for a majority coalition in last week’s elections. Both President Reuven Rivlin, who called the talks, and the potential kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman, support the idea of the two parties ruling together. Netanyahu and Gantz could both the lead the country under a rotation deal, with debate currently centering on who would go first.

The Syria ‘safe zone.’ Despite a joint-patrolled security zone on the border between Turkey and northeast Syria, Syrian Kurds say they fear that the increase in Turkish troops could be a sign of a future assault on the country’s Kurdish minority. They’re also worried about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to resettle Syrian refugees in the area, Lara Seligman reports.


Keep an Eye On

Unrest in Papua. Indonesian authorities have said that 19 civilians were killed during riots in the country’s easternmost provinces, marking a violent escalation after two weeks of unrest last month. The protests—the region’s most significant in years—erupted over perceived racial discrimination. Indonesia has increased its military presence in Papua and at times blocked the internet.

China’s Pacific relations. China’s foreign ministry said Monday that it would soon resume diplomatic relations with Kiribati after the island nation cut ties with Taiwan. The move follows the Solomon Islands’ decision last week to end relations with Taiwan, as China increases its influence in the Pacific region.

A looming water crisis in Zimbabwe. On Monday, Harare closed its main water treatment plant because the Zimbabwean government lacked the foreign currency needed to import chemicals. The shutdown could leave the capital city without water and raise the risk of diseases like cholera. The water crisis comes as Zimbabwe grapples with rampant inflation.


Odds and Ends

Two years after a deadly earthquake, Mexico City is feuding with tech startups over whether they should be able to issue early warnings, the Wall Street Journal reports. Two companies with their own sensor networks are trying to compete with the government-backed entity, irking officials who say it will undermine the system.


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 

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

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