Morning Brief

U.S. Faces Fallout Over Suleimani Killing

The U.S. targeted strike against the top Iranian general already has major regional consequences.

Iraqis march in a symbolic funeral procession for senior Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis,  killed alongside Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani last week, on Jan. 5 in Basra, Iraq.
Iraqis march in a symbolic funeral procession for senior Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, killed alongside Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani last week, on Jan. 5 in Basra, Iraq.

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The fallout from the U.S. strike against Iran’s Suleimani ripples through the region, Juan Guaidó’s position in Venezuela’s congress is weakened, and what to watch in the world this week.

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U.S.-Iran Tensions Grip the Region

Iran announced on Sunday that it would remove all limits on enriching uranium, days after a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad and escalated hostilities between the countries. While Iran was expected to announce another step away from the 2015 nuclear agreement over the weekend, the move seems to signal the deal’s total demise. It also comes as the United States grapples with the regional consequences of Friday’s targeted strike, including  possible retaliation from Iran.

As the backlash against the United States grows, Iraq’s parliament has called for U.S. military forces to leave the country,  with many there fearful of being caught in the crossfire between the two powers. Leaders across the Middle East have expressed concern. The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria announced on Sunday it would suspend its fight against the Islamic State. More than 5,000 U.S. troops still remain in Iraq, where they could be targets of Iranian retaliation.

Unpredictable. Many senior defense officials were not included in the decision to target Suleimani—and the lasting consequences of the strike may not yet be clear, FP’s Lara Seligman reports. “Eventually we are going to run out of escalation room,” said retired Vice Adm. John Miller. “We don’t fully understand their red lines and they don’t fully understand ours.”

Retaliation? U.S. officials have said they expect retaliation from Iran in the coming weeks, and an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told CNN that any response would involve “U.S. military targets.”  Meanwhile, the White House is escalating its rhetoric. On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated a threat to target Iranian cultural sites—a move that would be considered a war crime under international law.

Oil prices are expected to rise sharply this week over the threat of retaliation. The killing of Suleimani caused a 3.6 percent jump on Friday.

What We’re Following Today

Chaos erupts over Guaidó’s congress leadership. Venezuela’s government set up checkpoints around the National Assembly building on Sunday to stop lawmakers from reelecting the opposition politician Juan Guaidó as congress chief, installing Luis Parra instead. But meeting elsewhere, opposition members did reelect Guaidó, setting up competing claims for leadership. Parra is a nominal member of the opposition whom critics say supports the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.

The move could further weaken the opposition’s attempts to oust Maduro: The National Assembly is the only state institution not directly controlled by his regime.

Violent clashes rock Indian university campus. More than a dozen people were injured on Sunday at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) during clashes between students protesting against a rise in fees and members of a youth organization tied to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The JNU student union has blamed the Hindu nationalist group for inciting attacks led by masked men carrying batons. The university is known for left-wing activism and was recently the site of protests against India’s controversial new citizenship law.

For more news and analysis on stories like this, sign up for South Asia Brief, delivered on Tuesdays.

Australia races to evacuate those stranded by fires. Two days of light rain have brought a brief break from the devastating bush fires in southeastern Australia, with officials racing to reopen roads and evacuate people who have been trapped since last week before conditions worsen again. Thousands of people were still stranded in towns along Australia’s coast on Monday morning local time, with dozens of fires still burning. At least 24 people have died. Experts warn that bad weather conditions are expected later this week, raising the risk for more fires.

The World This Week

France’s strikes over pension reforms look set to escalate this week, with talks between unions and the government resuming on Tuesday. So far, the public sector strike has gone on for a month, severely disrupting transit. Nationwide protests are expected on Thursday and Friday. One hardline union has called for a blockade of oil refineries beginning on Tuesday, which would cause fuel shortages and further disruption.

Spain’s Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday is expected to be confirmed as prime minister, after months of political deadlock. He has served as acting leader since April. Though he lost a first confirmation vote on Sunday, Sánchez needs only a simple majority for Tuesday’s vote. Last week, a Catalan separatist party agreed to abstain, ensuring he had the support.

Taiwan holds elections on Saturday, with three candidates running for president. Incumbent leader Tsai Ing-wen is favored to win a second term, but her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) could lose its legislative majority. The outcome will likely shape Taiwan’s relations with mainland China: In comparison to the DPP, the opposition Kuomintang party and its presidential candidate, Han Kuo-yu, are seen as pro-Beijing.

In June, Paul Huang reported for FP on Han’s rise in Taiwan and the Chinese cyber-operatives that boosted his success.

Keep an Eye On

The next president of Croatia. Opposition candidate Zoran Milanovic, a former prime minister, defeated Croatia’s incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in a runoff election on Sunday, running on a platform to fight corruption. While the president holds a primarily ceremonial role in Croatia, Milanovic will shape foreign policy—and as of Jan. 1, Croatia holds the presidency of the European Union for six months.

Chile’s concessions. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has announced a proposal to overhaul the public health care system in another move meant to placate those who took part in two months of mass protests. The demonstrations were touched off by a transit price hike in October. Though smaller in size, scattered protests have continued in Santiago, the capital.

Al-Shabab in East Africa. Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group carried out an attack on a military base in Kenya used by U.S. and Kenyan troops on Sunday, killing three Americans. The assault came just over a week after al-Shabab killed dozens in Mogadishu with a truck bomb—Somalia’s deadliest terror attack in two years.

Odds and Ends

The world’s oldest living person, Japanese woman Kane Tanaka, celebrated her 117th birthday on Sunday at a nursing home in Fukuoka—extending her world record. Tanaka was confirmed to be the world’s oldest person last year. Her advanced age reflects Japan’s quickly graying population, which has raised concerns about its economic future.

That’s it for today.

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

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