U.S. Allies Urge Restraint With Iran
States are distancing themselves from the U.S. assassination of Suleimani, as the Trump administration blocks Iran’s top diplomat from speaking at the U.N.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: How the world is responding to rising U.S.-Iran tensions, Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s forces claim a strategic coastal city, and pension reform talks resume between France’s unions and its government.
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World Responds to Suleimani’s Assassination
Thousands of mourners gathered in the streets of Tehran on Monday for Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani’s funeral, where Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wept over his coffin and his successor, Esmail Ghaani swore revenge. Suleimani’s assassination by U.S. drone strike on Friday has prompted fears of retaliation in the region. The Pentagon denied reports that it is imminently withdrawing troops from Iraq after the Iraqi parliament asked the government to eject the U.S. military, FP’s Lara Seligman reports.
Meanwhile, some U.S. allies began to distance themselves from the decision to kill Suleimani, with both Israel and NATO emphasizing they had no involvement in the strike. Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the U.N. secretary-general have all urged the United States to use restraint, particularly after U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites. Britain is reducing its embassy staff in Iran and Iraq, Sky News reports.
Zarif blocked. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had requested to attend a United Nations Security Council meeting on Thursday, but the United States denied his visa, FP’s Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer report. The meeting would have provided the diplomat with his first opportunity to address the global community about Suleimani’s assassination. Barring Zarif violates the terms of a 1947 U.N. headquarters agreement.
Nuclear sanctions? The European parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement—Britain, France, and Germany—will decide this week whether to begin a dispute resolution process after Iran took a major step away from the accord. The process could mean renewed U.N. sanctions on Iran, which has criticized the European powers for not protecting it from harsh U.S. sanctions.
What We’re Following Today
Libyan Gen. Haftar takes strategic city. Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which is fighting against the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli, said Monday it had gained control of Sirte, a strategic city on the Mediterranean coast held by government-aligned forces since 2016. The announcement comes as Turkey began deploying troops to support the government, signaling deeper involvement in Libya’s civil war—which increasingly looks like a proxy conflict. Haftar’s months-long offensive in Tripoli is supported by Russian mercenaries and has displaced tens of thousands of people in and around the capital.
French unions, government resume talks. Talks between France’s prime minister and public sector unions resume today after more than a month of protests and strikes over plans to reform the country’s pension system, including raising the retirement age. French President Emmanuel Macron is hoping for a “quick compromise,” as the government prepares to formally introduce a reform bill by the end of the month. Still, transport is expected to be disrupted this week, and some unions have called for nationwide protests on Thursday and Saturday. Polls show a majority of people in France support the protest movement.
U.S. could deport Mexican nationals to Guatemala. The United States could soon send Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States to Guatemala under an agreement signed with the Central American country in July 2019. U.S. asylum officers received instruction in recent days that Mexican nationals should be considered part of the agreement, Reuters reports. U.S. President Donald Trump is relying on his immigration policies in his 2020 campaign, but critics say asylum seekers would face danger in Guatemala. The United States has signed similar deals with Honduras and El Salvador.
Keep an Eye On
Chile’s student protesters. Renewed protests disrupted university entrance exams in some cities in Chile on Monday, leading authorities to suspend the test at more than 60 sites. The exams had already been suspended twice since November, when mass protests against social inequality rocked the country. Demonstrations against Chile’s mostly privatized education system have grown in recent years.
A mystery illness in China. At least 59 people have fallen sick with an unexplained severe respiratory illness in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Though authorities have ruled out SARS, the memory of the 2002 outbreak has caused alarm. Officials are scrambling to control the new illness before the Spring Festival, when tens of millions of people travel in China. No deaths have yet been reported.
More U.S. sanctions against Venezuela? The U.S. special envoy for Venezuela says the United States is considering imposing additional personal and economic sanctions on the government of President Nicolás Maduro after it sent troops to block opposition leader Juan Guaidó from entering the legislature for his reelection as congress chief.
Odds and Ends
A new study proposes an answer to a mysterious disappearance: Medieval Norse society in Greenland likely collapsed after hunting walruses to near extinction in the 15th century, according to researchers. Norse communities survived for more than 400 years in the Arctic, trading walrus tusks in European markets, which led to overhunting. Climate change during the “little ice age” was also a contributing factor, the study finds.
That’s it for today.
Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson