Morning Brief

U.S. Seeks to Extend Arms Embargo on Iran

The resolution’s expected failure could open the way for the reimposition of sanctions on Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participates in a press briefing in Washington on Jan. 10.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participates in a press briefing in Washington on Jan. 10. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Washington pushes to extend the arms embargo on Iran, thousands are arrested in crackdowns in Belarus, and Israel could face another election.

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U.N. Security Council to Vote on Iran Arms Embargo

The United States introduced a resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to extend the embargo on weapons sales to Iran, which is scheduled to expire in October under the 2015 nuclear deal. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested that if the vote fails, the United States will trigger the “snapback” mechanism of the nuclear deal, restoring all pre-2015 U.N. sanctions on Iran. The Security Council is expected to vote on the resolution later today, but it could take place on Friday.

Russia and China have already stated their intention to veto the resolution, but they may not need to. The resolution still hasn’t gained the backing of a simple majority on the 15-member Security Council, including from U.S. allies France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. As Ariane Tabatabai and Or Rabinowitz wrote for Foreign Policy, there are several legal questions surrounding the move, including whether the United States even has the right to trigger the snapback mechanism since it is no longer a party to the deal.

Walkback. Recognizing that it didn’t have enough support to push the resolution through, the United States walked back many of its initial demands, reducing the original document from seven pages to just four paragraphs and removing many of its harsher clauses. The new draft “takes council views into account and simply does what everyone knows should be done—extend the arms embargo to prevent Iran from freely buying and selling conventional weapons,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft.

Gulf unity. In a rare display of unity, the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—urged the Security Council to extend the embargo. In a joint statement, the six GCC member states said the embargo is necessary “until Iran gives up its destabilizing activities in the region and stops supplying terrorist and sectarian organizations with weapons.”

China’s interests in Iran. There are important geopolitical considerations at play. China and Iran have reportedly entered into a 25-year economic agreement that includes some security stipulations. In an article in Foreign Policy last week, Alam Saleh and Zakiyeh Yazdanshenas wrote that the agreement offers an economic lifeline to Iran, allowing the country to bypass U.S. sanctions and sell oil and gas to China in exchange for letting China exercise extraordinary influence over Iranian companies it invests in and allowing Chinese security personnel to protect Beijing’s economic interests in the country.

Supporters of the resolution in Washington claim that China intends to veto the arms embargo resolution in order to sell arms to Iran and allow it to develop its military capabilities.

What We’re Following Today

Harris’s global perspective. Sen. Kamala Harris, Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s pick to be his running mate, is a historic choice in more ways than one. Widely noted as the first Black woman to ever run on a major party ticket, Harris is expected to boost a Biden administration’s efforts to heal race relations in a country that has never fully come to terms with its history, as Claire Crawford and Kelebogile Zvobgo write for Foreign Policy.

What has been largely ignored, however, is that Harris’s mother was born in India, which also makes her the first Asian-American person to ever run on a major party ticket. Harris would be expected to take on an outsized domestic portfolio while Biden mostly handles foreign policy, but as Neil Makhija writes for FP, Harris’s background gives her a unique global perspective that could help the administration repair many of its damaged relationships abroad.

Mass arrests in Belarus. More than 6,000 people have been arrested as part of a widespread crackdown by Belarusian security forces on protests against President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Protests began on Sunday after Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in last weekend’s presidential election, despite facing his strongest opposition in his entire 26-year presidency. The demonstrations turned increasingly violent as security forces cracked down, and footage from the Telegram messaging app showed police beating protesters with batons, firing plastic bullets, and ramming cars.

Belarusian officials confirmed on Wednesday that live ammunition was used on protesters. In light of this week’s events, the European Union is reportedly considering reimposing sanctions on Belarus. It previously lifted sanctions in 2016 as Lukashenko sought to strengthen his country’s ties with the West.

Turkish drone hits Iraqi commanders. Relations between Iraq and Turkey have worsened after a Turkish aerial drone killed two high-ranking Iraqi commanders in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq—the first Iraqi military personnel to be killed since Turkey launched a ground operation into the region in June. The attack provoked a strong reaction from Baghdad, with the Iraqi government canceling a meeting with the Turkish defense minister scheduled for Thursday.

Turkish military activity in northern Iraq has risen sharply in recent weeks. On July 22, Reuters reported that Turkish forces had penetrated deep into northern Iraqi territory, establishing bases and deploying drones in an effort to deny sanctuary to Kurdish militants operating in Turkey.

ISIS in Mozambique. Militants linked to the Islamic State have reportedly captured the heavily fortified port town of Mocímboa da Praia in northeastern Mozambique on Tuesday in a major blow to Mozambican security forces. Some unconfirmed reports said the militants are claiming the town as the Islamic State’s new capital.

The campaign to take Mocímboa da Praia began on the night of Aug. 5, and while much of the town quickly succumbed to the onslaught, security forces continued to defend the port until they were forced to flee on Tuesday after running out of ammunition. The victory puts the militants in close proximity to a series of natural gas projects worth around $60 million.

As Tonderayi Mukeredzi argued in Foreign Policy in July, “Northern Mozambique now risks becoming a regional center of Islamist extremism, and the security threat requires a coordinated response … before the broader region faces a similar threat.”

Keep an Eye On

Israeli coalition teeters on the brink. The fragile Israeli governing coalition looks set to collapse and send voters back to the polls for the fourth time since April 2019. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party disagree with coalition partner Benny Gantz and his Blue and White alliance over whether to pass one two-year budget or two one-year budgets.

The dispute has been exacerbated by intense animosity between the two sides, owing in large part to the three previous hotly-contested election campaigns. The original deadline to reach a deal was Aug. 24, but the Israeli parliament voted on Wednesday to extend the deadline to Dec. 3. But few expect the coalition to survive much longer. As Joshua Mitnick writes for Foreign Policy, dissolving the government could be a ploy by Netanyahu to avoid his pending corruption trial.

Namibia seeks German reparations. Namibian President Hage Geingrob said on Wednesday that his government rejected an offer for reparations from former colonial ruler Germany over crimes it committed a century ago, after the latest round of negotiations between the two countries. Details of the offer were not made public.

Germany ruled Namibia from 1884 to 1915. In response to an anti-colonial uprising, colonial forces systematically massacred some 80,000 members of the ethnic Herero and Nama communities between 1904 and 1908, developing some of the genocidal techniques Germany later used during the Holocaust.

The Namibian government is asking Germany to fund seven development projects as reparations for the massacre, primarily in areas inhabited by descendants of the victims of the genocide.

Odds and Ends 

The lasting damage done by the Trump administration is a regular topic of debate, but one of the little-reported, long-term consequences of Trump’s presidency could be the rush to abandon U.S. citizenship. According to Bambridge Accountants, a New York-based accounting firm specializing in various expat issues, more than 5,800 Americans have renounced their citizenship so far in 2020, up from 2,072 people in all of 2019.

Although hundreds of U.S. citizens living abroad renounce their citizenship annually, the jump this year is believed to be rooted in the current political climate. Americans are fed up with “everything happening with President Donald Trump, how the coronavirus pandemic is being handled, and the political policies in the U.S. at the moment,” a Bambridge partner told CNN.

That’s it for today. 

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Dan Haverty is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @dan_haverty

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