Morning Brief

Pompeo Hosts Foreign Ministers From Both Sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

The U.S. Secretary of State has downplayed talk of a new cease-fire and plans to meet separately with each minister.

Volunteers and reservists, who wish to join the Karabakh Defence Army to fight against Azerbaijani forces during the ongoing military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, take part in a military training course in Yerevan on October 22, 2020.
Volunteers and reservists, who wish to join the Karabakh Defence Army to fight against Azerbaijani forces during the ongoing military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, take part in a military training course in Yerevan on October 22, 2020. KAREN MINASYAN/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosts the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Lebanon names the former prime minister Saad Hariri as its new prime minister, and U.S. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden traded barbs in a surprisingly substantive final U.S. presidential debate.

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Pompeo Hosts His Armenian and Azerbaijani Counterparts As Hopes For Peace Fade

The United States is trying its hand at mediating between the two warring sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosts the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Washington today.

Both ministers are scheduled to meet with Pompeo separately, and no plans for a trilateral meeting have been announced.

Speaking at a State Department briefing on Wednesday, Pompeo demurred when asked whether he would be brokering a cease-fire today, but he did give some indication of the words he would have for the two men, saying that “the right path forward is to cease the conflict, tell them to de-escalate, that every country should stay out, provide no fuel for this conflict, no weapons systems, no support.”

A rising death toll. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin reported a significantly higher death toll in the conflict than either Armenia or Azerbaijan have reported. Speaking at a televised meeting, Putin said the number of dead was “nearing 5,000,” five times more than official estimates have suggested. Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian authorities have said at least 874 military personnel have died since the end of September, along with 37 civilians. Azerbaijan has reported 61 civilian deaths, but has not disclosed the number of military dead.

Military gains. As diplomats make their way to Washington, Azerbaijan’s military is making gains on the ground. On Thursday, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev claimed that his military had regained control of all territory on Azerbaijan’s border with Iran previously under Armenian control. Armenia denies the claim, yet Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan admitted this week that his military faced “a difficult situation,” going up against Azerbaijan’s far better equipped forces.

Diaspora diplomacy. Although seemingly outgunned, Armenia does have one significant card to play in the information wars: its diaspora. Writing in Foreign Policy, Rebecca Collard highlights how Armenians around the world are rallying support for their homeland as the conflict worsens. “Whether it’s Kardashian West and her fellow Armenian Americans in California or Lebanese Armenians lobbying their government and calling for cyberattacks on Azerbaijan, the usually well-off and well-educated diaspora is a strategic asset,” Collard writes.


What We’re Following Today

Lebanon’s “new” PM. Saad Hariri was named Lebanon’s new prime minister on Thursday, the fourth time he has held the position and a year after he resigned from the same post as the country was gripped by protests. Hariri has promised to name a technocratic cabinet, with a pressing task of reforming Lebanon’s ailing economy. FP explains the reasons for Hariri’s return, namely “there’s not really anybody else whom Lebanon’s political parties would agree on.”

About last night. U.S. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, squared off in their final debate before the presidential election on November 3. Debate moderator Kristin Welker came away with her reputation enhanced and, although there were few memorable moments, the debate was more orderly and substantive than last month’s clash. FP’s Michael Hirsh provided snap analysis of a debate where “foreign-policy played only a small part” and where Trump “failed to deliver the knockout blow most of his advisors believed that he needed.”

Condé landslide. Preliminary results published on Thursday suggest that Guinean President Alpha Condé scored a decisive victory in the country’s presidential election last Sunday, winning almost twice as many votes as his rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo. Opposition supporters are likely to contest the results. Diallo already claimed victory earlier in the week, citing his own internal calculations, sparking clashes between security forces and protesters in which 13 people have died so far.


Keep an Eye On

Israel warms to Sudan. An Israeli government delegation visited Sudan on Thursday, in the latest sign of warming ties between the two countries. Israeli officials reportedly met with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s head of state during its transitional government. Reuters reported  on Thursday that Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is ready to normalize relations with Israel as long as the country’s parliament approves the move. That approval may be some time in coming, as Sudan has yet to form a transitional parliament.

Chile goes to the polls. Chileans vote on Sunday in a referendum on whether to replace their Pinochet-era constitution. If voters agree to a change, a further vote will take place in October to choose to confirm those who will draft the document, followed by another vote on whether to approve the new constitution.

U.S. pondering anti-Semitic label for human rights groups. The U.S. State Department is considering labelling a number of prominent human rights groups as anti-Semitic, and encouraging national governments to avoid supporting them. The groups in question include household names such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam. According to reporting in ­Politico, the United States is planning to use the groups’ alleged support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement as evidence of anti-Semitic leanings.


Odds and Ends

A Dutch “white hat”—or ethical hacker—claims to have logged in to the Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump … simply by guessing his password. Victor Gevers, a security researcher, discovered the vulnerability last Friday before alerting U.S. security authorities. Gevers allegedly gained access using the password “maga2020!” but did not succumb to the temptation of tweeting to the president’s 87 million followers.

Gevers attributes the lack of account security to Trump’s age. “‘Trump is over 70—elderly people often switch off two-step verification because they find it too complicated. My own mother, for instance.”


That’s it for today.

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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