Iran Isn’t Keen to Be Trump’s New North Korea
If President Donald Trump’s bid to negotiate with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is a work in progress — three meetings to date and no breakthrough — his suggestion of face time with Iran’s leader appears dead on arrival.
Iranian officials ruled out Trump talks with President Hassan Rouhani, who rejected a photo-op and said the U.S. must lift sanctions first.
Rouhani faces a different domestic landscape to Kim and has to be more responsive to public pressure with parliamentary elections due in February. Iranians are suffering with an economy creaking under U.S. penalties reintroduced after Trump withdrew from the international nuclear deal, and politicians in Tehran are divided over whether to engage with Washington.
There are perils for Trump too, from angering stridently anti-Iran allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel — where Benjamin Netanyahu faces a tough repeat election next month — to Republicans who view Tehran as an arch-enemy of the U.S.
That’s not to say there isn’t pressure on Iran to find some face-saving way back from the brink.
For now, Iran joins other short-lived diplomatic breakthroughs to emerge from the Group of Seven summit, from a trade deal with China that now appears as distant as ever to aid for the Amazon rejected by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Sub-surface angst | There are growing tensions between Bernie Sanders’s and Elizabeth Warren’s allies as each presidential candidate makes a case to carry the progressive mantle in the 2020 race. If no clear choice emerges, it could split the Democratic Party’s liberal wing and help moderate Joe Biden, who is leading in most polls with Sanders and Warren in a tight battle for second.
- Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s name is conspicuously absent from the list of Trump’s honorary 2020 state campaign chairs for Alabama, even though Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump in 2016.
War talk | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Russian leader Vladimir Putin at a Moscow air show today for talks on the deepening crisis in Syria’s Idlib. The Syrian army, with Russian air support, is attacking Turkish-backed rebels in the province, accelerating a refugee exodus toward Turkey. They may also discuss arms sales after the U.S. suspended NATO ally Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program for buying a Russian S-400 missile system.
ANC sunset | Soweto’s links with the African National Congress are the stuff of legend: It was in the township that the party’s constitution was adopted, and here that Nelson Mandela joined the struggle against apartheid. But as Antony Sguazzin and Pauline Bax report, even in this ANC heartland the disillusioned youth are abandoning the party after 25 years of South African democratic rule.
Slow going | The prospect of snap elections in Italy increased after the Five Star Movement warned it would end coalition talks with the center-left Democratic Party unless Giuseppe Conte can remain prime minister. Conte’s office canceled a meeting of the parties that was due this morning after Five Star said earlier talks that dragged into the early hours “arrived at nothing.” President Sergio Matterella, who is consulting smaller parties today, is demanding that any new government have a solid parliamentary majority.
No troops | Hong Kong’s leader said her government can handle unrest without assistance from Chinese forces, and still wants to hold talks with protesters despite a flare up in violence. Carrie Lam and her Chinese overseers have refused to make any concessions until the turmoil subsides, but she reiterated today that work on the extradition bill — the original trigger for the protests — has stopped.
What to Watch
- An Australian writer held in China seven months ago has been formally arrested on suspicion of espionage, one of several detained foreign nationals whose cases have raised concerns about operating on the mainland.
- Lebanon accused Israel of attacking an area near its border with Syria and dispatching drones into the capital, Beirut, saying the incidents amounted to a “declaration of war.”
And finally … Emmanuel Macron is embroiled in an increasingly personal fight with the Brazilian president that’s having real geopolitical implications. Brazil is rejecting the 20 million euros the French president announced on behalf of the G-7 to tackle the Amazon rainforest fires. “Thank you, but perhaps that money is better spent reforesting Europe,” Bolsonaro’s chief of staff told a G1 blogger.
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