Daily Memo: Developments in Iran, Discord in the EU, Drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean

All the news worth knowing today.


Developments in Iran. Iranian officials are sending mixed messages about the possibility of conflict with the United States. The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said his country was in the middle of a full-fledged intelligence war with the U.S. However, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated, again, that there will be no war between the U.S. and Iran because neither country wants one. He said only a small group of people in Washington, led by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel, wants a war with Tehran. Meanwhile, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that Saudi Arabia, along with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, agreed to let U.S. forces redeploy to the Persian Gulf to send a warning to Iran. For its part, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned commercial airlines that flying over the Persian Gulf could be risky, and Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry called on its citizens in Iran and Iraq to leave immediately because of security threats. There are also reports that ExxonMobil evacuated all of its foreign staff from its West Qurna oil field in Iraq.

Disintegration of the EU. A survey by the European Council of Foreign Affairs found that a majority of Europeans believe the European Union will fall apart in the next 10-20 years. According to respondents, the biggest drawbacks to the disintegration of the EU would be the loss of the single market, free travel, and the freedom to work and live in other European countries. A significant portion of respondents (38 percent in Austria and 35 percent in France, for example) said war among European countries was possible in the next 10 years. As for major threats, pro-EU respondents identified Islamic radicalism and nationalism as the two biggest threats facing Europe while anti-EU respondents said Islamic radicalism and migration were the biggest risks. The results come just days before European Parliament elections are set to take place.

Drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish government has outlined its position on drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. In a letter addressed to the U.N. Security Council and the EU, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Turkish drilling ship Fatih’s operations 45 miles (75 kilometers) off the coast of Cyprus do not infringe on Greek Cyprus’ or Turkish Cyprus’ licensed areas. He noted that maritime borders could not be settled until after a political settlement is reached on the island and warned the EU against taking sides in the matter. Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Saturday that Turkey and Turkish Cyprus must be part of the “energy equation in the region.” On Friday, Greek Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides asked U.S. national security officials for their support in protecting Cyprus’ rights in its exclusive economic zone. The U.S. has repeatedly backed Greek Cyprus in its dispute with Turkey over offshore drilling.

Russia and Europe. Ministers in the Council of Europe issued a joint statement saying they would support restoring Russia’s voting rights in the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. (Moscow’s voting rights were stripped after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.) The statement also noted that members are obligated to pay their contributions to the budget, a clear reference to Russia’s refusal to pay its share of the budget since 2017. Russia described the move as a step in the right direction, though not all Council of Europe members supported the statement. The U.K., Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Georgia voted against it, arguing that it could hurt the body’s credibility.

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