The United States is ready to make a deal with Iran. On Wednesday, the U.S. special envoy for Iran said Washington intends to negotiate a treaty that would cover Iran’s ballistic missile program and its behavior through the Middle East – two issues that were excluded from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear agreement. What’s new and interesting is the emphasis on signing a treaty. The JCPOA was never approved in the Senate, so it was easy for the Trump administration to abandon. And now more than ever, Washington has an interest in showing its negotiating partners their agreements will withstand short-term political convulsions. Even so, the two-thirds support the treaty would need in the Senate will be difficult to obtain. And as the process moves forward, Iran will continue to focus on easing sanctions pressure. Next week, in fact, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani is slated to meet with several state leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Emmanuel Macron, to do just that.
Shinzo Abe wins again. The prime minister was named the leader of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, making him the longest serving prime minister in Japan’s history. It’s a remarkable show of resiliency for Abe, who has been implicated in a variety of scandals over the past few years, leading to dramatic drops and improbable rises in public approval. It can be easy to overlook Japan, a country that, for all its political drama and economic malaise, remains largely unchanged. It is still an economic powerhouse and still a potential regional leader. Abe’s staying power merely reflects deeply embedded dynamics in Japan that favor such continuity. Whether or not he finally amasses the political capital to push through contentious constitutional changes that further Japan’s remilitarization, and whether or not the three arrows of “Abenomics” finally hit their mark, he has been essential to Japan’s revitalization.
Russia and Israel try to make nice. The head of the Israeli air force is leading a delegation to Russia to share its findings on an investigation into the downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian air defenses. The delegation will also update Moscow on what it knows about Iranian operations to arm Hezbollah. The sharing of this kind of information implies Israel and Russia have reached a substantial understanding. Israel wouldn’t give anything this sensitive to Moscow if it thought it would end up in Tehran’s hands. Nor would it be inclined to do so without U.S. support (probably). This shows us the limits of Moscow’s partnership with Tehran, as well as the capacity for operational cooperation between the U.S. and Russia.
- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is ready to restart talks with North Korea immediately. However, he pushed back the timeline for denuclearization to 2021.
- South Korean President Moon Jae-in will update U.S. President Donald Trump on his recent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
- Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says there has been no progress in six months in talks between the EU and the U.K. on the fate of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit. British Prime Minister Theresa May said that agreement on the issue won’t be reached in the next month but that she will announce a new border plan soon.
- Joint counterterrorism and disaster management drills between China and Nepal are underway just weeks after Kathmandu pulled out of a multilateral exercise led by India.
- The debt-to-assets ratio of private firms in China has reached its highest level since 2014, according to a new report by a Chinese state think tank.
- Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his group may reduce the number of fighters in Syria in light of the agreement between Russia and Turkey to avoid a clash in Idlib.
- Russia’s elections chief called for a revote in a gubernatorial election in the far eastern Primorsky region after a candidate from the ruling United Russia party was narrowly defeated by a Communist challenger.