Kim absent. For the first time in North Korean history, the country’s leader will not serve on the Supreme People’s Assembly, North Korea’s legislative body. According to state-run Korean Central News Agency, Kim Jong Un was not on the list of the 687 new members of the assembly released Tuesday. However, it doesn’t appear that his absence from parliament will affect his leadership. Indeed, there have been signs following his meeting in Hanoi with U.S. President Donald Trump that North Korea is preparing to move forward with another intercontinental ballistic missile test. Meanwhile, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency is planning to delay the deployment of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system by two years because of a delay in the design of what’s known as the “kill vehicle,” a component that detaches from the top of the defending missile above the atmosphere to destroy the attacking missile’s warhead. The Pentagon requested a $9.4 billion budget for MDA this year, over $1 billion less than last year’s budget.
Brexit vote fails, again. The British Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal Tuesday. The European Union offered some token concessions just before the vote was held but made clear it was done negotiating. Britain will need to request an extension to avoid leaving without a deal, and the question now is how long the extension would last. Some EU member states believe it should be less than two months, some think it should expire at the end of 2020, and some oppose the idea of an extension altogether. But it’s likely the EU will concede if Britain asks for one. Meanwhile, the government published a plan it would use should the country leave the EU without a deal. Tariffs would be modestly liberalized. On the Irish border, Britain would conduct no checks or controls on goods entering Northern Ireland. It’s an arrangement that could encourage smuggling but would last for only 12 months.
Clashes in Yemen. The Saudi-backed government in Yemen has reportedly clashed with United Arab Emirates-backed groups in the southwestern town of Dhale. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, but this isn’t the first time one of its militias clashed with the government. The infighting among supposedly aligned groups is a sign that the interests of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and their proxies are not lining up. The UAE has a greater interest in securing areas along the southern coast, to secure shipping lanes in the Arabian Sea, whereas Saudi Arabia is more concerned about the regions along its border.
Iran’s water shortage. Iran’s vice president and head of the Environment Department, Isa Kalantari, said the country was capable of transporting water from the Caspian Sea to the northern Semnan province. He implied that the goal of such a project would be to limit the migration of people from the north to Tehran. Iran is in the midst of a major, country-wide water crisis that has led many to quit their jobs in the agricultural sector and travel to cities for work. This is potentially dangerous for the regime for two reasons. First, projects to alleviate water scarcity could sap more capital out of an already stretched budget. Second, large numbers of disaffected, internally displaced migrants could spark protests. Perhaps relatedly, the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court said last week that foreign fighters could be brought in to protect the government. Iranians responded angrily on social media, some saying they would “take up arms” and fight back if Tehran brought in foreign forces.
- Russia is conducting military drills on Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that are claimed by Japan.
- Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido asked countries to help block Venezuelan petroleum shipments to Cuba.
- In Syria, 3,000 Islamic State fighters surrendered to Syrian Democratic Forces.
- Volkswagen announced that it will cut up to 7,000 jobs by 2023.
- North Korea will reduce food rations by 50 percent after a particularly poor harvest.
- Ethiopia and Sudan will deploy joint forces along their shared border.