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Daily Memo: A Russian Rejection in Syria, a Mexican Proposal in the US, a Japanese Visit to India

All the news worth knowing today.

GPF Staff |July 24, 2018

Israeli relations with Russia have hit a snag in Syria. On July 23, Israel rejected a Russian proposal whereby Moscow would try to persuade Iran to move its forces away from the Golan Heights. This may seem counterintuitive – Israel wants Iran as far away as possible, right? At issue is not what the proposal included but what it failed to include. The deal did not provide for the removal of long-range weapons, the closure of Syria-Lebanon border crossings, or the end to the production of precision weapons and related air defenses. And so Israel said no. There’s really only so much Russia could do. It has a limited number of troops in Syria, and it needs to maintain working relations with its sometimes ally Iran. The ball is in Israel’s court, and bilateral ties may hang in the balance. Meanwhile, Israel activated its David’s Sling air defense system and fired two Patriot missiles at a Syrian plane conducting a reconnaissance mission in Israeli airspace.

Japan and India will try to enhance military cooperation during the Japanese defense minister’s visit to India next month. This trip will take place during the first-ever bilateral joint military exercise involving both countries’ ground forces. (An air force component is scheduled for some time next year.) That Tokyo and New Delhi would hold these kinds of drills is no surprise – they have a shared interest in containing China. What’s notable, though, is that the United States is absent from them. It’s also notable that Japan is tacitly endorsing India’s concerns that the Quad – an informal coalition consisting of Australia, Japan, India and the U.S. – does not adequately secure India’s land-based interests.

Mexico has offered to jointly develop Central America with the United States. At least, its president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, suggested as much in a personal letter to U.S. President Donald Trump. The purpose of the program is to address the structural causes of violence in and migration from Central America – something that affects Mexico as much as it does the United States. Funding would be provided in proportion to the size of the country. Seventy-five percent of it would be appropriated for job creation and production initiatives while the other 25 percent would go toward border security. Mexico seeks U.S. cooperation on this front primarily for financial purposes. Washington, however, is in the process of retreating inward and has less appetite for regional endeavors such as this. For this reason, the U.S. will consider alternatives such as a stronger U.S.-Mexico border and off-loading more responsibility to Mexico.

Complications over the details of Brexit now raise questions over security. The United Kingdom needs two deals: one to leave the EU and one to redefine its relationship with the bloc once it leaves. The status of Northern Ireland is a major problem in this regard. The EU wants to keep Northern Ireland inside the customs union, but doing so would violate the Good Friday Agreement, or so says the government in London. Ireland’s foreign minister has said a hard border between Ireland and the U.K. would call into question the Irish peace process, and this kind of pressure will put additional pressure on the EU, since it doesn’t want to be responsible for another nationalist conflict. The British foreign minister, meanwhile, has warned that an exit without a deal would hurt security ties with other EU members. Notably, the EU has accomplished very little in the way of integrated security.

Honorable Mentions

  • Turkey confirmed that it would not participate in sanctions against Iran.
  • There are reports that North Korea is dismantling a missile test site, seen as a small step toward denuclearization. South Korea said it still plans to reduce its military presence along the demilitarized zone.
  • Russia expressed an interest in expanding cooperation with Sudan beyond energy into areas such as agriculture, infrastructure development and transport.
  • Argentina will change its military policy to better confront threats from non-state actors such as drug traffickers. Brazil’s public security minister said he will create a National Commission for Intelligence and Operations Against Organized Crime.