Oil protests in Iraq show no signs of abating. After he returned from a meeting in Brussels, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi went straight to Basra, the site of the unrest, to assess the situation and then held an emergency security meeting. The list of protesters’ grievances has grown to include water shortages, power cuts, unemployment and housing. They have now stormed the airport in Najaf –  it was out of service for several hours – and offices belonging to the Shiite Dawa and Fadila parties in southern Babil province. Border crossings with Iran and Kuwait have also been shut down. Kuwait declared a state of alert and deployed at least 400 troops to the Iraqi border.

Japan took another (small) step toward security self-reliance after signing a defense agreement with France whereby the two countries would share supplies such as equipment, food, fuel and ammunition. This is the fourth agreement of its kind for Japan. Tokyo’s national interests haven’t changed all that much since World War II, when it forfeited its military to its new ally, the United States – it still needs to keep open the flow of maritime traffic in the Indo-Pacific, and Washington has been instrumental in this regard. But the U.S. is proving less reliable than it once was. And its priorities don’t align as neatly with Japan’s as they did. Hence, Japan’s bilateral agreements with countries such as France. These deals aren’t total game changers, but they are evidence that Japan is asserting itself in the region, preparing for a day when it doesn’t have to rely on the U.S. for its defense needs.

Confrontations between paramilitary and guerrilla groups along the Venezuela-Colombia border seem to be on the rise. The belligerents include the National Liberation Army and a criminal wing of the Popular Liberation Army. A Venezuelan human rights organization has asked the Red Cross for help. The conflict comes at an especially bad time for both countries. Colombia is still implementing the FARC peace deal, even as it demobilizes a criminal organization known as the Gulf Clan amid upticks in the killings of social activists. Venezuela is still experiencing power shortages, a general lack of food, an economic crisis and social unrest. Bilateral ties are frayed too. Colombia has been a leading critic of the Venezuelan government, even calling for President Nicolas Maduro to step down. Border conflicts aren’t unheard of for Colombia and Venezuela, but a flare-up at this particular moment has a much higher risk of escalation.

Honorable Mentions

  • South Korea’s defense minister summoned Russia’s military envoy to explain why Tu-95 bombers had violated South Korean airspace.
  • The U.S. defense secretary is scheduled to hold 2+2 talks with his Indian counterpart in September.
  • Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss Russia’s program to help Sudan modernize its military.
  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to ease bilateral tensions, especially those stemming from the Aegean Sea.
  • Israel Defense Forces launched rockets on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, followed by a warning for Palestinians to avoid Hamas facilities in the strip.