The United States is moving against Iran’s proxies, which Washington blamed for recent attacks on U.S. buildings in Iraq. The U.S. Senate is studying a proposal that would impose sanctions on militias controlled by Iran and track those that received assistance from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Using these kinds of groups is a hallmark of Iranian foreign policy. Through them Iran can exert influence without taking direct action, all while maintaining plausible deniability. Hezbollah is the most well-known, but dozens more are operating in Iraq. Even now, there are reports from the Center for Advanced Defense Studies that Tehran is supporting Pakistani separatist groups in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces to escalate a proxy war with Saudi Arabia. This probably explains why the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as the secretary-general of the Arab League, recently expressed their support for Morocco, where Hezbollah, and thus Iran, is supporting a separatist group called the Polisario Front, or so they allege. By targeting these groups, Washington hopes to curb Iranian expansion and strengthen ties among its enemies in the region.

Russia is busy managing its relationship with the West, which is increasingly at odds over how it feels about Russia. Russia and Norway are hashing out the final terms for an agreement over the Barents Sea, the gateway for Russia’s Northern Fleet to the rest of the world. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline project has begun. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has underscored the importance of Russian ties with Germany, which wants stronger commercial ties with Moscow. There is dissension, meanwhile, in the European Union, which must approve Russia sanctions unanimously. Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania have all voiced their support for Hungary against EU efforts to take away Budapest’s voting rights in the bloc. All this puts the U.S. in a unique position: Because containing Russia is still central to U.S. national security, Washington often finds itself siding with Eastern Europe over more traditional allies like Germany.

Honorable Mentions

  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has invited his Chinese counterpart to resume trade talks. China welcomed the offer. No date or location has been set.
  • Russia is interested in supplying North Korea with electricity. It sees Japan and South Korea as potential export destinations.
  • Chinese officials confirmed that Beijing would open up major infrastructure projects related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to third-party investors.
  • Rumors of a Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank merger resurfaced. Also, a UBS analysis in the past week said to expect mergers of large banks in the EU because many are too weak to thrive on their own.
  • The U.S. government condemned Russian plans for elections in Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, saying they go against the Minsk agreements.