Here is today’s foreign policy mandate: Iran and nuclear watchdog agree to an inspection deal, Myanmar Protests Increase by day from “Five Twos”, and Niger counts the votes from the presidential election on Sunday.
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IAEA buys time for nuclear inspections
Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency appear to have defused an impending crisis in the country’s nuclear program just days before a new law restricting international inspectors was due to come into effect.
A law slated to go into effect Tuesday bans the IAEA from conducting rapid inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities or suspected sites – a move designed to increase pressure on the United States to lift sanctions before they come to the negotiating table.
After a weekend of talks in Tehran, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said that unannounced inspections were still being suspended, but that he had reached a temporary agreement that he nevertheless considered an acceptable outcome. “There’s less access, let’s face it. Even so, we were able to maintain the required level of monitoring and verification work, ”said Grossi.
While the full details of the deal are not yet public, Iran can do it either way: to appear sensible and determined at the same time. There is also more time for diplomacy to develop, especially after the US announced last week that it was ready for talks – possibly mediated by the European Union.
Biden’s next step. Michael Hirsh wrote in Foreign Policy last Thursday about the challenges the Biden government is facing in returning to the Iranian nuclear deal and why they are “still playing a game with Tehran”.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are especially cautious when it comes to alienating Republicans on Capitol Hill, whose voices are needed on more pressing priorities, including Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package and its ambitious plans for infrastructure investment and climate change mitigation, “writes Hirsh.
Hirsh said it is also considering expanding an olive branch to Iran with less obvious means, from loans from the International Monetary Fund to other quick cash infusions.
Can Malley make a deal? If diplomacy gains momentum, Robert Malley, Biden’s special envoy to Iran and former head of the International Crisis Group, will likely be the focus. James Traub writes in Foreign Affairs: “It is no coincidence to appoint a person who so clearly prefers diplomacy over military force for the one portfolio in which this issue has been the most heatedly debated.”
On Tuesday February 23A trial begins in the case of former South African President Jacob Zuma, who is charged with fraud and corruption. A start date for his trial can be announced at the hearing.
On Thursday February 25thThe UN Security Council meets to receive a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria. North Korea is also being discussed.
On Friday February 26thThe G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meet for a two-day meeting practically hosted by Italy.
On Sunday February 28th Former US President Donald Trump is expected to address the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, his first public appearance since leaving office.
What we are following today
Myanmar protests. Protest organizers in Myanmar today called for a general strike and a “spring revolution” as the demonstrations continue three weeks after the military seized power on February 1st. On Sunday, military-run television punished protesters for putting people, especially the nation’s youth, “on a route of confrontation where they will suffer the loss of life.” The warning followed a rare case of fatal violence in Mandalay on Sunday when security forces shot and killed two protesters.
Myanmar’s loosely coordinated civil disobedience movement today marked the Day of the Five Twos (after today’s date) in an attempt to repeat anti-military demonstrations on August 8, 1988.
Niger election. In Niger, in the southwest of the country, at least 7 people were killed on Sunday when a vehicle belonging to the country’s electoral commission hit a land mine. The incident clouded an otherwise largely peaceful presidential election between the ruling party’s favorite, Mohamed Bazoum, and former President Mahamane Ousmane.
Bazoum is widely expected to triumph, although official results are not expected until later in the week. Regardless of the winner, the election is the first time in Niger history that a democratically elected president has been replaced by another.
The global vaccination race. Australia began mass coronavirus vaccination today as affluent countries build their lead in the vaccination race. The UK plans to offer a vaccine to all adults by the end of July to bring an earlier target forward by a month. Israel continues to lead the way: 50 percent of the population have received at least one dose of vaccine. Bloomberg estimates that at current rates, it will take about five years to vaccinate 75 percent of the world’s population with a two-dose vaccine.
Tanzania’s COVID-19 crisis. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on Tanzania to take “robust measures” to combat the coronavirus pandemic and encouraged President John Magufuli to face a crisis he has been downplaying for months. The East African nation hasn’t reported case numbers to WHO since April, but the recent death of high-profile figures has put pressure on the country’s leadership to take action. In last week’s FP Africa letter, Lynsey Chutel examined Tanzania’s dubious dates and Magufuli’s focus on religious liberation from the coronavirus.
Choice of Ecuador. Ecuador’s electoral body named Guillermo Lasso runner-up in the first round of the February 7th presidential election, beating indigenous leader Yaku Perez in an extremely tight race. Perez claims fraud prevented him from going to the next round and he was further hampered when a requested recount was suspended last week. The conservative lasso now faces Andrés Arauz – a protégé of the left-wing former president Rafael Correa – in a runoff election scheduled for April 11th.
Another vaccine scandal. Argentine Health Minister Ginés González García has resigned after reports emerged that people out of line were given preferential access to coronavirus vaccines. The scandal broke out after a seasoned journalist admitted receiving a vaccine after speaking directly to the minister. García’s decision means Argentina will join Peru as the youngest Latin American country to lose its health minister to a vaccine controversy.
New research published in a UK journal found that ideological rigidity affects cognitive decision-making and that those with more extremist views tend to grapple with complex tasks assigned during a Cambridge University study.
The study’s lead author, Leor Zmigrod, told the Guardian that the discrepancy was likely due to the black-and-white nature of how these people saw the world, which made it very difficult to carry out elaborate thought processes. “People or brains who have difficulty processing and planning complex sequences of action may be more attracted to extreme ideologies or authoritarian ideologies that simplify the world,” she said.
That’s it for today.
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