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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. President Joe Biden plans to announce troop withdrawal from Iraq , Tunisia ’s president dismisses its prime minister following anti-government protests, and floods in India kill at least 135 people.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. President Joe Biden plans to announce troop withdrawal from Iraq, Tunisia’s president dismisses its prime minister following anti-government protests, and floods in India kill at least 135 people.
If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.
U.S. to Announce Iraq Troop Withdrawal
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and U.S. President Joe Biden are expected to announce the full withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of this year. The announcement is set to be made as Biden hosts Kadhimi at the White House today.
Although the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has become a fraught topic in Washington, the Iraq withdrawal is unlikely to cause the same headaches—not least because the announcement is unlikely, in practice, to remove many of the 2,500 U.S. troops currently stationed there. As the New York Times reports, the withdrawal will mostly take place on paper, with many U.S. service members reclassified as serving in an advisory or training capacity.
As Mina Al-Oraibi writes in Foreign Policy, Kadhimi’s visit comes as he is caught between both Washington and Tehran—and on the verge of losing balance.
The troop announcement may allow some breathing room for Kadhimi ahead of national elections in October. Only in power since last May, Kadhimi seeks to placate a large pro-Iran element in parliament, many of whom opposed his appointment following the deaths of Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani in a January 2020 U.S. airstrike at Baghdad International Airport. Iraq’s parliament swiftly voted to expel U.S. troops following the assassinations.
Like many governments still dealing with the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iraqi leaders have had to ride waves of public indignation as the death toll mounts and tragedy strikes. Earlier in July, Kadhimi suspended a number of officials following a lethal hospital fire in a coronavirus ward that killed at least 86 people. It followed a similar coronavirus ward fire in a Baghdad hospital in April that killed 82 people.
Still targets. Biden is aware the change in U.S. troop designations is unlikely to halt the barrage of rocket and drone attacks—attributed to Iran-backed militias—that have plagued U.S. personnel. Targets have ranged from clandestine CIA warehouses to private U.S. contractors, making any official U.S. withdrawal unlikely to limit the many options available to U.S. adversaries.
Lebanon on the horizon. Kadhimi’s visit comes soon after the White House hosted another Arab leader, Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Speaking to CNN on Sunday, the king lauded his “family friendship” with the U.S. president and mentioned that his discussions with Biden included the latest country facing a crisis in the region: Lebanon. “When the bottom does fall out—and it will happen in weeks—what can we do as the international community to step in?” the king asked.
Writing from Beirut, Foreign Policy columnist Anchal Vohra explores the options in a country where hope seems to be lost, and Lebanese President Michel Aoun considers who to nominate as Lebanon’s next prime minister.
The World This Week
On Monday, July 26, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte gives his annual state of the nation address.
Saint Lucia holds elections for its 17-member House of Assembly.
On Tuesday, July 27, the World Trade Organization’s highest-level body, the General Council, meets, with a proposed patent waiver on COVID-19 vaccines on the agenda.
Apple, Microsoft, and Google’s parent company Alphabet all announce quarterly earnings.
On Wednesday, July 28, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.
Peruvian President-elect Pedro Castillo is inaugurated in Lima.
On Thursday, July 29, the United States releases its first GDP estimate for the second quarter of 2021.
On Friday, July 30, France, Germany, and Spain announce preliminary GDP figures for the second quarter of 2021.
The results of biennial stress tests on the EU banking system are announced.
Russia hosts a meeting of the Russia-Turkey Joint Economic Commission, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expected to attend.
What We’re Following Today
Tunisia in turmoil. Tunisia was thrown into political turmoil on Sunday after Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, suspended parliament, and assumed executive authority.
The move comes after violent anti-government protests across the country and as COVID-19 cases spike. Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the speaker of Tunisia’s parliament, called Saied’s decision “a coup against the revolution and constitution.” In a statement carried on state media, Saied warned that any armed resistance would be met with full force. “I warn any who think of resorting to weapons … and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he said.
Flooding in India. At least 135 people have died in India following a weekend of catastrophic flooding and landslides after heavy monsoon rains. More than 130,000 people have been rescued from villages across Maharashtra state while at least 100 people are still missing. India’s Central Water Commission has warned of “isolated, very heavy rainfall” across the state, home to Mumbai, in the coming days. The rains follow similar downpours in Germany and China as scientists warn climate change could make India’s monsoons stronger.
Sherman in China. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited the Chinese port city of Tianjin today for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Ahead of the trip, a senior U.S. official said Sherman’s message would underscore that the Biden administration does not want “stiff and sustained competition to veer into conflict.” Wang, speaking before Sherman arrived, chastised the United States for taking a “superior” stance between the two countries and offered a “tutorial” on creating equal relations.
As talks began, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng referred to the relationship between the two countries as a “stalemate” and accused Washington of “demonizing” Beijing.
Keep an Eye On
U.S. COVID-19 cases. White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci warned on Sunday the United States is moving “in the wrong direction” in its fight against the coronavirus as authorities hit a ceiling on vaccination rates. Despite vast stockpiles and wide availability, roughly 30 percent of U.S. adults have yet to receive a vaccine dose as Fauci labeled a recent rise in cases as “an outbreak among the unvaccinated.” Fauci also noted that third booster shots may be needed for those with suppressed immune systems.
Putin talks up Russia’s military. Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would carry out an “unpreventable strike” if it was in the country’s interests as he oversaw a naval parade in St. Petersburg on Sunday. Putin also lauded Russia’s hypersonic missiles as “still unrivaled in the world.” His comments come after a successful test of a hypersonic Zircon cruise missile last Monday and as tensions in the Black Sea remain high following an altercation between a British ship and the Russian military in the waters around Crimea in June.
Odds and Ends
Despite the wing pins seen on billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson following their recent private space flights, the two men cannot officially call themselves astronauts after recent rule changes at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), made the day of Bezos’s trip. To receive a “commercial astronaut” designation as determined by the FAA, space tourists must not only exceed 50 miles from the Earth’s surface but must also show “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety or contributed to human space flight safety.”
Those wishing for U.S.-approved astronaut wings must also be nominated for the honor. The FAA said it was not currently reviewing any submissions.