Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. US Re-imposes Sanctions On Iran Three Months After Withdraw From Nuclear Agreement
On August 7, President Donald Trump announced that he would be reimposing sanctions on Iran that had been lifted as a part of the 2015 nuclear deal. The May decision to withdraw from the Iran deal officially dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), gave a 90-day wind-down period for some business activities, and a 120-day wind-down period for others. Some sanctions were reimposed on August 8, whereas others will be reimposed on November 5. In a Twitter message posted shortly before his appearance at a campaign rally in Ohio, President Trump stated that the Iran sanctions have officially been cast. “These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!,” stated the President in a Twitter post.
The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2018
According to the text of the executive order, the reimposed sanctions are meant to advance the goal of applying financial pressure on the Iranian government in pursuit of a comprehensive and lasting solution to a number of politics that the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia claim (without any factual backing) are contributing to the destabilization of the Middle East. “The president has been very clear,” said US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert in a statement to the press. “None of this needs to happen. He will meet with the Iranian leadership at any time to discuss a real comprehensive deal that will contain their regional ambitions, will end their malign behavior, and deny them any path to a nuclear weapon,” Nauert further stated.
The sanctions that go back into effect immediate impact any purchase of US bank notes by Iran’s government, Iran’s trade in precious metals like gold, graphite, aluminum, steel, coal and software in industrial processes, Iran’s automotive sector, transactions related to the Iranian rial, and Iran’s issuing of sovereign debt, according to the White House. The sanctions that will be reimposed in November include those on Iran’s port operators and energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors, any of Iran’s petroleum-related transactions, and foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran. Additionally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that the Trump administration is “not looking to grant waivers” to companies or governments who want to continue to receive Iranian oil imports, but is “glad to discuss and look at requests on a case-by-case basis.”
The international reaction to the new sanctions against Iran has generally been negative. Even though Israel and Saudi Arabia praised the decision on the part of the Trump administration (claiming that it would result in the collapse of the Iranian government and pave the way for Reza Pahlavi to come to power in Iran), many other countries such as the UK, France, Russia, China, Italy, and Germany condemned the decision, arguing that new sanctions are morally wrong and that any efforts to topple the Iranian government are counterproductive at best. Additionally, the Iranian government denounced the new sanctions and has vowed a “proportional reaction.” “The main goal of America in approving these sanctions against Iran is to destroy the nuclear deal and we will show a very intelligent reaction to this action,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi.
2. Saudi Arabia Recalls Ambassador To Canada Over Human Rights Concerns Raised On The Part Of The Canadian Government
On August 6, Saudi Arabia announced that it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and had recalled its envoy while freezing all new trade, in protest of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s calls for the release of jailed activists. The Saudi government gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country, in an abrupt rupture of relations over what it slammed as “interference” in its internal affairs. The move, which underscores a newly aggressive foreign policy led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comes after Canada demanded the immediate release of human rights campaigners swept up in a recent crackdown. “The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi foreign ministry tweeted. The ministry also announced, “the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action.”
The dispute between both countries began last week with a series of tweets by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland stating that the Canadia government was “gravely concerned” over a new wave of arrests of women and human rights campaigners in the kingdom, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi. Badawi was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an “unprecedented government crackdown on the women’s rights movement”. The arrests come weeks after more than a dozen women’s rights campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state. The Saudi foreign ministry voiced anger over the Canadian statement. “Using the phrase ‘immediately release’ in the Canadian statement is very unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between States,” the ministry tweeted.
Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) August 2, 2018
The ongoing rupture in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Canada reinforces the new foreign policies that have been implemented by Mohammed bin Salman since he assumed the role of Crown Prince last year. Even though Salman has introduced a series of progressive reforms (much like what Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran did through his misguided “White Revolution” series of reforms in 1962-63), he has pursued an aggressive foreign policy, cracking down harshly on dissent both at home and abroad. Additionally, the outsized reaction to the tweet underscores how Saudi Arabia is taking a much harsher stance against what it perceives as Western interference in its internal affairs on issues like human rights, perhaps emboldened by the US willingness under Donald Trump to de-emphasize rights issues when it comes to its allies. Saudi Arabia and the US have been enjoying an exceptionally close relationship, as both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Trump share similar concerns about Iran, as well as support for Israel. By contrast, Trump and Trudeau locked horns during the G7 summit in June in an unusually public manner.
3. Post Election Violence Continues In Zimbabwe
After holding elections on July 30, Zimbabwe has again descended into violence. At least six people were killed on the streets of the capital two days after the vote. Since then human-rights groups have recorded more than 150 alleged cases of abuse against opposition supporters (including that of the husband and wife above), most seemingly at the hands of soldiers. The true figure is almost certainly many times higher. Hundreds of MDC members have fled their homes, including Tendai Biti, one of the bloc’s senior figures, whose claim for asylum in Zambia was rejected on August 8.
Since taking power via a coup last November, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has sought to convince the world that Zimbabwe is “open for business” following nearly four decades of rule by Robert Mugabe. The culmination of this plan was meant to be a convincing victory in the election, which even if neither free nor fair, would be orderly enough to win him the blessing of foreign governments. They would then encourage creditors to lend the country much-needed foreign currency. Instead, the exact opposite scenario is taking place. Instead of convincing western investors that the country is entering into a new period of stability, the recent post-election violence shows that Zimbabwe has a long way to go before its political situation will be stabilized.
The reaction to the election violence in Zimbabwe at the international level has been negative. In response to the post-election violence, President Donald Trump signed into law legislation expanding the already-stringent sanctions that the US has had in place against Zimbabwe since 2001. Some of the conditions put forward in the legislation include the establishment of an independent electoral commission, the banning of military involvement in politics, and allowing the Zimbabwean diaspora to vote in elections from abroad.
4. Trump Administration Announces Plan To Establish “Space Force” Branch of US Military
In a speech on August 9, Vice President Mike Pence announced that President Donald Trump has authorized plans to create a new branch of the US military dedicated to fighting warfare in space. The United States Space Force, as proposed by President Trump, would be a new branch of the military by 2020, on par with the army, navy, air force, marines and coast guard. An independent branch cannot be created until Congress approves it, but the Administration can take several steps on its own to prepare for the launch of a new force, the first since the air force was formed shortly after World War II. Officials plan to create a Space Operations Force, an “elite group of warfighters specializing in the domain of space” drawn from various branches of the military, in the style of existing special operations forces, Pence said.
The main rationale for creating the SpaceForce, according to the Trump Administration, is the need to counter galactic threats from US rivals such as Russia and China. In recent years, both Russia and China have been developing weapons that can be used to track and destroy communications satellites used by the US military and civilians alike. The estimated cost for the initial establishment of the Space Force would be approximately $8 Billion over a five-year period and is expected to cost at least several Billion more to get the branch up and running.
Overall, the reaction to the proposed Space Force has been somewhat mixed, with many pointing to the apparent lack of need for such a branch.“Maybe, just maybe, we should make sure our people are not dying because they lack health insurance before we start spending billions to militarize outer space,” stated Senator Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) in a Twitter post. Additionally, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly said Trump’s plan for a new military space branch is “redundant” and “wasteful.” Despite much opposition to the new proposal, Congressmen Mike Rodgers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN), both endorsed the plan, stating that “we have been warning for years of the need to protect our space assets and to develop more capable space systems.”
Maybe, just maybe, we should make sure our people are not dying because they lack health insurance before we start spending billions to militarize outer space. #SpaceForce
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 9, 2018