Weekly Snapshot
4-10 November 2018

1. US and Polish officials talk about security

During a meeting in Warsaw, high-level officials from both the United States and Poland sat down to discuss security concerns and bilateral cooperation in Poland. These talks included discussing the missile defense system the United States is putting in Poland. The project has an estimated timeline with a hopeful completion date of 2020. Other things on the table were the establishment of a permanent military base in Poland for US troops and increasing cooperation between Poland and the United States defense industry.

This renewed cooperation with Poland is in large part due to the ever-present fear of Russian aggression. After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, Europe has been afraid of renewed hostilities from the Russian Federation. By having stronger cooperation, missile defense systems, and a permanent military base the United States can better protect its NATO allies from the clutches of Vladimir Putin.

2. Another meeting between the US and North Korea postponed

A meeting set for November 8th, 2018 between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korea’s United Front Works Department head Kim Yong Chol, has been postponed to an unspecified date. The meeting, called off by Pyongyang, was set to discuss North Korea’s progress in denuclearization and to convey the United States wishes on the matter. Both sides did not give a reason as to why it was called off, but speculation is that it is a tactic from North Korea to force the US to give economic relief before tangible results of denuclearization can be seen. The United States is maintaining economic sanctions until such time that North Korea has completely denuclearized, and that progress can be verified.

This is not the first meeting to be canceled between these two sides, and it surely won’t be the last. These kinds of antics are right in line with why the United States is taking such a hard line in these talks. The United States has been duped before, and false promises were made. The United States has used incentives to lure North Korea into denuclearization before and all those times failed. It is refreshing to see this administration so steadfast in their convictions not to give benefits until results are proven. This style of dealing with North Korea has never been done before, and just might be what is needed in order to finally have a denuclearized North Korea.

3. Iraq gets a waiver on US sanctions in Iran

The United States has made a special exception to the re-emplaced sanctions that were levied on Iran. These sanctions were the ones taken away under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and have henceforth been re-emplaced after the current administration’s decision to withdraw from that deal. These sanctions are specifically targeting Iran’s financial institutions, shipping lines, energy sector, and petroleum products. Due to Iran and Iraq’s economies being so intertwined, sanctions on Iran would hurt the United States partner Iraq.

Iraq relies heavily on natural gas and Iranian-generated electricity. Most of the population of Iraq only get a few hours of electricity from the state of Iraq per day and then rely heavily on power generators. In the long run, this is going to be a benefit for Iraq in that the United States has given them 45 days to come up with a plan to gradually stop using Iranian gas and oil. This incentivizes Iraq to finally become energy independent which will only strengthen their standing in the middle east. While making exceptions to the sanctions goes against the efficacy of the impact on Iran, this exception was a needed one. Unlike the exceptions that are being discussed from Europe, this one has a clock on it, and eventually, Iran is going to feel the full force of the US sanctions.

4. Inklings of a sectarian war in Afghanistan

There are growing tensions between the Taliban and the Shi’ite Hazara minority of the Jaghori district in the Ghazni province. Attacks in this region and also a couple of the central provinces have left several Taliban and civilians dead and injured. The Taliban is mainly comprised of ethnic Pashtun Sunni Muslims, while the Jaghori district has a large amount of Shi’ite Hazara. The divide between these two different sects of Islam has been the motivation of countless wars throughout history.

The violence in Jaghori was spurred by a hope that the Sunni Taliban could retake control of the Shi’ite-dominated region. This region allows women to move freely and encourages higher female participation in government, something the Sunnis in the Taliban do not agree with. The leaders of Jaghori have requested support from the central government of Afghanistan, but their response was too late, forcing civilians to take up arms and protect their lands. This sets a bad precedent in that it encourages armed rebel groups, something not new to Afghanistan. This raises concerns that Hazaras, members of a mainly Shi’ite minority, may take up arms against the central government in frustration.

The United States position in this is concerning. Due to the US military presence in Afghanistan and our intimate relationship with the central government, having a new group of “rebels” dissatisfied with their government also means they would be unhappy with the United States. As the US looks to someday end its military involvement in Afghanistan, spurring a new war can creating animosity toward America is something to be taken seriously. As the biggest military supporter of the central government, the United States should be proactive in this situation and make sure to deal with it before it inflates into a bigger issue.