Here is today's foreign policy mandate: Qatar join the Gulf Cooperation Council summit when the blockade ends. The voting ends in Runoff election in the Senate in Georgia and OPEC + Countries continue oil production talks.
We look forward to your feedback at Morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.
Gulf states end blockade of Qatar
A formal agreement to end a long-standing blockade of Qatar by its rivals in the Middle East led by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates is expected to be signed today when the Gulf Cooperation Council in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, meets.
The gas-rich nation's land, sea and air blockade began in June 2017 when the Gulf states accused Qatar of supporting terrorist groups and criticized its relationship with Iran. Qatar denies supporting terrorism, but admits it supports political Islamist causes such as the Muslim Brotherhood (a group that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates consider a terrorist organization).
US President Donald Trump initially enthusiastically supported the step led by Saudi Arabia, before quickly reversing course and calling for dialogue. Qatar is home to around 10,000 U.S. soldiers at the al-Udeid air base, which is seen as critical to conducting anti-Islamic state missions.
Save face. It is difficult to see Qatar's return to the Gulf region as anything other than a face rescue operation for Saudi Arabia (the UAE was reportedly opposed to rapprochement). Qatar did not have to meet any of the 13 Gulf states' 2017 demands – including the closure of Al Jazeera and the closure of a Turkish military base – and instead has only agreed to drop lawsuits for isolation compensation.
The Biden Effect. The rise is part of Saudi Arabia's desire to present a unified golf front on Iran and to position itself as a key partner for a new Biden administration that seeks to reevaluate US relations with the kingdom. The deal will do immediate financial damage to Iran as Qatar has billed around $ 100 million annually for the use of its airspace.
Iran's enrichment. Biden's Iran challenge became even more demanding on Monday when an Iranian government spokesman announced that the country had started again to enrich uranium to 20 percent, well beyond the limits set in the 2015 nuclear deal.
What we are following today
Georgia outflow. Georgia voters will determine who will control the U.S. Senate today in runoff elections for the two Senate seats that face stiff competition from Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to Republican incumbents David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler. If the Democrats win both seats, the Senate will be split 50%, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the casting vote.
Although the polls close at 7 p.m. ET, the results could take days if the races are close. Three million voters have already cast their ballots in the early voting, around 60 percent of the votes cast in the November presidential election.
OPEC + meets again. The OPEC + talks about monthly oil production are now on a surprising second day, as the decision on whether to increase production or keep the level constant separates the group.
Russia is said to be in favor of increasing oil supplies by 500,000 barrels a day in February, just as it did in January, while Saudi Arabia and the majority of nations want to keep production at current levels, citing demand concerns amid uncertainty economic future.
England locks up. England enters a strict nationwide lockdown today as the number of coronavirus cases has skyrocketed since early December and authorities are protecting the National Health Service from overload.
England's lockdown measures will be in place through at least mid-February, while Scotland will be in lockdown until the end of January. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has blamed the new variant of coronavirus, first discovered in the UK, for the dramatic increase in cases.
Countdown to the opening day. US President Donald Trump is unlikely to be in attendance as the president-elect will take office on Jan. 20 if flight records are any indication. The Scottish Sunday Post reports that officials at Prestwick Airport in Glasgow have been told to await a U.S. military plane that Trump sometimes uses on Jan. 19, suggesting the president will be spending time at his Turnberry Golf Resort instead of on Biden's inauguration. The White House has yet to confirm Trump's inauguration day plans.
Travel in the COVID era. To signal what travel will look like in a pandemic, a group of American airlines have called on the United States to lift travel restrictions that prohibit citizens from Europe and other countries from banning a negative coronavirus test before flight. The airlines supported a proposal by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to set up a global program to test travelers before they enter US borders. Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House's coronavirus task force, will discuss the proposal in a meeting today.
Tensions between South Korea and Iran. South Korean authorities called for the immediate release of a chemical tanker seized by Iran near Oman's waters on Monday. Seoul and Tehran are currently at odds with over $ 7 billion in Iranian funds currently frozen due to US sanctions at South Korean banks. This will be discussed during an upcoming visit by the South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister to Iran. The Iranian media said the tanker had been seized for technical reasons and "taken ashore for pollution of the sea".
Washington, DC readers anxious to get a dose of the coronavirus vaccine should stay near their local pharmacy. David MacMillan, a law student at Catholic University, managed to jump in the vaccine line on Friday when a pharmacist at his local grocery store offered the vaccine to him and a friend.
According to DC rules, vaccine doses that are at risk of decay should be offered to everyone in the vicinity if health workers or first aiders are not available. MacMillan gave the opening event when a number of frontline staff were absent. "She turned to us and said," Hey, I have two doses of the vaccine and I have to throw them away if I don't give them to anyone. We'll close in 10 minutes. Do you want the Moderna vaccine? "MacMillan told NBC.
MacMillan praised the pharmacist's quick thinking. “Obviously the pharmacist is the hero here. She only had a short time and wanted to make sure as many people as possible were vaccinated. So props to her, absolutely, ”he said.
That's it for today.
To learn more about FP, visit Foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or subscribe to our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to Morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.
Photo credit: Stringer / AFP