The daily flagship foreign policy newsletter with news and analysis from around the world. Fuel for your working day. Delivered on weekdays. Written by Colm Quinn, Foreign Policy newsletter writer.
May 17, 2021, 6:29 a.m.
Here is today's foreign policy mandate: Israel continues bombing campaign in Gaza with calls for a ceasefire, Chile elects its constitutional assembly and Cyclone Tauktae approaches India.
If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please register here.
Israel-Gaza conflict enters the second week
Gaza experienced heavy Israeli bombing overnight as the fighting entered week two. According to the Israeli military, over 3,000 rockets were fired at Israel, killing at least 10 people, including two children. In Gaza, the death toll stands at 192, with more than 50 children killed.
Among the dead in Sunday's bombing were two prominent Palestinian doctors whose deaths, along with reports of damaged medical facilities, raised concerns about a resulting health crisis. Ayman Abu al-Ouf, the head of coronavirus response at Gaza's largest hospital, was killed on Sunday along with Moein Ahmad al-Aloul, one of the few neurologists on the territory. Al-Aloul's five children died with him.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday the campaign in Gaza would "continue as long as necessary". However, reports from Israeli news site Walla on Sunday reported possible ceasefire talks brokered by Egypt amid the successes of the Israeli military in fighting Hamas and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.
As the conflict drags on, calls for a ceasefire have increased. The 57 member states of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation called on Israel to stop its attacks in Gaza and requested intervention from the United States Security Council. Representatives from Turkey and Iran accused the recent normalization agreements signed by Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates as enabling Israel's behavior. "The massacre of Palestinian children today follows the alleged normalization," said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Red, white and blocked. At the United Nations, the United States continues to block a United States Security Council call for a ceasefire. 14 of the 15 council members supported a declaration launched by China, Norway and Tunisia on Sunday condemning both Israel and Hamas for ongoing violence and calling for an immediate ceasefire. US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said her country was still "working tirelessly through diplomatic channels" to stop hostilities.
Congress calls. Despite the sluggishness of the Biden administration, both Democrats and Republicans are speaking out in Congress. Two Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, Chris Murphy, a Democrat, and Todd Young, a Republican, issued a joint statement Sunday calling for a ceasefire. A similar joint statement followed by 28 of the 50 seated Democratic senators calling for an "immediate ceasefire".
Israel's consequences. In Israel, the aftermath of days of violence in mixed Arab-Israeli cities has led to a unilateral reaction from prosecutors: of the 116 charges brought against those arrested last week, all have been against Arab-Israeli citizens, Haaretz Reports. Meanwhile, Yair Lapid, whose chances for the centrist Yesh Atid party to form a coalition government have collapsed since the violence broke out, has blamed Netanyahu. If he was in charge, Lapid said on Sunday, no one would have to wonder "why the fire always breaks out when it is most convenient for the prime minister."
Speaking to CBS's Face The Nation on Sunday, Netanyahu denied claims that he was continuing the bombing campaign to stay in power as "absurd" and "bullshit". "I will do what I must to protect the lives of Israeli citizens and restore peace," he said.
On Tuesday May 18thEU Foreign Ministers hold an emergency conference call on the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, convened by EU Foreign Policy Officer Josep Borrell.
On Thursday May 20thThe ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council takes place between the eight circumpolar nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, as well as groups representing indigenous peoples. A bilateral meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken could take place on the sidelines.
Somali Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble is holding talks with regional leaders about future national elections.
On Friday May 21stUS President Joe Biden receives South Korean President Moon Jae-in for personal talks in the White House.
The Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, are jointly hosting the G-20 Global Health Summit.
On Sunday 23rd MayVietnam holds elections for its National Assembly, with all candidates representing the Communist Party of Vietnam.
A longer period in which the International Atomic Energy Agency can carry out rapid inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities is ending.
Blinking goes north. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Denmark today to embark on a week-long tour of the Nordic countries that includes a meeting of the Arctic Council in Iceland and a stopover in Greenland. In Denmark, Blinken will meet Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod. Blinken is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later in the week.
Chile's Constitution. With around 90 percent of the vote, the ruling center-right coalition of Chile appears to have suffered a surprising loss in the elections when it selected a 155-member body to recast the country's constitution. Independents with 45 seats will have the most influence in the Constitutional Assembly, where new proposals must be approved by a two-thirds majority. The ruling Chile-Vamos coalition won 39 seats, while candidates for the left and left won 25 and 28 seats, respectively.
The ceasefire in Afghanistan ends. Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces resumed on Sunday after a three-day ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday. The Taliban attacked a number of government checkpoints in Helmand province, the regional government said, adding that 21 Taliban fighters were killed. The clashes took place when peace negotiations resumed in Doha over the weekend.
Gujarat's storm. Cyclone Tauktae, the strongest storm in the region for more than two decades, is expected to land in the Indian state of Gujarat today and may put a greater strain on an already overwhelmed health system. More than 150,000 people have been moved to shelters from lower-lying areas, raising fears of further transmission of COVID-19. At least six people have already died in the heavy rains of Tauktae.
The Iranian President's Race. Two main candidates for the Iranian presidential election on June 18 signed up as candidates on Saturday when registration closed. Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the Iranian judiciary and a lost candidate for President Hassan Rouhani in 2017, took part in the race along with former parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani. Registered candidates, which include former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are now being assessed by the 12-person Guardian Council before their candidacies are approved.
COVAX delivers. COVAX, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries, is 140 million doses behind its sales targets as exports from the Indian Serum Institute have stalled since the cases exploded in March. UNICEF, the US agency responsible for buying vaccines for COVAX, has urged the G7 and EU countries to make up the deficit, calculating that countries could share 153 million doses and continue to meet their domestic vaccination obligations.
Buzzfeed News reporters noted that President Biden's Venmo account "less than 10 minutes of searching" is raising digital security and privacy concerns for general users of the peer-to-peer money exchange app. The potential security vulnerability was discovered after a profile in the New York Times mentioned that the president was sending money to his grandchildren through the app.
“For one of the most heavily guarded people in the world, a public Venmo account and friends list is a massive security hole. Even a small list of friends is still enough to get a pretty reliable picture of a person's habits, routines, and social circles, ”Gennie Gebhart of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Buzzfeed. Although the White House has not yet commented, it appears to have already taken action: As of Friday evening, Biden's account will no longer appear in searches in the app.