Sep 23, 2019

Iran tests U.S. military messaging at UNGA

Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Istanbul in 2017. Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tells Axios that Americans should ask themselves why U.S. soldiers should risk dying to protect Israeli and Saudi interests, and he thinks President Donald Trump is "determined not to get militarily involved" in Iran — but others in his orbit are trying to "drag him into" it.

The big picture: As leaders gather this week at the United Nations General Assembly, Iran and the U.S. are trying to figure out how to out-maneuver one another in a protracted dispute over the Iran nuclear deal, regional aggression, sanctions and oil sales.

Driving the news: The U.S. is considering retaliating on Iran for this month's attack on Saudi oil facilities that Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed credit for.

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will lay out a proposal this week for a "Coalition for Hope" with confidence-building and non-aggression measures but also an effort to exclude foreign forces from the Persian Gulf.
  • Meanwhile, Iran wants European nations to defy the U.S. and let Tehran resume oil sales.

Go deeper: In a 90-minute discussion with journalists from Axios and other news outlets Sunday afternoon, Zarif continued to deny Iran was behind the Saudi oil attack and insist he seeks "a peaceful way out" of tensions with the U.S.

  • Zarif said Iran was hurt, not helped by the Saudi attack.
  • If anyone gained, he said, it's Trump because now "he's selling weapons" in the region and the U.S. has oil.
  • Saudis "want to fight their wars until the last American soldier," Zarif said.
American soldiers are being killed protecting Israeli interests, protecting Saudi interests. I think that's something for Americans to think about."
— Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

Between the lines: With Iran hawk John Bolton out as National Security Adviser and Benjamin Netanyahu's tenure as Israel's prime minister in question after elections, Iran is focusing its ire on U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

  • Zarif said Pompeo should be brought before the International Criminal Court for "trying to starve" the Iranian population (Pompeo told CBS earlier, "I don’t know why anyone listens to the Iranian foreign minister.").
  • The goal is to test messaging on Trump, who campaigned on reducing U.S. intervention in the Middle East.
  • Zarif said of the U.S. warm dealings with the Saudis after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, "After Khashoggi, the U.S. should shut up on human rights."

What's next: Iran will be watching this week to see how Bolton's days-old replacement, Robert O'Brien, the administration's former hostage negotiator, weighs in.

Go deeper

China approves Hong Kong national security law

Hong Kong riot police round up a group of protesters during a demonstration on Wednesday. Photo: Willie Siau/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Chinese lawmakers approved a plan on Thursday for a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong that would criminalize sedition, foreign influence and secession in the Asian financial hub.

Why it matters: China bypassed Hong Kong's legislature and chief executive to introduce the law, prompting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to announce Wednesday that the city is no longer autonomous from the Chinese mainland and does not warrant special treatment under U.S. law.

Minneapolis unrest as hundreds protest death of George Floyd

Protesters and police clash during demonstration on Wednesday over the death of George Floyd in custody outside the Third Police Precinct. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

A man died in a Minneapolis shooting during a second night of clashes between police and protesters in the city over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody, per AP.

The latest: Police said officers were responding to reports of a stabbing just before 9:30 p.m. and found a man lying in "grave condition on the sidewalk" with a gunshot wound, CBS Minnesota reports. On man is in custody over the incident.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy