Welcome back, World readers. We're taking you on a 1,572-word (6-minute) global spin this evening.
You may have noticed that some news broke not long after I sent Thursday's newsletter. Time to catch up on all that...
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Tom Stoddart Archive/Getty Contributor, Adam Glickman/Underwood Archives/Getty Contributor, Mehdi Ghasemi/Getty Contributor, NurPhoto/Getty Contributor
The killing of Qasem Soleimani unleashed immediate fears of war — even of World War III — but if no further shots are fired, Thursday's airstrikes in Baghdad will nonetheless generate momentous consequences.
The big picture: Iran has lost its best military strategist, and America has eliminated a man it saw as a singularly destructive actor in the region. But the current U.S. concerns aren't limited to where and when Iran will strike back.
What to watch...
1. The U.S. military presence in Iraq has quickly begun to look untenable, both due to the threat of Iranian reprisals and because Iraq appears set to revoke its invitation following the American attack on its soil.
Driving the news: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley were forced tonight to hastily deny that the U.S. was pulling troops out of Iraq.
Why it matters: Forcing the U.S. out of the region has been a primary objective of Tehran and Soleimani’s personal mission. A sudden U.S. exit would also give ISIS space to rebuild its strength, particularly as the U.S. would likely leave Syria too.
2. Iran’s announcement yesterday that it will now enrich uranium “without restrictions” — unconstrained by the 2015 nuclear deal — loomed as a possibility ever since Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018.
3. The Iranian regime is riding a tide of patriotic sentiment just weeks after anti-government protests threatened to rattle its foundations.
5. The killing of a top Iranian official in a foreign country could not only put U.S. generals and officials in the Middle East at risk, it “will be invoked by various parties” in the future to justify assassinations, Malley says.
The bottom line: Even if the most dire predictions of war don't come to fruition, the impact of Soleimani's death will be felt for years to come.
U.S. and Israeli flags aflame during Soleimani's funeral procession in Tehran. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images
The streets of Tehran were filled with mourners today and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wept for a man considered his closest lieutenant.
State of play: “Right now what [the Iranians] are doing is sitting back and accumulating some of the immediate political benefits of what just happened — the vote in the Iraqi parliament, massive demonstrations in Iran and also in Iraq, popular sentiment among the Shiites in Lebanon, strengthening of the Iranian axis and what they’re doing on the nuclear front,” says Malley, a former Obama adviser.
The big picture: Most analysts agree that Iran must, in its view, hit back hard enough to assert its strength while aiming to avert a potentially crippling military confrontation with the U.S.
Behind the scenes: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Security Cabinet today that Israel was not involved in Soleimani’s killing and must not be dragged into the escalating conflict, two ministers who attended the meeting tell Axios contributor Barak Ravid.
What to watch: Israel’s intelligence chiefs told the Cabinet today that Iran will start developing its retaliation on Tuesday when the period of national mourning ends.
Pompeo leaves his meeting with McConnell. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Pompeo met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday and informed him that he will not be running for Kansas' open Senate seat in 2020, the New York Times first reported and Axios has confirmed.
Zoom in: Pompeo was a primary driver behind Trump's decision to strike Soleimani, the Washington Post reports. He has also been the face of the decision in a string of TV interviews since.
Guaidó climbs a fence while attempting to reach the National Assembly. Photo: Federico Parra/AFP via Getty Images
Venezuela’s government disrupted a National Assembly leadership election on Sunday, forcibly blocking opposition leader Juan Guaidó from entering the chamber so it could swear in a candidate viewed as loyal to President Nicolás Maduro.
Why it matters: Guaidó’s international legitimacy rests on the fact that, as assembly president, he is Venezuela’s highest-ranking official to have been democratically elected. This step could muddy those waters and further strengthen Maduro’s hold on power.
The big picture: The hope that desperate Venezuelans placed in Guaidó after he proclaimed himself president last January has gradually faded, particularly after an audacious attempt to seize power failed in April.
Flashback: Asked last month by Axios about this scenario — in which a Maduro loyalist claimed the Assembly presidency by dubious means — Colombia’s ambassador to Washington shook his head:
“We don't even want to think about that.”
Go deeper: Maduro survives 2019
Tsai speaks at a campaign rally. Photo: Chan Long Hei/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
1. Taiwan goes to the polls on Saturday, with President Tsai Ing-wen on course for re-election in part because the unrest in Hong Kong has hampered the Beijing-friendly opposition.
The backdrop: “Twice in 2019 [Chinese President Xi Jinping] declared that Taiwan should reunify with the mainland under a ‘one country, two systems’ formula, as Hong Kong did,” per the Economist.
2. China has replaced its top Hong Kong representative with a senior Communist Party official known for bringing party discipline to unruly provinces.
3. The Economist this week compares China to “a powerful juvenile warily sizing up a silverback gorilla” as it reduces its technological dependence on a rival it views with a combination of “impatience and scorn.”
The skies over Aukland, New Zealand, in vibrant color due to smoke from Australia. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images
Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Heilongjiang province, China. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
“Tasty. I want some more.”— Kane Tanaka, the world's oldest person, eating cake at her 117th birthday party yesterday in footage aired on a local Japanese broadcaster. She was born in 1903, the year of the Wright Brothers' first flight.