Welcome back to Axios World! I'm steering the ship for this edition while Dave is off gallivanting in Italy. We've got 1,655 words for you tonight, about a 6 minute read.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
In the 1,160 days since the Brexit referendum, Northern Ireland — a complex, but oft-forgotten country the size of Connecticut — has emerged as the ultimate sticking point in the worst crisis the U.K. has faced since World War II.
Why it matters: Brexit threatens to unsettle the dual identity dynamic on which peace in Northern Ireland hinges.
The big picture: Northern Ireland is home to the U.K.’s only land border with an EU member state. It’s there — where a physical border with checks and infrastructure has not existed for 2 decades — that complex issues of identity, sectarian violence and trade have coalesced into Brexit’s most intractable puzzle.
Background: Between 1968 and 1998, more than 3,000 people were killed and nearly 50,000 injured in sporadic bouts of politically motivated violence known as "The Troubles."
Between the lines: Some people in Northern Ireland feel Irish. Others feel British. After the Good Friday Agreement, the lack of a hard border — since both Ireland and the U.K. are in the EU — made it possible for people to identify with either.
Flash forward: Theresa May was unable to pass her Brexit deal through Parliament because of opposition to the so-called "backstop," an insurance policy that would keep the U.K. aligned with the EU’s customs rules in case the two sides couldn’t figure out another way to avoid a hard Irish border by 2022.
The bottom line: Johnson claims that "under no circumstances" would the U.K. put up border checks in Northern Ireland, but he has not proposed any viable alternatives to enforcing customs rules post-Brexit. Leaked documents from his own government suggest that an open border would be "unsustainable" in the event of a no-deal.
Pro-EU supporters protest outside Westminster after breaking through barriers. Aug. 28. Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images
Parliament is trying to, but Johnson just made it a lot harder. On Wednesday, Johnson asked Queen Elizabeth II to prorogue, or "suspend," Parliament to give his government a fresh chance to set out a "new bold and ambitious domestic agenda."
The prime minister typically asks the queen to prorogue Parliament once a year in order to bring an end to legislative business and then restart with a blank slate after a few days.
What they're saying: Activists and politicians who oppose leaving without a deal are outraged that Johnson has taken the extreme step of kneecapping Parliament at such a critical moment.
Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images
While Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was making his way to France for a surprise visit at the G7 summit on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his team frantically tried to get Trump on the phone to ensure the president wouldn’t meet with him, U.S. and Israeli officials tell Axios.
Why it matters: Netanyahu’s urgent attempts to get Trump on the phone showed the deep nervousness in Israel about possible renewed nuclear talks between the U.S. and Iran.
Behind the scenes: U.S. officials said Trump ultimately decided not to meet with Zarif anyway. Senior Israeli officials said that although the meeting didn't happen, they think direct talks between the U.S. and Iran are just a matter of time — and could happen as soon as the UN General Assembly session opens in New York at the end of September.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed (R). Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The close alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates appears to be under rare strain as the two oil-rich monarchies take increasingly divergent approaches to foreign policy, Reuters reports.
Driving the news: The immediate source of tension is the war in Yemen, where the UAE has scaled down its military presence amid a realization that there is "no military solution" to a devastating conflict that has dragged on for 4 years. "The Saudis felt abandoned," a Western diplomat said.
The big picture: A source tells Reuters that the UAE wants to establish itself as the more mature player in the region, especially as Saudi foreign policy grows increasingly "impulsive and interventionist" under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
Why it matters: If the alliance is indeed fracturing, it could have huge reverberations in the Middle East, especially in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.
A lesson in ambition: Matteo Salvini's gamble appears to have backfired. Photo: Cosimo Martemucci/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
1. Italy's center-left Democratic Party and populist Five Star Movement — once sworn enemies — have agreed to form a coalition government.
2. A pair of state elections in Germany this weekend will be a huge test for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), the hand-picked successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, Politico's Matthew Karnitschnig reports.
3. In an interview with Dave on Wednesday, Kosovo Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli accused Russia of aiding in a Serbian effort to coerce African countries to revoke diplomatic recognition of Kosovo.
Argentine President Juan Perón and his wife Evita. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images
"It is not that we were good, but those who came after us were so bad that they made us look good."— Juan Perón
The New Yorker's Stephania Taladrid has an excellent piece out on the enduring populist movement known as Peronism in Argentina, the home of my mother and a country in perennial economic crisis.
Macri's ambitious economic reform agenda has failed to boost the economy, but his defenders argue that the long-term effects will be worth the pain. It's a markedly different approach from Peronism, which "favors temporary fixes with little consideration for spending constraints."
"At a recent news conference, a journalist urged the President to leave his talking points aside to address the Argentines facing hardship, who go home to an empty fridge or are unable to afford other essentials. In his response, Macri invoked an elderly gaucho who recently appeared in a viral video, expressing his worries about Argentina’s current juncture. The gaucho recalled a childhood episode, when a neighbor asked for his help to get several foals across a wide and choppy stream. Halfway into the stream, he panicked, let go of the horse, and swam back to the bank, only to return home to pick up another foal. Argentines need 'to make it to the other side of the river,' Macri implored. 'Because if we don’t cross the river, for once and for all, if we go backward, then we’ll have to start all over again.'"
A flight attendant doll is placed inside a shopping mall during a rally to support Cathay Pacific staff in Hong Kong on Aug. 28 after some were sacked for supporting opposition to a controversial extradition bill. Photo: Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images
"Will you pay for me too?"— Turkish President Erdoğan to Vladimir Putin as the two leaders stopped for ice cream at a Russian air show
"Yes, of course. You're my guest, aren't you?— Putin responded. The U.S. and NATO are growing wary of closer ties between the two countries.