Welcome to Axios World, where two evenings a week we break down what you need to know about the big stories from around the globe.
May leaves Downing Street. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Here she comes, again.
Catch up quick: Having today secured a parliamentary mandate to extend the Brexit deadline, Prime Minister Theresa May plans to bring her remarkably unpopular plan up in Parliament for a third and final time next week. If she fails, it’s off to the Continent to seek a delay that could ultimately last over a year.
The big picture: This isn’t just about Brexit anymore. It’s a genuine political crisis. The prime minister has been repeatedly humiliated. The opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has largely been irrelevant. No one is at the wheel.
The Economist’s Brexit editor, John Peet, sums it up (podcast): “British stability has been built around the two main parties … but Brexit has cast across that stability because the bigger divide now is between those who support ‘Remain’ and those who support ‘Leave’ and both parties are split from top to bottom on this issue.”
The debate goes beyond politics. “Brexit is a feeling,” a British former diplomat told me this week. He cited a 2017 YouGov poll that found a majority of “Leave” voters would support Brexit even if it damaged the economy, while just 38% said they’d change their vote to save their job, or a family member’s.
What they’re saying:
What’s next: If May passes her deal by March 20, she’ll need a short extension from the EU to get the necessary legislation in order. If not, she’ll head to Brussels to face a roomful of exasperated European leaders. They’re also anxious to avoid “no deal,” but don’t want to simply give the U.K. more time to continue the current squabble.
In the meantime, how about that third vote?
Friday marks the eighth anniversary of Syria's "Day of Rage," the series of protests that provoked an aggressive government crackdown and ignited a nationwide uprising. Some 165,000 civilians have died in the ongoing violence, writes Axios data journalist Harry Stevens.
The Violations Documentation Center in Syria, using a team of human rights activists and reporters, has attempted to document the identity of every person who has died in the war.
The civilian death toll has declined from its peak in mid-2012, yet the carnage continues. This February alone, 158 civilians died in the violence.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu last month in Warsaw. Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images
1. In Tel Aviv, Israel, sirens blared this evening after two rockets were fired from Gaza, activating the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The Israeli army says it was surprised by the attack. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad both denied responsibility. No injuries or damage have been reported. Israel is heading into a general election on April 9.
2. Afghanistan's national security adviser told reporters in Washington today that Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy heading peace talks with the Taliban, was “ostracizing and alienating” the Afghan government and might have political motives for doing so, per the Post’s Josh Rogin.
After the latest round of talks concluded, Khalilizad tweeted that the U.S. and the Taliban had reached agreements on the withdrawal of U.S. troops and a guarantee the Taliban wouldn’t harbor terrorism, but still needed consensus on “intra-Afghan dialogue and a comprehensive ceasefire.”
The Afghan government is wary of the talks. A senior adviser to President Ashraf Ghani told PBS Newshour this week that a rushed peace process could be “an invitation for civil war.”
3. On Yemen, the Senate voted yesterday to end U.S. assistance for the Saudi-led coalition. The House is expected to follow suit in the coming weeks, with Trump threatening a veto.
10 attackers break into the North Korean Embassy. They tie up the staff, beating and interrogating them in the process.
That’s what happened in Madrid on Feb. 22, just days before the summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, according a report from El Confidencial (Spanish). Now, El Pais reports that police have linked two of the embassy attackers to the CIA, based on surveillance footage.
The backdrop: El Pais cites “sources” who speculate the goal of the attack was to gain intelligence on North Korea’s former ambassador to Spain, Kim Hyok Chol. He's now playing a leading role in nuclear negotiations with the U.S.
My thought bubble: This is an explosive story. We haven’t confirmed any of it. To be honest, I don’t know what to make of it. But having skipped it when it first bubbled up, the latest twist seems too significant to ignore.
U.S. troops based in Germany ahead of NATO exercises in Hungary. Photo: Matej Divizna/Getty Images
Being a U.S. ally might soon get a lot more expensive. Willis Sparks of GZERO Media breaks down reports the Trump administration wants to force countries to pay the full cost of hosting American troops, plus an additional 50% for the security the soldiers provide.
By the numbers: U.S. troops are stationed in more than 100 countries around the world. There are 56,000 American soldiers in Japan, 35,000 in Germany, 28,500 in South Korea, 12,000 in Italy, and 9,000 in the U.K. Under the "cost + 50" terms, some countries would pay as much as six times the amount they currently pay.
Those in Washington who favor this plan, led by Donald Trump, are asking a few simple questions:
The argument against:
Pew asked respondents from 18 countries whether immigrants are “a burden on our country because they take our jobs and social benefits” or “make our country stronger because of their work and talents.”
Trends: Greece, Germany and Italy are more skeptical about immigration now than in 2014, while the opposite is true in Spain, the U.K. and France.
Worth noting: Immigration is more politically polarized in the U.S. than any other country polled. In Canada, meanwhile, 65% of conservatives actually view it as a strength, compared to 81% of liberals.
Yamabushi ascetic monks take part in a fire ritual at Yakuo-in temple in Takaosanguchi, Tokyo, Japan. Photo: David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
“I lived in a country where if I’d try to be myself at the time I would have ended up breaking laws. But today that has all changed. I stand here as the leader of my country, flawed and human but judged by my political actions and not my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.”— Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar today, on a visit to Vice President Pence's residence. Varadkar, who is gay, said watching U.S. leaders from afar inspired him to enter politics.
Have a lovely weekend. I'll see you on Monday.