January 06, 2020

Even Tehran Probably Doesn’t Want a War
(Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.WWIII and IranWar hashtags trending on Twitter. Donald Trump committing more soldiers to the Middle East despite his pledges to bring more troops home. Are we about to step into a war?The U.S. killing outside Baghdad’s airport of Qassem Soleimani, a general who ran Iran’s proxy operations across the Middle East, is reverberating through the region. Iraq’s parliament has voted to pursue the removal of foreign troops — raising the question of whether Soleimani in death will achieve his goal of getting U.S. soldiers out of Iraq.The sudden decision to kill Soleimani, whom the U.S. had been tracking for years, could also impact the fight to mop up what remains of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. And most immediately, it risks reprisals.Tehran, economically weakened by sanctions, has for years run a carefully calibrated campaign of attacks via proxies in the Middle East: enough to remind everyone it’s there, but not enough to provoke a full-scale retaliation.Its leaders knew where the line is. The question is whether Soleimani’s death takes them over it.One argument for restraint from Tehran is that Trump is already facing a backlash at home and, at best, lukewarm support abroad for the killing.There’s little appetite anywhere to push this into a full-scale conflict. That could change quickly if Iran were to attack U.S. assets — and Tehran knows it. Trump, who has adopted an unpredictable foreign policy, has threatened to hit Iran “very fast and very hard.” It’s just possible he means it.Global HeadlinesTrump and 2020 | Trump’s acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate is a sure bet this year, but his re-election isn’t. No president has ever run in a general election after being impeached, so there’s no precedent for how at least 150 million U.S. voters will respond. And as Gregory Korte reports, the uncertainty has only increased after Trump ordered the air strike that killed Iran’s top general. Backing Biden | Front-running presidential candidate Joe Biden secured the backing of three U.S. House Democrats with military backgrounds, all elected since Trump took office. The endorsements may boost the former vice president’s efforts to stress his security credentials as he pledges to bolster support for his party in swing districts.French defiance | French unions are preparing for two more days of street protests — with some planning further radical action — as strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension-reform plans enter a second month. The unrest is the biggest challenge to Macron’s efforts to overhaul France’s economy and has run longer than the 1995 stoppages that forced the government to back down from changes to retirement and health care.President rejected | Croatian voters shot down President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic’s bid for a second term, electing former Premier Zoran Milanovic in a runoff ballot. Milanovic, who led the nation into the European Union in 2013, prevailed over a nationalist campaign from Kitarovic, whose popularity fell due to her links to the scandal-plagued mayor of Zagreb.Australia’s nightmare | Summers Down Under weren’t meant to be like this — thousands evacuated to makeshift camps as their homes burn, major cities shrouded in toxic smoke and at least two dozen people dead. While exhausted firefighters welcomed cooler weather and patchy rain today, authorities are warning that a return to dangerous conditions this week will rekindle dozens of out-of-control blazes.What to WatchThe struggle for power in Venezuela is spiraling deeper into chaos after Juan Guaido was ousted as the president of the National Assembly by lawmakers who broke ties with main opposition parties, and supporters of President Nicolas Maduro. Condemning the move as a parliamentary coup, Guaido vowed to return to the chamber tomorrow to continue his efforts to remove Maduro. Masked assailants stormed India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi yesterday in a violent attack on students and academics that risks escalating protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over its new religion-based citizenship law. The Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered a probe into the violence. China has replaced its top official in Hong Kong, appointing a trusted party stalwart who has promised to bring stability after nearly seven months of violent protests in a move that could herald the beginning of a more hard-line policy.Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally ... Japan vowed to strengthen its border checks and examine bail practices to prevent lapses like the one that allowed fallen auto titan Carlos Ghosn to flee the country without being detected. It’s the first time a government official has addressed the media since reports emerged last week that the former chief of Nissan Motor and Renault SA had secretly made his way to Lebanon despite round-the-clock surveillance. \--With assistance from Jason Scott and Iain Marlow.To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at rmathieson3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Michael WinfreyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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