1. Confrontation with Iran Surrounding Nuclear Safeguards
The United States alongside international nuclear inspectors have accused Iran of hiding suspected nuclear activity by blocking inspections and “sanitizing” nuclear sites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has passed a resolution which calls upon Iran to allow international inspectors into two nuclear facilities. This follows a United Nation’s international nuclear watchdog report wherein the U.N. states it has “serious concerns” regarding Iran’s lack of compliance of contractual safeguard obligations. Additionally, the IAEA has stated that Iran needs to clearly address questions regarding “possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear related activities.”
The United States garnered ally support from France, Germany and the United Kingdom for the first time since President Trump removed the U.S. from the Iranian Nuclear Deal in 2018. Russia voted against the resolution alongside China which also submitted a five-page letter to the IAEA in support of Iran, stating that the new resolution could destroy “the entire global non-proliferation regime.” China said the U.S. is using the resolution to bully Iran and suggests that China’s strained relationship with Western countries is contributing to the increasingly tense relationships with Iran.
Iran has rejected the resolution, saying it will fully partake in the inspections and safeguard obligations outlined by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly referred to as the Iran Nuclear Deal. In a tweet, Iran’s Foreiegn Affairs Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif stated, “We have nothing to hide.”
“This is the first time in history in which an IAEA Member State has denied access it is obligated to provide under its Additional Protocol agreement with the Agency,” IAEA Ambassador Jackie Wolcott said in statement Friday. “Nothing less than full implementation of Iran’s safeguards obligations is acceptable,” Wolcott added.
“Iran has so far shown no intention of curtailing the ongoing expansion of its nuclear program and for months has refused to provide the answers and access required for the IAEA to conduct its critical verification work,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday. Pompeo also reiterated that Iran is legally obligated to grant access to the IAEA and address the questions regarding their nuclear program. He added, “If Iran fails to cooperate, the international community must be prepared to take further action.”
The Pax Americana Institution predicts that Iran will continue to stonewall and deceive nuclear inspectors alongside the U.S. and its allies. President Trump, faced with mounting tensions surrounding domestic issues and his re-election campaign will likely postpone any real action on this issue until after November.
2. China and India Engage in Medieval Battle
After a 45 year standoff between India and China over border disputes, battle ensued in the Galwan Valley. The two countries have long disputed territorial claims which they fought over in both 1962 and 1967. Interestingly, both countries came to an agreement to ban the use of modern warfighting technology, including guns, when patrolling to prevent a full-out war from erupting.
The People’s Liberation Army of China reportedly dammed up streams that flow through the mountainous region. When Indian troops approached territory they believed to have been abandoned, the Chinese released the dams, violently sweeping Indian soldiers down the mountain side. Chinese soldiers then descended the mountain and engaged Indian troops with sticks encrusted with nails. India reported 20 casualties following the event, in addition to dozens more injured and several soldiers taken captive. The Chinese have not released casualty figures, but some reports estimate up to 45 dead.
The battle comes after consistent growth of the Chinese presence in the region. This includes more forces, a steady build-up of infrastructure, and an increase in patrols near the de facto border.
Experts who discuss Beijing’s timing of the event note a lack of clear motive. It is not known why China, which is already battling many issues on various fronts, would escalate tensions with its neighbor. Some believe it is a result of domestic pressure that President Xi is experiencing due to his handling of recent issues. Taylor Fravel, director of the security studies programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argues, “I feel it’s generally a response to the pressure Xi feels he is under.” He adds, “Because of Covid and the criticism China faced internationally, the economic crisis at home, and the concomitant deterioration of China-US relations, [Beijing] has taken a tough stance on a number of sovereignty issues as a way of signalling that China will not be cowed.”
President Trump described the situation as a “now raging border dispute” in a tweet, while also offering to help mediate a resolution between India and China.
Although China’s motives remain unclear, the world may see a ramp up in Chinese activity as the nation deals with several global trade wars, continued blowback from their handling of the Coronavirus outbreak, and other domestic issues including the revolt in Hong Kong.
Agrawal, Ravi. “Why India and China Are Sparring.” Foreign Policy, 28 May 2020, www.foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/28/why-india-china-sparring-border-clashes-conflict/.
Graham-Harrison, Emma. “Xi Plays Tough, but Can China Afford to Make an Enemy of India?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 June 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/21/xi-plays-tough-but-can-china-afford-to-make-an-enemy-of-india.
McFall, Caitlin. “International Nuclear Watchdog Puts Pressure on Iran to Cooperate, ‘Immediately Comply’ with Safeguards.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 19 June 2020, www.foxnews.com/world/international-nuclear-watchdog-iran-pressure-cooperate-comply-safeguards.
Sanger, David E., and Lara Jakes. “Iran Is Accused of Hiding Suspected Nuclear Activity.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 June 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/06/19/us/politics/iran-nuclear-iaea.html.