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Blackwater USA | Daily Brief

Iran

  • Iran finally released the British tanker it seized in July, but analysts say its release is only an attempt to divert attention from the criticism being leveled against Iran at UNGA this week.
  • Iran is struggling to keep friends at UNGA. The UK, France, and Germany issued a joint statement blaming Iran for the Saudi attacks, which implies Iran will have a harder time asking (or threatening) European countries to intervene with the U.S. on its behalf.
  • The NYT reports that Pres. Trump is considering several option to retaliate against Iran for that attack—and favoring a cyberstrike.

Venezuela

  • Members of the “Rio Treaty” voted to impose the treaty to go after members of Pres. Maduro’s government who engage in corruption or human rights abuses. The U.S. pushed for the vote, and successfully advocated against language that would specifically rule out military force—so that window remains open. Uruguay was the only country to vote against the measure; Trinidad and Tobago abstained, and Cuba was absent. A WSJ article pasted below has more.
  • Maduro, meanwhile, thanked Russia for its “most important” military support, and said he was willing to talk to the U.S. if it “stops waging war.”
  • Pres. Trump is expected to discuss Venezuela in his UNGA speech today.

Afghanistan

  • Three U.S. soldiers sustained “non-life-threatening injuries” during a Taliban green-on-blue attack by an Afghan Civil Order Policeman in Kandahar.
  • A wedding party somehow got caught in crossfire between the ANSF and the Taliban in southern Helmand, leading to at least 35 civilian deaths. Apparently the bride’s house was next to a Taliban compound that trained suicide bombers, which was the target of the ANSF raid.
  • Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health estimates that 3,300 civilians have died in the last 12 months.

Climate Change

  • As expected, leaders of 60 countries pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 during the UNGA meetings.
  • France’s Pres. Macron went further, saying he didn’t want to “see new trade negotiations with countries running counter to the Paris Agreement” on climate change. That’s a pointed threat against the U.S., which is on a course to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2020, and is thus the only country “running counter” to it. (The Holy See is the only non-signatory, but only because of a technicality it’s working to fix—specifically because it wants to sign the Paris Agreement).

UK

  • PM Johnson is awkwardly evading questions about allegedly diverting tens of thousands of government pounds towards a close friend’s fledgling business while mayor of London.
  • The UK chartered flights to assist the ~600,000 people who were stranded when the Thomas Cook travel agency collapsed. The NYT says it’ll be the UK’s largest-ever peacetime repatriation operation.

Israel

  • It looks like PM Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz will actually sit down and discuss a power-sharing deal—though Gantz had initially refused overtures from Netanyahu.

Ebola

  • The WHO confirmed plans to start using a second experimental Ebola vaccine—this one from Johnson & Johnson—in mid-October, as a complement to the Merck one used now (neither are licensed, but both have been granted exceptions).

DPRK

  • Pres. Trump said his fourth summit with Kim Jong Un “could happen soon,” and there are rumors that South Korea-North Korea talks could also resume in the next two or three weeks.

Other News

  • A U.S. soldier was charged with teaching the Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitary Azov Battalion how to make bombs via social media.

‘Rio Treaty’ Nations to Cooperate on Sanctions on Venezuela’s Maduro (WSJ)

Vote followed meeting earlier Monday by members of the Lima Group, which has called on the leader to resign

Western Hemisphere nations voted Monday to employ a regional treaty to impose sanctions against embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, accusing his regime of criminal activity including drug trafficking and money laundering.

In a meeting convened by the Organization of American States, 16 of the 19 states party to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, a 1947 pact known as the Rio Treaty, backed using the pact to collaborate on law-enforcement operations and economic sanctions against Mr. Maduro and his associates.

Only Uruguay opposed the resolution, while Trinidad and Tobago abstained and Cuba was absent.

A senior State Department official earlier had expressed confidence that the resolution would secure the requisite 13 votes for passage.

Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, who chaired the session, touted the “immense majority” by which the resolution was approved, and said it marks the start of a broader effort to hold Mr. Maduro’s regime accountable.

Government officials in Caracas didn’t immediately comment on the vote.

But in recent weeks Mr. Maduro and his aides have publicly denounced the Rio Treaty, warning that the U.S. could use it to justify military intervention.

The approval of the resolution, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, follows the initial invocation last week of the Rio Treaty by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, the U.S. and 10 other countries.

The Rio Treaty was created as a means of mutual defense for Western Hemisphere countries and was last employed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that the invocation of the treaty signals an understanding that the situation in Venezuela threatens the security of the entire region and requires a collective response.

Many of the countries that are party to the treaty lack statutes by which they could impose sanctions on their own. The treaty provides those countries with a mechanism to sanction Mr. Maduro’s regime, absent passing new laws internally.

The Rio Treaty vote followed a meeting earlier Monday by members of the Lima Group, composed of Latin American countries and Canada, which has called on Mr. Maduro to resign.

Participants didn’t address potential military involvement, such as blockading Venezuelan ships or aircraft.

While some Rio Treaty signatories had called for the insertion of language explicitly ruling out military action, the U.S. resisted such a measure, with a senior State Department official on Monday calling it “superfluous.”

Signatories, whose foreign ministers met in New York, agreed to ask the OAS to continue monitoring the situation, and to reconvene within two months.

A senior European diplomat said that the EU will impose very soon targeted sanctions against members of Mr. Maduro’s regime, tied to the death in custody of naval captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo. Europe continues to consider broader sanctions if the situation further deteriorates.

While Monday’s actions didn’t involve measures such as a blockade, European governments remain concerned that the invocation of the treaty could entice some of Venezuela’s regional neighbors to consider military interventions—potentially with U.S. approval.

The senior State Department official disputed contentions that the U.S. government has lost interest in Venezuela, saying the administration this week would “demonstrate through words, through meetings and through action” its commitment to the effort.

The official predicted that President Trump would address Venezuela during his General Assembly speech on Tuesday.

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