Meridian Reads: Iran, Iraq and the DC Arts Scene

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Happy New Year, Meridian Readers. We hope you had a relaxing time over the holidays, but now it’s time to dive on into this week’s news roundup. 

Turmoil in Iraq comes amid shrunken U.S. diplomatic footprint

Publication: The Washington Post | By John Hudson

  • Here’s the deal: protesters in Baghdad stormed the U.S. Embassy, which underscored the vulnerability of U.S. diplomats in a country stuck in the middle of a mounting conflict between the United States and Iran.
    • U.S. diplomats were forced to hide in safe rooms as Marines flew in from Kuwait to protect them after supporters of an Iranian-backed militia broke through the first layer of security at the compound and damaged a reception area in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 25 fighters.
  • Since the spring, the U.S. Embassy has operated on a skeleton crew of diplomats and aid workers, citing threats from Iranian-backed militias.
    • The reduced footprint came under criticism in an inspector general report issued in November that said the smaller deployment of U.S. officials had “affected all operations of Mission Iraq” and “limited the Mission’s ability to help Iraq become a more resilient, independent, democratic country, and to support counter-ISIS efforts.”
    • “We’ve created a situation where we can’t safely keep people there,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “It really does hurt our influence and affects our ability to know what’s going on on the ground.”
  • What’s Iraq saying about this?
    • Iraqi leaders denounced the strikes as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and the rules governing the presence of the about 5,000 U.S. troops based there to help in the fight against the Islamic State.
  • A State Department representative said “there are no plans to evacuate Embassy Baghdad,” but analysts think the dire security situation is likely to result in an even smaller diplomatic footprint in Iraq, which could lead to more turmoil in the region.
    • The reduced numbers had already limited Washington’s ability to administer U.S. aid in Iraq, send out diplomats to report on the changing political situation and meet with Iraqi leaders and establish strong formal ties.

Trump says US does not seek war or regime change in Iran, but is still ready to act if ‘necessary’

Publication: CNBC | By Amanda Macias and Kevin Breuninger Image result for iran

  • President Donald Trump said Friday that America does not seek “regime change” in Iran, less than a day after the U.S. launched an airstrike that killed the country’s top general, Qasem Soleimani.
    • Soleimani, who led a special forces unit of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, has been a key figure of Iranian and Middle East politics.
  • Trump added that the U.S. is “ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary” if Iran threatens American lives.
    • “We took action last night to stop a war,” he said. “We did not take action to start a war.”
  • What does all of this mean for U.S. soldiers?
  • What does this mean for everyone else?
    • We’re not sure yet. Tensions are high, and this story is evolving everyday.

2020 D.C. arts preview

Publication: DCist | By Mark Lieberman

  • Let’s end this roundup on a lighter note, shall we?
  • If you live in the DMV (or visit often) and love a good cultural experience, we’ve go you covered. Here’s what to mark on your calendar this year:
    • The National Children’s Museum will reopen at the end of January
    • The National Building Museum reopens in March
    • Catch an exhibition at the Renwick featuring Native American artists
    • Hamilton will return to the Kennedy Center June 16-September 20
    • D.C. Shorts International Film Festival will start in September

That’s it for this week, we’ll see you next time.