About That Trump-Rouhani Meeting...

Well, we still don't know who exactly launched the spectacular aerial attack on Saudi Arabia's main oil processing facility over the weekend, which knocked 5% of the world's oil offline and sent crude prices into their biggest one day jump in decades.


Houthi rebels fighting Saudi-backed government forces next door in Yemen continue to take credit for the attack, along with a string of earlier strikes deep into Saudi territory in recent months. But the precision and sophistication of this weekend's strike makes it likely that Iran, which backs the Houthis and despises Saudi Arabia, was involved. The US has blamed Tehran directly – and reportedly believes the attacks were launched from Iranian territory.

Meanwhile, oil prices are still up as traders wonder how long it'll take Saudi Arabia to get things back online, and whether we might see an escalation that imperils even more of the world's oil supply. Oil markets were already on edge over Iran's alleged attacks on oil tankers earlier this summer. And the fact that the Saudis, with the world's third largest military budget, weren't able to protect their vital energy infrastructure doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Big choices loom for all involved.

President Trump is famously averse to military action abroad, and he knows that escalating with Iran would push oil prices higher, dealing a blow to the US economy right as he revs up his re-election campaign. But after declaring the US "locked and loaded," doing nothing could send a signal that the Iranians, or their proxies in Yemen and elsewhere, are free to continue raising the military temperature around the world's most sensitive oil chokepoints without pushback from the US.

The Saudis have hinted they will respond, but so far they're letting Washington do most of the talking about who was responsible. If the Saudis do pull the trigger themselves, they'd have to decide whether to hit Iranian territory directly, risking a major regional war, or to hit Iranian proxies in Yemen, a far lower-stakes move (for everyone except the Yemenis.)

The Iranians are doubtless pleased that the attack sent shockwaves through global energy markets, foreshadowing what would be at stake if the US or Saudi were to launch a broader regional war against Iran. They also will be delighted to have learned the limitations of Saudi Arabia's US-built air defenses. But Tehran's strategy here is still a gamble: ratcheting up tensions in the Gulf is meant to either scare the US into reentering the nuclear deal that it abandoned in 2017, or else convince the Europeans to provide real help to Iran's moribund economy. So far, neither of those things has happened.

A Big Apple Wildcard: For weeks there have been rumors that President Trump and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani could meet on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York, in what would be the first encounter of US and Iranian leaders since before 1979. Tehran says no meeting can happen while US sanctions on Iranian oil are still in effect. And the Trump administration is all over the place on whether there would be "preconditions "for a meeting or not. But if the Iranians can spin an encounter as a concession following this stunning hit on Saudi Arabia, and if Trump can frame it as a decent photo-op exploration of a huge "deal," it just might happen.

Yes, that horrific screeching and wailing sound you hear right now is John Bolton tearing out his own mustache just thinking about it.

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

Donald Trump can still win re-election in November, but foreign governments read the same polls we do. They know that Joe Biden heads into the homestretch with a sizeable polling lead — both nationally and in the states most likely to decide the outcome. Naturally, they're thinking ahead to what a Biden foreign policy might look like.

They're probably glad that Biden gives them a half-century track record to study. (He was first elected to local office in 1970 and to the US Senate in 1972.) The six years he spent as ranking member, then chairman, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his term as co-chairman of the Senate's NATO Observer Group, and his eight years as Barack Obama's vice president tell them that he's essentially a "liberal internationalist," a person who believes that America must lead a global advance of democracy and freedom — and that close cooperation with allies is essential for success.

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Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Vladimir Putin gather via Zoom for a meeting of the Pandemic Presidents. But who's the top Corona King of them all? #PUPPETREGIME

On the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, explains why, in her view, Cold War analogies fall short as tensions between the US and China rise. Unlike the former Soviet Union, China is an economic powerhouse and a trade partner and technology provider to nations around the world. Simply cutting off ties with China seems untenable, but, as she asks, "How can you safely continue that integration, continue that interaction, with a country whose ideology you absolutely don't share, and that you fundamentally don't trust." The full episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television on Friday, July 31, 2020. Check local listings.

Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, discusses technology industry news today:


What happened at the antitrust hearings this week?

Well, CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook testified in front of the Subcommittee in Antitrust of the House Judiciary Committee for five hours. There's a fair amount of nonsense and conspiracy talk, but mostly it was a pretty good hearing where the House members dug into questions about whether four companies abused their market positions to their advantage? Whether they used predatory pricing to drive competitors out of the market? Whether they used inside information from their services to identify and then copy and kill competitors? And the evidence that was presented, if I were to sum it up quickly, is, yes, they did do that. They did abuse their market power. But what wasn't presented was clear evidence of consumer harm. We know they acted in ways that distorted capitalism, but were people really hurt? That's a big question. I look forward to their report.