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It's been four days since Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, died in a hail of bullets on a highway near Tehran. Iran has plausibly blamed Israel for the killing, but more than that, not much is known credibly or in detail.
This is hardly the first time that an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated in an operation that has a whiff of Mossad about it. But Fakhrizadeh's prominence — he is widely regarded as the father of the Iranian nuclear program — as well as the timing of the killing, just six weeks from the inauguration of a new American president, make it a particularly big deal. Not least because an operation this sensitive would almost certainly have required a US sign-off.
<p><strong>So what's the aftermath?</strong></p> <p><strong>Killing Fakhrizadeh does two things immediately. </strong>In the most immediate term, it may — along with the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/05/world/middleeast/iran-Natanz-nuclear-damage.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">recent bombing</a> (also likely by Israel) of a key nuclear site — deal a temporary blow to Iran's nuclear ambitions. But it will <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/why-the-assassination-of-a-scientist-will-have-no-impact-on-irans-nuclear-program?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=tny&utm_mailing=TNY_Daily_113020&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_medium=email&bxid=5cf86cd5bf00814ef32f72fc&cndid=57474818&hasha=73b228d6f05acaa1c023507bf5d2232a&hashb=f7d85b9b7592a1e10d57f00bfb6d7febc6155ba6&hashc=05730c92b94f641e215b3b9c7bcd044052530d1561200a62e4e5201afab6c930&esrc=bounceX&utm_term=TNY_Daily" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">hardly derail</a> a program as extensive and sophisticated as what the Iranians have built over the past two decades. </p> <p>But more broadly, the killing could complicate the prospects of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, something that US president-elect Joe Biden has said he wants to do when he takes office in January. <br/></p><p><strong>As a refresher:</strong> Under that pact, Iran froze its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for the removal of some US and international sanctions. But Israel and many Iran hawks in Washington said the pact didn't do enough to permanently stop Iran's path to a bomb, and that it failed to curb Iran's other weapons programs and regional proxy wars. In 2018, Trump left the deal and reimposed sanctions. Since then Iran has ramped up its nuclear program, while the Trump administration has applied tighter sanctions still.</p> <p>Now, with tensions rising and the Iranians progressing towards a bomb again, Biden says he's willing to consider stepping back into the agreement, lifting sanctions again if Iran goes back to the uranium limits agreed in the 2015 deal. </p> <p>Doing that would require Biden to lead extremely deft negotiations not only with Tehran but also on Capitol Hill, where many American lawmakers are skeptical of any overtures towards Iran at all. </p> <p><strong>And that's where the Fakhrizadeh killing could make things even harder: </strong>if the Iranians respond forcefully to the assassination — say by striking at a target within Israel, or by attacking US forces as they did in <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-51028954" target="_blank">retaliation</a> for the US <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/who-is-general-qassim-suleimani" target="_blank">killing of Qassim Suleimani </a>in January — Biden could take office in January amid a cycle of escalation that makes it very hard to sit down and talk calmly with Tehran at all. </p> <p><strong>That puts the ball in Iran's court right now — and it's a court divided. </strong>Strong supporters of the Iran deal, like president Hassan Rouhani, will doubtless want to keep things cool until January and see what Biden brings to the table. But harder line figures who were always skeptical of the Iran deal will be itching to respond to the killing, but they also wish to see some of the more crippling oil and banking sanctions removed. </p> <p>How, then, to balance the revolutionary impulse to save face with the pragmatic need to get economic relief? In part it depends on how realistic Tehran thinks a return to the Iran deal is. </p> <p>Either way, we would love to be inside the Iranian Leadership's "Assassination Response" WhatsApp group right now. <em>Supreme Leader Khamenei is typing...</em></p><em></em>
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November 26, 2020
Joe Biden has had one of the longest political careers in American history, but his most important act is yet to come. Can decades of experience in Washington prepare him to lead the most divided America since the end of the Civil War?
Watch the GZERO World episode: What you still may not know about Joe
What We're Watching: Ethiopia's ongoing ethnic tensions, Australia-China spat deepens, Bolsonaro rejected
November 30, 2020
Ethiopia on the brink: After ethnic tensions between Ethiopia's federal government and separatist forces in the northern Tigray region erupted into a full-blown armed conflict in recent weeks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his forces had taken control of Tigray's capital on Saturday and declared victory. But the fugitive Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael quickly called Abiy's bluff, saying the fighting is raging on, and demanded Abiy withdraw his forces. Gebremichael accused Abiy of launching "a genocidal campaign" that has displaced 1 million people, with thousands fleeing to neighboring Sudan, creating a humanitarian catastrophe. The Tigray, who make up about five percent of Ethiopia's population, are fighting for self-determination, but Abiy's government has repeatedly rejected invitations to discuss the issue, accusing the coalition led by Gebremichael's Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of "instigating clashes along ethnic and religious lines." As the two sides dig in their heels, Ethiopia faces the risk of a civil war that could threaten the stability of the entire Horn of Africa.
<p><strong>A blow for Bolsonaro:</strong> Brazil's brash president Jair Bolsonaro saw his candidates take a thrashing in municipal elections over the weekend. Of<a href="https://apnews.com/article/brazil-rio-de-janeiro-municipal-elections-elections-sao-paulo-b0b318cc7745306b9fe8ec5550054da7?utm_source=dailybrief&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyBrief2020Nov30&utm_term=DailyNewsBrief" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> 78 candidates</a> who pegged their election hopes to Bolsonaro's brand, only the president's son Carlos won his race. The biggest embarrassment for Bolsonaro came in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, where incumbent mayor Marcelo Crivella, an evangelical pastor who tied his reelection bid directly to Bolsonaro's policy agenda, lost by nearly 30 percentage points. But this weekend's results do not mark a shift to the left. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/with-da-silva-free-brazils-workers-party-seeks-strategy-2019-11" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Workers' Party</a> failed to win a single mayoral race across 26 states. In Brazil's biggest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, voters <a href="https://www.firstpost.com/world/brazils-municipal-elections-see-centre-right-candidates-make-gains-in-blow-to-jair-bolsonaro-9067171.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">elected</a> seasoned center-right mayors who have sparred with Bolsonaro in recent months over his handling of the pandemic, suggesting that voters there have rejected both COVID denialism and political outsiders. Is this a sign of things to come when Brazilians elect a new president in 2022?</p><strong>China-Australia row intensifies:</strong> Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated for months over a <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/australia-trade-china-commodities-timeli/timeline-tension-between-china-and-australia-over-commodities-trade-idUSKBN2710L8" target="_blank" title="https://www.reuters.com/article/australia-trade-china-commodities-timeli/timeline-tension-between-china-and-australia-over-commodities-trade-idUSKBN2710L8">series</a> of diplomatic dustups, but things seem to have reached a new low in recent days after an official Chinese government twitter account<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-30/chinese-government-refuses-apology-image-australian-soldier/12936154" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> posted a doctored image </a>of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child's throat. The image, fabricated by Beijing, was clearly meant to irk Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a particularly sensitive time: a years-long report commissioned by the Australian government recently found that elite <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/world/australia/afghanistan-war-crimes.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghans</a> from 2005 to 2016, which the report stated was "possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia's military history." Morrison has said that the provocative posting "diminishes [the Chinese government] in the world's eyes." Tensions between Canberra and Beijing peaked in May when the Australian government called for a global investigation into China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting Beijing to slap fresh tariffs on Australian goods. The Australian government had also called out Beijing in recent years for interfering in its internal government affairs. Prime Minister Morrison says that he's eager to try to <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55126569" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">"reset"</a> the relationship with China, Canberra's largest trading partner, but that Beijing continues to rebuff his overtures.
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Hard Numbers: Nigerian farmers massacred, Belarusian protesters arrested, Moderna's hope, New Zealanders charged in volcano tragedy
November 30, 2020
110: At least 110 people were killed in Nigeria's conflict-ridden Borno state on Saturday, when armed men attacked agricultural workers as they tended their fields. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the brutal attack, but analysts say the assault was likely the work of Boko Haram or Islamic State-linked groups that have gained a foothold in the Sahel region in recent years.
<p><strong>300:</strong> Police detained more than <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belarus-election-arrests/belarus-police-detained-313-people-at-mass-protests-on-sunday-ministry-idUSKBN28A0Z2" target="_blank">300 anti-government protesters</a> in Minsk, Belarus' capital, on Sunday, as part of a city-wide rally dubbed the "march of the neighbors." The demonstrators, who have been demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko since he won a sixth term in rigged elections back in August, have been <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/11/29/belarus-police-detain-hundreds-at-march-of-neighbours-protests" target="_blank">changing tactics </a>in recent weeks because of the heavy police crackdown. They're now gathering in smaller groups across the capital to avoid authorities.<br/></p><p><strong>30,000: </strong>After completing the final stage of its late-stage coronavirus drug trial, which involved giving either a COVID-19 vaccine or a placebo drug to<a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/30/moderna-coronavirus-vaccine-emergency-use-authorization-441339" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> 30,000</a> volunteers, Moderna pharmaceutical company has filed for an emergency authorization with the US Food and Drug administration. Moderna says the drug yielded promising results for different ages, races, ethnicities, and genders. If approved, the company could start distributing the drug in the US in a few weeks. </p><p><strong>13: </strong>A year after a deadly <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTn5MAZOtuA" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">volcanic eruption</a> on New Zealand's White Island killed scores of people, authorities in New Zealand have charged<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/30/asia/white-island-volcano-charges-intl-hnk/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> 13 parties</a> (organizations and individuals) for failing to safeguard the health and safety of the island's visitors and workers. Findings suggest that relevant government agencies failed to act despite warning signs of an imminent eruption that could prove fatal.</p>
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