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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Zimbabwe's plea, Gaza's unexpected boom, Bangladesh's terrible dilemma

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Zimbabwe's plea, Gaza's unexpected boom, Bangladesh's terrible dilemma

Zimbabwe pleads for aid: Zimbabwe's government has appealed to international creditors for urgent help as it battles a rising COVID-19 caseload while lockdowns push its ailing economy to the brink of collapse. International lenders including the IMF and World Bank have snubbed the southern African country ever since it defaulted on debt repayments some two decades ago. Even before the pandemic, Zimbabwe's economy was in terrible shape as a result of decades of corruption, economic mismanagement, and recurrent droughts. The country's inflation rate is nearing 700 percent, and more than half of its 15 million people depend on food aid to survive. The government has reportedly appealed to organizations including the African Development Bank, European Investment Bank and the IMF to "normalize ties" and find a way to clear its old arrears so it can access urgently needed funding. But with demand for financial support surging as the pandemic plunges developing countries into unprecedented economic crises, it's unclear whether these international organizations will acquiesce.


An economic boost for Gaza: The coronavirus crisis has exposed political rifts between states, but it has also provided opportunities for cooperation between unlikely partners. This is precisely what's playing out between Israel and the Gaza Strip, where Israeli PPE merchants have flooded Gazan manufacturers with orders they can't fill quick enough. The demand has been a boon to the garment industry in Gaza which has long struggled to export reliably through tight Egyptian and Israeli border controls that were imposed after Hamas took power in the enclave in 2007. Many Gaza-based manufacturers are now hiring fast to meet the increased demand and have so far produced millions of masks and tens of thousands of gowns. But as the virus will pass, so too will the demand for protective gear. Israeli rights groups have called for the permanent easing of restrictions that govern entry in and out of the Gaza enclave, home to some 2 million people, so that the economy can function more normally even after the pandemic.

Bangladesh's garment factories reopen: After an eight-week hiatus, more than 2,000 garment factories in Bangladesh have reopened, causing thousands of people to crowd public transport and flood the streets of Dhaka, the capital, much to the chagrin of health experts who say the move is premature and puts low wage workers at risk. Bangladesh's COVID-19 caseload has surged in recent weeks, and now exceeds 10,000, likely a significant undercount because of its poor testing capacity. Indeed, for Bangladesh's leaders, it's a catch-22 between economic health and public health. When factories shuttered in March, around 1 million Bangladeshi workers lost their jobs, and the country, the world's second largest apparel exporter after China, has lost over $3 billion in export revenue. In a country where poverty is already widespread (one person in five lives below the poverty line) the economic fallout from the pandemic alone could be catastrophic. But prematurely sending workers back to crowded factories could fuel a surge in cases that would overwhelm the country's feeble healthcare system and prolong the crisis even further.

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Back in 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump presented his vision for an "America First" foreign policy, which symbolized a radical departure from the US' longtime approach to international politics and diplomacy.

In electing Donald Trump, a political outsider, to the top job, American voters essentially gave him a mandate to follow through on these promises. So, has he?

Trade

"A continuing rape of our country."

On the 2016 campaign trail, candidate Trump said that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a 12 country trade deal pushed by the Obama administration — would "rape" America's economy by imperiling the manufacturing sector, closing factories, and taking more jobs overseas.

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In an op-ed titled "Iran Arms Embargo Reckoning," the Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that ending the UN arms embargo on Iran was a major flaw of the 2015 nuclear deal and questions whether Biden could do anything to contain Iran at this point. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Henry Rome take out the Red Pen to explain why this discussion misrepresents the importance of the embargo and the consequences for its expiration.

So, the US presidential election is now just days away, and today's selection is focusing on a specific aspect of foreign policy that will certainly change depending on who wins in the presidential contest—namely America's approach to Iran.

You've heard me talk before about the many similarities between Trump and Biden on some international policies, like on China or on Afghanistan. But Iran is definitely not one of those. Trump hated the JCPOA, the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, put together under the Obama administration, and he walked away from it unilaterally. Joe Biden, if he were to become president, would try to bring it back.

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It almost didn't happen — but here we are again. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden face off tonight in the final presidential debate of the 2020 US election campaign.

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Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, US President George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban government surrender Osama bin Laden and end support for al-Qaeda. The Taliban refused.

On October 7, US bombs began falling on Taliban forces. NATO allies quickly pledged support for the US, and US boots hit the ground in Afghanistan two weeks later.

Thus began a war, now the longest in US history, that has killed more than 3,500 coalition soldiers and 110,000 Afghans. It has cost the American taxpayer nearly $3 trillion. US allies have also made human and material sacrifices.

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