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The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region.

U.S. Navy/Cover Images

In the latest example of rising tensions between Iran-backed militias and US forces in the Middle East, a US Navy destroyer on Sunday shot down several Houthi-launched drones that were attacking Israeli commercial ships in the Red Sea.

Houthi rebels, who are backed by Tehran, have taken control over much of Yemen through a brutal decade-old civil war. In October, the Houthis declared support for Hamas in the Gaza conflict, launching several missiles toward Israel — and dropping a slick music video for good measure.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi being garlanded

ANI Photo/Rahul Singh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP Party wrested control of the states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh from the opposition Congress Party and held onto power in Madhya Pradesh in closely watched local elections over the weekend. The results bode well for Modi's chances of winning a third term as PM in national polls next year.

Modi’s tactic of campaigning personally for his party largely paid off, and why wouldn’t it? He is one of the most popular leaders in the world, with approval ratings well above 70%. His victory in next year's general election (as always, the largest democratic exercise in world history) is hardly in doubt.

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State of the World with Ian Bremmer: December 2023
2023 State of the World with Ian Bremmer | GZERO Summit Japan


Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, delivered his landmark State of the World speech at the annual GZERO Summit Japan in Tokyo, hosted by Eurasia Group, the world’s leading geopolitical risk firm. In the speech, streamed live on GZERO’s website and on social media, Ian presented his vision for where the world is headed in 2024 and outlined the major themes and forces shaping the geopolitical landscape.

Watch the full speech in the video above and read his full remarks below.

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Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro shows his ballot during a referendum over Venezuela's rights to the potentially oil-rich region of Esequiba in Guyana, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Dec. 3, 2023.

REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

Venezuela held a referendum Sunday on proposed statehood for the oil-rich region of Essequibo, currently governed by neighboring Guyana, with more than 95% reportedly voting to approve the proposed takeover.

At 61,600 square miles, Essequibo comprises two-thirds of Guyana’s territory and is home to 125,000 of its 800,000 citizens. An international arbitral tribunal awarded the area to Britain in 1899 when the latter controlled British Guiana, but Venezuela has never recognized the ruling. Its contestation took on new life after ExxonMobil discovered oil in Essequibo's offshore waters in 2015, leading to a case before the International Court of Justice at the Hague that remains unresolved.

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Thick smoke rises from buildings after an Israeli air strike on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Abed Rahim Khatib, Reuters

War has resumed in Gaza following the end of the seven-day ceasefire between Hamas and the state of Israel, with each side claiming the other caused the collapse. Beyond the blame game, however, where do things go from here?

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Luisa Vieira

After weeks of devastating fighting, Qatar helped mediate a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas that opened the door for exchanges of hostages and prisoners. So how has Qatar, a nation that doesn’t have official diplomatic relations with Israel, played such an outsized role in this process?

Why Qatar: The Gulf state has repeatedly served as a mediator in conflicts across the Middle East and beyond, offering itself as a bridge of communication between historic, bitter adversaries like the US and Iran, the US and the Taliban, Ukraine and Russia, and Israel and Hamas. The tiny, gas-rich, wealthy nation has sought to boost its global profile over the past decade or so by serving in this capacity – and it’s had help from the US government along the way.

Qatar is home to the largest US military base in the Middle East – Al Udeid Air Base, which the US has been operating out of since 2001 – and its role as a mediator has “been largely a strategy pursued in coordination with Washington to deal with different regional issues,” says Ayham Kamel, head of Eurasia Group’s Middle East and North Africa research team.

But it’s also in Qatar’s DNA. Mediating conflict, says Patrick Theros, former US ambassador to Qatar, is “quite literally in Qatar’s Constitution,” and it’s seen as a key part of the country’s national security strategy.

Stability starts at home. Qatar views mediation as a vital means of maintaining regional stability and reducing its own security risks. “Qatar is, by citizen population, the smallest state in the Gulf region and, per capita, the richest in the Gulf and arguably the world. It is surrounded by predatory larger and stronger neighbors,” Theros notes.

Qatar was blockaded from 2017 to 2021 by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries that accused Doha of supporting terror groups and of being too close to Iran. This episode highlighted the risks that Qatar’s approach to foreign affairs can pose, but those risks have also paid off in big ways.

The US, which played a role in ending the blockade, clearly sees Qatar’s desire to be a peacemaker in a prickly region as advantageous to its interests. In October, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken lauded Qatar as a “close partner” to the US on a range of crucial issues.

Doha has secured the “protection of powerful outside powers” like the US by making itself “indispensable” with its mediation efforts, Theros said.

Elements of leverage: Qatar has been engaging with Israel since the 1990s, and since 2012, it has also hosted a political office for Hamas, which Doha says was opened at the request of the US. This gives Qatar a degree of influence over the militant group, and some exiled senior Hamas officials live in Qatar, which has also poured hundreds of millions of dollars of aid into Gaza.

Doha maintains “good credible relations with a lot of less than nice parties” that Washington can’t engage with directly and has hosted groups like Hamas and the Taliban “at the express request of the US,” says Theros.

Some prominent Israeli politicians are not thrilled that Qatar has been tapped as a peacemaker in the conflict given its relationship with Hamas. There has also been some pushback regarding Qatar’s ties to Hamas from pro-Israel politicians in the US. But Doha maintains that keeping the Hamas office open allows Qatar to be a channel of communication, which benefits the US and Israel, as we’ve seen this past week.

“In the Israel-Hamas conflict, Qatar has proven itself to be one of the few viable channels to pressure Hamas to conduct deals on releasing Israeli hostages,” Kamel says. “At this point, the US is leveraging Qatar's influence to release as many hostages as possible while still maintaining support for Israel's objective of eliminating the Hamas threat.”

Ian Explains: Will biotech breakthroughs lead to super humans?
Ian Explains: Will biotech breakthroughs lead to super humans?

Medical technology could lead to a new breed of super humans.

On Ian Explains, Ian Bremmer looks at the evolution of human enhancement, tracing its roots from ancient history to recent ground-breaking tools like CRISPR gene editing, AI-powered prosthetics, and brain implants. These advances hint at a future of disease eradication, independence from physical disability, and recovery from traumatic brain injury. In a few short years, they’ve radically expanded the possibilities of how technology can improve the human experience and extend our lives.

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