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AMERICA’S CRUDE DREAMS ON IRAN

AMERICA’S CRUDE DREAMS ON IRAN

Yesterday, the US officially reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s energy and shipping sectors as a part of Trump’s “maximal pressure” campaign against the regime in Tehran. The White House granted temporary waivers to eight friendly countries that import large amounts of Iranian crude oil.


Iran’s embattled President Rouhani responded by declaring that his country is in a “war situation.” To underscore the point, he ordered the military to conduct preparatory drills – (though we are at a loss to understand how you can shoot down a sanction.)

Here’s Gabe with some key questions as tensions between Washington and Tehran ratchet up:

Iran over a barrel? Crude oil accounts for about 70 percent of all Iranian exports and half of all government revenue. Over the past six months, Iranian oil exports have already dropped by more than a third, as countries slashed purchases rather than risk the ire of the Trump administration. The temporary waivers that the US granted give Tehran some breathing room for now, but there is no denying that an already-rattled Iranian economy is facing much more severe pain now.

Whom does this help inside Iran? President Trump’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal, coupled with these crippling economic measures, have emboldened hardliners within the Islamic Republic who were always skeptical of any deal with the US, while weakening the reform-oriented elites like President Rouhani, who argued – against huge internal resistance – that the deal would bolster Iran’s economy. One important question is whether reduced revenues will hurt the sweeping economic interests of the elite Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, or perversely give them even more power because they can control the black markets that people turn to in heavily sanctioned economies. But what is virtually certain is that for the moment, the sanctions give hardliners the upper hand politically.

What’s the US endgame? The Trump administration has a hefty list of demands for Iran: stop testing ballistic missiles, forswear any nuclear testing forever, stop (the very successful policy of) supporting Shiite militias and rebel groups across the Middle East.

As Trump and his advisers tell it, this is what they seek in any revised nuclear deal. But its hard to see a regime like Iran’s, which has thrived on defying the West for almost forty years, giving ground on these issues under threats from Trump. That’s all the more true since the sanctions are empowering precisely the hardliners who are least inclined to sit down with Uncle Sam. And it surely doesn’t help that there is a deep suspicion within Tehran that what Trump and his hawkish advisers are really after is the collapse of the Islamic Republic altogether.

 

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As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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