The US vs the Fantastic Five

The US vs the Fantastic Five

And then there were five — well, P4 +1 if you’re really counting. Last week’s decision by the US to exit the Iran deal has set off a flurry of diplomacy among the deal’s remaining signatories, four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P4) and Germany (+1), to try and salvage the agreement.


Yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif (pictured above) arrived in Brussels, after earlier trips to Beijing and Moscow, to talk to his counterparts about the tough road ahead.

Here’s Gabe with details on how the key players view things:

Europe: The billion-euro question is whether Europe’s leaders can keep the continent’s firms invested in Iran while the threat of US sanctions looms, as Alex Kliment pointed out yesterday. Big multinationals like Siemens and Airbus risk losing billions. But thousands of smaller European firms, less reliant on the US, now trade with Iran as well — some 10,000 in Germany alone. Can Europe keep enough cash flowing to convince Tehran that it hasn’t broken its side of the bargain? The clock is ticking

China: For Iran, China represents an economic and security lifeline. China is Iran’s top trade partner and a large consumer of Iranian crude oil. Iran is a crucial link in China’s expansive One Belt, One Road initiative. And the threat of US sanctions bites less for Chinese firms, which have fewer tie-ups in the West — so Chinese investment in Iran will continue. The biggest worry for Beijing is escalation that leads to conflict in a region to which it has increasingly tied its economic fortunes.

Russia: The threat of US sanctions is nothing new for Moscow. And Russia’s involvement in Iran is more oriented toward security issues — in Syria and across the region — than economics. Yes, scrapping the deal has boosted oil prices, a temporary boon for the Russian economy. But long term, Russia is far more interested in preventing increased proxy conflict throughout the region that could blowback directly on its troops stationed in Syria.

What’s at stake? If Iran’s chief diplomat returns home with nothing to show, domestic hardliners — who never cared for the deal in the first place — could seize the opportunity to challenge more moderate figures, only furthering the distance between Tehran and the West.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

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Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

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5,600: Myanmar's military junta will release from prison 5,600 people who were jailed for protesting against last February's coup. The gesture, the biggest act of amnesty since the junta took power, comes just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which rarely interferes in members' internal affairs, said it would exclude the head of Myanmar's military from an upcoming regional meeting.

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Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

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