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What We’re Watching: Iranian inauguration, Taliban go urban, Belarusian activist dead, China’s hog hotels

Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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Europe’s last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

Frequently called Europe's last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Lukashenko has sailed smoothly to victory in all six elections he's stood in, despite widespread corruption and fraud in each one. But in 2020 the biggest threat so far to Lukashenko's tight grip on government came in an unlikely package—a former schoolteacher and stay at home mom, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. After the election result was finalized, Lukashenko claimed victory, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets, and Tsikhanouskaya leads the opposition in exile. Lukashenko recently took his boldest move yet, diverting a plane en route from Greece to Lithuania to arrest another Belarusian dissident. Ian Bremmer discusses whether a democratic transition is remotely possible in Belarus on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

Is there actually a bromance between Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko?

Do Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko actually have a good relationship, as photos of them together on Putin's yacht would suggest? Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya commented, "You know, the strangest thing, maybe the most obvious thing, is that the whole world understands that these two people are not friends. They are making this picture to try to persuade the Russians and the world that they are together." The reality, in her opinion, is that Moscow may be looking for suitable candidates to replace Lukashenko in a new election, because the crisis in Belarus is very inconvenient for the Kremlin. Tsikhanouskaya would prefer that Russia not interfere with Belarusian politics, she said in a conversation with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

This Belarusian great-grandmother is one of Lukashenko’s fiercest critics

Belarusian president Lukashenko dismissed his female opponent's campaign because, he said, society was "not mature enough to vote for a woman." The weight of the presidency, he added, "would cause her to collapse, poor thing." In fact, women have emerged as the protest movement's greatest force, taking over the streets wearing white and carrying flowers and colorful umbrellas. One 73-year-old great grandmother has become a symbol of the protest movement: Nina Baginskaya, who has fearlessly stood up to police during Lukashenko's brutal crackdown.

Watch the episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

Will sanctions work against Lukashenko?

Are the European Union's sanctions against Belarus effective? The initial European response to the fraudulent election in Belarus was swift, but didn't go far enough, said opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, emboldening President Alexander Lukashenko to think he could continue to act with impunity and even hijack a Ryanair plane. The EU has stated that while it wants to impose sanctions that will punish the Belarusian president and the government, they don't want to hurt the Belarusian people - but Tsikhanouskaya affirmed that sanctions are the leverage that people on the ground are asking for. "People don't feel safe, and they want to end the regime as soon as possible," she told Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

Is there a path to democracy for Europe's last dictatorship, Belarus? Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya discusses her hopes and fears for the country with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. President Alexander Lukashenko has maintained a tight grip on power in Belarus for the last 26 years and rigged the results of his last election which led to widespread protest and unrest in his country, though few consequences globally. But will he now be held accountable after diverting a flight between two European capitals to arrest a dissident journalist? And just how close are he and Vladimir Putin?

Authoritarian Airlines

Co-captains Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin have an important pre-flight safety announcement.

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What the EU will — and won’t — do about Belarus

The European Union on Monday agreed to sanction Belarus for having used a fighter jet and a bomb threat to ground a Vilnius-bound EU commercial airplane in order to arrest a dissident journalist. Along with the usual strongly-worded statements and in an unusually swift move, the bloc banned its sole airline from EU airspace and airports, and asked EU airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

Brussels also expanded current economic and travel sanctions against the regime led by strongman President Alexander Lukashenko. But tougher measures than that? Unlikely.

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