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COVID vaccine mandates are coming; political instability in Tunisia

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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The only Arab Spring success story on the brink

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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What We're Watching: Biden-Putin summit, North Korea's food crisis, Tunisian constitutional reform

No fireworks in Geneva: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden sat together for four hours on Wednesday, and as we anticipated in Signal, both leaders agreed to continue to cooperate where they can and to continue to pursue their national interests, as they see them. They're now expected to work together on nuclear disarmament. That's good, since these two countries still account for most of the world's atomic weapons. They're also open to exchanging prisoners, a welcome development. But more importantly, Biden and Putin set down their red lines: for the US it's the critical infrastructure that should be off-limits from hackers, and for Russia it's further expansion of NATO. US sanctions will remain in place. If the summit was a "success," it's only because expectations were low. Curb your enthusiasm indeed. For now, we'll be watching to see whether US-Russia ties enter a period, however brief, of the stable and predictable relations Biden says he wants, or if some new controversy triggers a new war of words.

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Has the Middle East’s “Arab Moment” passed?

President Biden's approach to the Middle East will have to adapt to the once-in-a-generation power grab occurring between Iran, Israel, and Turkey while Arab nations in the region increasingly lose influence. That's according to Johns Hopkins University Middle East scholar Vali Nasr. "The Arabs are not really deciding the geostrategy of the region. They're not the strongest players right now. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the events of the Arab Spring, the bigger players like Iraq, Syria, Egypt lost their footing—they've collapsed." Nasr spoke with Ian Bremmer on an episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Is the US Misjudging the Middle East's Power Shifts? Vali Nasr's View

Syria before and after

This week, we mark the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of Syria's catastrophic civil war.

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What We're Watching: Tahrir Square 10 years on, Italy's PM resigns, AMLO contracts COVID, India-China border row

Tahrir Square — a decade on: This week marks a decade since mass protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square sparked a revolution that toppled Egypt's longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak as part of the Arab Spring. But ten years on, Egypt's brief experiment with democracy has long since been undermined by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi, a former General who in 2013 capitalized on fresh street protests to oust the country's first democratically-elected president, has quashed dissent and crushed political opposition. Egypt is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist, and has one of the lowest internet freedom rankings. As if to make the point that Tahrir Square — long the site of anti-government protests — is now his, el-Sisi recently oversaw a $6 million renovation that dressed up the place with the trappings of a European-style monumental plaza, covering over most of the open spaces where hundreds of thousands once camped out and defied the regime. Ten years after the Arab Spring bloomed in Cairo, Egypt may actually be less free than it was on January 24, 2011.

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Arab Winter

At the age of 10, Mohamed Bouazizi became the primary breadwinner for his family, and at age 26 he was earning his money by selling fruit and vegetables off a cart in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid.

On December 17, 2010, local police confiscated his produce for the umpteenth time, but this time they also beat and humiliated him. Bouazizi walked to the town hall to try to get his vegetables back, but no one there would talk to him. He then walked outside, doused himself in gasoline, and lit himself on fire.

Satellite television and social media began beaming his story across the Middle East. By the time he died on January 4, 2011, protesters who understood the hopelessness and desperation that drove Bouazizi to suicide had filled Tunisian streets demanding change. Ten days later, strongman President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in power for 23 years, was forced to resign. The protests spread to Egypt and then across the region.

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What We're Watching: Malawian do-over, Serbian power, Tunisian protests

Malawi's election do-over: Five months after Malawi's constitutional court ruled that widespread irregularities compromised the incumbent President Peter Mutharika's re-election, Malawians participated in a historic rerun on Tuesday. Some 6.6 million people were registered to vote in the much-anticipated contest that will determine whether the 80-year old Mutharika, who has been involved in a string of corruption cases since he took up the post in 2014, can head off his main rival, opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera. Disputes over the first election gave rise to months of unrest as well as clashes between Chakwera's supporters and police.

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