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Wheat harvesting in Kyiv, Ukraine.

REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

What We’re Watching: A grain of truth & a win for Biden

No pain no grain

Russia and Ukraine are hardly beating their swords into plowshares, but at least the fruits of the harvest are once again on the move from Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa. Earlier this week saw the departure of the first grain boat from there since the signing of a tenuous new export security deal between Ukraine, Turkey, the UN, and Russia. The return of Ukrainian grain to world markets is welcome news for countries that depend heavily on the country’s exports, as well as for broader food prices around the globe. But it will take months to get back to pre-war export levels, warns the Ukrainian government. The next few weeks will see only about half a dozen departures compared to the normal level of about 200 every August. A big question looms: the first boats to leave Odesa will be ones that were stuck there for months, but it’s unclear whether a large number of grain traders will be willing to take the immense financial and insurance risk of sending fresh boats to Odesa. GZERO reader Jonathan Grange, a grain trader at Sunstone Brokers in Switzerland, tells us that a fully laden grain boat is worth about $70 million — “who,” he asks, “wants to assume the risk of a Russian misfire on this value?”

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Supporters of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr storm the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq.

REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

What We're Watching: Iraqis storm parliament, US nears landmark climate deal, Senegal set to vote

Anti-Iran protesters storm Iraq’s parliament

Hundreds of Iraqi protesters breached Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Wednesday and stormed the parliament. The demonstrators – supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc won the most seats in parliamentary elections last fall – chanted anti-Iran slogans as they rummaged through paperwork and took selfies. Crucially, they rallied against the candidacy of Mohammed al-Sudani, a former minister backed by a pro-Iran alliance, to become the next PM. For almost a year, Tehran-aligned parties have prevented al-Sadr from forming a new government, prompting the cleric’s 73 lawmakers to resign en masse last month in protest, and plunging the crisis-ridden country further into political and social turmoil. As a result, the pro-Iran bloc became the biggest parliamentary faction … by default. The demonstrators have since disbursed, but temperatures are rising in a country where joblessness and popular disillusionment are sky-high. What’s more, al-Sadr has proven adept at whipping his supporters into a frenzy in recent months, suggesting that instability in Iraq is likely to get much worse.

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