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Eyewitness footage shows explosion at military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran.

Reuters

What We're Watching: Iran weapons depot targeted, fierce battles in eastern Ukraine, Czechs back pro-EU president, McCarthy-Biden debt limit meeting

What we know about the Isfahan attack

In what’s broadly believed to have been an Israeli attack, three drones hit an Iranian ammunition factory in the central city of Isfahan, Iran, on Saturday night. Iranian state media said damage to the site was “minor,” but phone footage suggests that the compound – used to produce advanced weapons and home to its Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center – took a serious blow. An oil refinery in the country's northwest also broke out in flames on Saturday, though the cause remains unknown. Then, on Sunday night, a weapons convoy traveling from Syria to Iraq was also targeted by airstrikes. US reports attributed the Isfahan attack to Israel – which has in the past targeted nuclear sites in Natanz and hit Iranian convoys transporting weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Indeed, this comes after Russia purchased hundreds of Iranian-made “suicide drones,” which it has used to pummel Ukrainian cities. While the deepening military alliance between Iran and Russia is a growing concern for Washington, it’s unclear if Uncle Sam played a role in the Isfahan hit – or whether Israel, which has to date refused to deliver heavy arms to Kyiv, agreed to carry out this attack in part to frustrate Iranian drone deliveries to the Russians. The escalation comes just days after CIA Director William Burns flew to Israel for meetings with his Israeli counterparts – and as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to Israel and the West Bank this week. Crucially, it highlights the increasing overlap between Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the longtime shadow war between Iran and Israel.

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A protester holds a portrait of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont during a protest in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

What We're Watching: Catalan separatist off the hook, Biden's special counsel, Oz-PNG deal, Czech election, nukes for South Korea?

Spanish justice gives up on Catalan fugitive

After trying for more than five years to bring fugitive ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to trial for sedition, on Thursday a Spanish judge threw in the towel and dropped the charge. Why? The left-wing government of PM Pedro Sánchez has watered down the crime of sedition so much that it no longer covers what Puigdemont did in Oct. 2017: declare Catalonia an independent republic before skipping town when he was about to get arrested. And why did Sánchez tweak the law? Because he needs the votes of Catalan separatist parties in the national parliament to stay in power (which also explains why he pardoned the other politicians who tried to secede along with Puigdemont.) The judge's decision has big political implications in an election year. On the one hand, it's vindication for the Catalan independence movement, which has been losing steam since its failed secession bid. But on the other, it's a poison pill for Sánchez, whom the the Spanish right has long accused of pandering to Catalan separatists. The PM will get a sense of what Spanish voters think of his Catalonia policy in local and regional elections in late May, a dress rehearsal for a general vote in December.

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Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and his Slovak counterpart Vladimir Meciar greeted by a crowd in 1993.

Reuters

The Velvet Divorce at 30: How Czechoslovakia did what others couldn’t

Exactly 30 years ago this Sunday, as Yugoslavia was slouching towards Europe’s ugliest bloodletting since World War II, another Slavic hodgepodge state a few hundred miles to the north did something nearly unprecedented in modern history: It broke up … peacefully.

As best anyone can tell, Czechoslovakia is the only country to have dissolved itself without bloodshed since Norway split from Sweden in 1905.

In fact, the greatest act of violence that attended the Czechoslovak breakup may have been on the ice: The Czech hockey team thrashed Slovakia 7 to 1 in their first meeting as independent countries a year later.

So how did Czechoslovakia’s uniquely peaceful split happen, and why?

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Indian farmers harvest wheat crop in Rajasthan.

Himanshu Sharma/ABACAPRESS.COM

Hard Numbers: Indian wheat, Czech worker shortage, Pyongyang airport missile launch, TSA no-mask fines

10 million: India plans to export 10 million metric tons of wheat this year to make up for the shortfall caused by the war between top producers Russia and Ukraine. Wheat prices have hit record highs in recent days amid wider fears of a looming global food price crisis.

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Russians to Retaliate Against NATO – More Dangerous Than First Cold War | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Eastern European leaders visit Kyiv in unprecedented show of support

With three European leaders visiting Kyiv on Tuesday, that's today, does this signify a stronger EU-Ukrainian alliance? Are Western sanctions against Russia working? With cases surging, got to talk about COVID, is China's zero-COVID policy a complete failure? Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

First, with three European leaders visiting Kyiv on Tuesday, that's today, does this signify a stronger EU-Ukrainian alliance?

Oh, you bet it does. And particularly from the Eastern European countries who, frankly, see this as an incredibly important issue and are trying to get the West Europeans and the United States to do even more than they already have in terms of sanctions against Russia. It's unprecedented for the prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic to be heading to Kyiv to support Zelensky while it's being bombed. Certainly it shows that Putin and the success of his military campaign is not bringing any of the fruit for Russian security measures in Europe that Putin had clearly hoped for. Where this all goes in terms of a climbdown, we are not close to that. I'm still very unconvinced that negotiations are going to bear fruit, irrespective of that. But extraordinary statement from the East Europeans today.

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Russian airborne troops soldiers at Chkalovsky Airfield waiting to depart to join the Collective Security Treaty Organisation's peacekeeping force in Kazakhstan.

Russian Defence Ministry/TASS

What We’re Watching: Russians in another Stan, Djokovic drama, Mali sanctions, Europe vs anti-vaxxers

Russia in Kazakhstan. Anti-government clashes in Kazakhstan have gotten increasingly violent, with the death toll now reaching 164 after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued a controversial “shoot without warning” order on Friday. What started as a demonstration against a fuel price hike has since turned into a movement protesting government corruption and authoritarianism — with regional implications. Enter Russia, which responded to the pro-Russia Tokayev’s request for help with about 2,500 “peacekeeping” troops and future deployments being planned under the aegis of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the former Soviet Union’s version of NATO. This comes as Moscow has recently amassed 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. The Russians will on Monday start talks with NATO and the US about the ongoing situation with Ukraine, but also discuss enhancing security plans with Kazakhstan, whose northern territory is claimed by Moscow. Russia has been clear about what it wants in Ukraine — for NATO to stop expanding further eastward into the former Soviet states. But what does Vladimir Putin want exactly in Kazakhstan, one of the region’s most energy-rich countries?

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What We're Watching: Migrants flood Polish border, Czech Republic's unwieldy coalition, Kuwait's government steps down

Migrant crisis deepens at Belarusian-Polish border. The deteriorating situation on Poland's border with Belarus intensified Monday, with Warsaw deploying 12,000 troops amid fears that an influx of migrants might storm the border from Belarusian territory. Latvia and Lithuania, fearing a migrant wave, have joined Poland in upping border security at their own frontiers. For months, Poland, an EU country, has accused Belarus' strongman President Alexander Lukashenko of opening his country's border to flood Poland with Middle Eastern and Asian migrants desperate to enter the EU. Lukashenko's move is payback for EU sanctions against Minsk. Poland has even accused Belarusian forces of physically pushing some migrants into Polish territory. Dramatic footage on Monday showed the problem has gotten much worse, with thousands of migrants gathering at the border, some using instruments to try to cut into barbed wire barriers. As a brutal winter descends in Eastern Europe, the situation is becoming more dire for the migrants themselves. Scores of them have died of hypothermia after being expelled from Polish territory and denied food and medical treatment. (Unsurprisingly, Belarus was unwilling to take them back.) Poland says that Belarus recently "escorted" some 1,000 migrants to its border, and that it is bracing for a major security breach. Meanwhile, thousands of desperate migrants, stuck in the intra-European crossfire, are in desperate need of help.

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Populist Czech PM Babis Is on His Way Out After Election Loss | Europe In : 60 | GZERO Media

Billionaire populist Czech PM Babiš is on his way out after election loss

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What's happening in Poland? Should we worry?

Well, legal niceties aside, within the realm of the treaties, the European Union treaties, agreed, it is fundamental that the laws apply and are respected. And if the Polish constitutional court, loaded with political appointees, now decides that they don't apply in Poland, that sort of undermines the very concept of Polish membership of the European Union. So we'll see what happens. We haven't heard the last of this, but it's a fundamental battle. There's no question about that.

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