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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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Demonstrators call for US President Joe Biden to cancel all student loan debt in Washington, DC.

Bryan Olin Dozier via Reuters Connect

Biden forgives (some) US student loan debt

The White House on Wednesday unveiled President Biden’s long-awaited plan to tackle soaring student debt in America, which currently sits at a whopping $1.6 trillion.

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Sergio Massa attends an event after the 2021 midterm elections in Buenos Aires.

REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

What We’re Watching: Argentina’s super minister, China-Zambia debt deal, Ukrainian grain trader dead

Can a "super minister" save Argentina?

Argentina's embattled President Alberto Fernández has appointed Sergio Massa, the influential leader of the lower house of parliament, to head a new "super ministry" that Fernández hopes will help steer the country out of a deep economic crisis. Massa, Argentina's third economic minister in less than a month, will oversee economic, manufacturing, and agricultural policy. He has his work cut out for him owing to soaring inflation, farmers demanding tax relief, and a recent run on the peso. Massa also needs to convince the IMF that Argentina will comply with the terms of its $44 billion debt restructuring deal. There's a political angle too: he's (arguably) the strongest candidate the left-wing Peronista coalition has to run for president next year if the unpopular Fernández drops his bid for a second term. Massa is one of very few politicians who can navigate the ongoing rift between the president and his powerful VP, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. If the new "super minister" does a good job, he'll be in pole position for a 2023 presidential run; if he fails, the ruling Peronistas will face long odds to stay in power.

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Drivers push their three-wheelers while waiting in a line to buy petrol amid the country's economic crisis in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Reuters

Is the global debt apocalypse here?

As the world largely began shifting to the “we have to learn to live it” stage of the pandemic late last year, many economists anticipated that hard-hit low- and middle-income countries might finally catch a break.

But then Vladimir Putin’s imperialist instincts got the better of him, and Russia decided to pancake Ukraine. The war’s economic effects are reverberating worldwide, with food and fuel shortages sending already high inflation soaring. Unsurprisingly, emerging economies with shallow pockets are reeling.

The backstory. Amid the pandemic, many low-income countries took on new debt to insulate their economies from the economic pain caused by rolling lockdowns, closed borders, and business closures. But even before COVID, many countries – such as Zambia, Sri Lanka, and Ecuador – were already heavily indebted partly as a result of government mismanagement and corruption. The pandemic-induced recession caused global indebtedness to balloon to a 50-year high.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi poses for a photograph with Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during their bilateral meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 9,2022.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

The looming pandemic debt cliff

Right on the buzzer, Sri Lanka on Tuesday narrowly avoided its first-ever sovereign debt default. But the cash-strapped country is still on the hook for a lot more cash this year, which is shaping up to be a very painful one for low-income countries deep in the red due to COVID.

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The Graphic Truth: Deep in the red with China

The pandemic has thrown many already-indebted countries further into the red. The problem is two-pronged for many Asian, African, and Latin American countries. They have taken on huge amounts of debt from the IMF to weather pandemic-related economic uncertainty, while also being caught up in a debt trap set by China, which funds large infrastructure projects in developing states but often with complex or misleading fine print. We take a look at which countries out of a group of 24 surveyed states owe China the most compared to their respective IMF debts.

Stopping the Debt Spiral in the World’s Poorest Nations | World Bank President | GZERO World

Stopping the debt spiral in the world's poorest nations

"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Ian Explains: The World Bank's Role in Global Economic Recovery | GZERO World

The World Bank's role in global economic recovery

Nearly eighty years after the World Bank was founded, its mission of lifting the global poor out of poverty has never been more urgent. Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World.

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