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What We're Watching: Biden's oil dilemma, Abiy Ahmed takes up arms, Iran nuclear talks on life-support

Biden's oil dilemma. The Biden administration says it will release some 50 million barrels of crude from US stockpiles in a bid to reign in soaring gasoline prices. Similar moves were made by Japan, South Korea, and China in recent days as global energy prices rise and supplies remain scarce in many places amid the ongoing economic recovery. Pain at the gas pump and broader inflation concerns in the US have contributed to Biden's tanking poll numbers. With Republicans poised to do well in next year's midterm elections, the president is under pressure to turn things around fast. But Biden has already come under fire from environmental groups, who say the president's move flies in the face of his Glasgow commitments to reduce rather than boost fossil fuel consumption. But in domestic politics, bread-and-butter issues are paramount, and if Biden doesn't "fix" the gas problem hurting American families, the Democrats could suffer a beating at the polls. What's more, Biden has also angered the 23-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which worries that extra US oil on the market will bring down prices for their own crude. Now the organization is warning that it might renege on an earlier promise to produce more oil.

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Can the nuclear deal with Iran still be salvaged?

US President Joe Biden entered office pledging to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, provided Iran did the same. His predecessor Donald Trump walked away in 2018 from the deal, which placed limits on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. But Biden's goal of resurrecting it now seems to be slipping out of reach. We spoke with Henry Rome, a director at Eurasia Group focusing on Iran, about what to expect in the coming weeks and months.

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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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After Iranian election, revival of nuclear deal with US is a safe bet

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

With Iran's hardline president-elect, is reviving the nuclear deal still possible?

It's not just possible, it's probably one of the safest geopolitical bets around the world today, because not only the Iranian president-elect, but also the supreme leader, who really runs the country, all in favor of going back to the deal as it was enforced under the Obama-Biden administration. They will make more money off of that. They're not going to expand it. They're going to be limited. They don't even want to expand the timeline, never mind include other issues like support for proxies in the region, terrorist organizations, ballistic missile development, all of that. But I'd be really surprised that by the end of the year, by the end of the third quarter, we don't see the Iranians back in the Iranian nuclear deal.

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