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What We're Watching: A big blast hits Iran, Serbia and Kosovo sit down again, Dominican Republic has a new president

Iran's main nuclear site gets hit: An explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Iran's main nuclear facility, will likely set back Tehran's nuclear program by months, the Islamic Republic confirmed Sunday. A powerful bomb evidently destroyed infrastructure that Iran has used in recent years to build more advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium — fuel that can be used to make an atomic bomb. The attack has been widely attributed to Israel, though the Israeli government rarely acknowledges actions carried out by its intelligence agencies. Since President Trump walked away from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018, isolating the US from its European allies, Iran has flouted its own commitments by ramping up its production of enriched uranium and blocking international inspectors from key nuclear facilities. Now, analysts warn that this latest episode could push Iran to move more of its enrichment programs in harder-to-find places underground.

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What We’re Watching: Irish PM rotation begins, Karachi stock exchange attacked, Poles go to runoff

Ireland has a new Taoiseach: Mícheál Martin was elected on Saturday by parliament as Ireland's new "taoiseach" (prime minister). Martin, leader of the center-right Fianna Fáil, will head a coalition government with the center-left Fine Gael and the Green Party. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael — which have taken turns in power since 1905 — will rotate the prime minister position in the latest example of mainstream parties striking odd deals to exclude anti-establishment forces, in this case the far-left Sinn Féin. The new coalition now has five years to show voters it can be more than a "green" version of business-as-usual.

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What We're Watching: Trump's high seas feud with Iran and Venezuela, Kosovo leader's war crimes rap, Singapore's family feud election

US sanctions Iran over Venezuela oil shipments: In a bid to scuttle growing cooperation between two of Washington's biggest bogeymen, the White House yesterday slapped sanctions on five Iranian tanker captains who had delivered oil to Venezuela. Both Venezuela and Iran are currently under crippling US sanctions, but Tehran has been sending food and fuel aid to its comrades in Caracas, as Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro clings to power despite leading his country into economic ruin. If you're puzzled as to why Venezuela, with the world's largest known oil reserves, needs to import oil (and gas), it's because its own output has fallen due to low prices, US sanctions, and the incompetence of the Maduro cronies who run the state oil company. In a further snub to Caracas, a US warship yesterday took a swing through waters claimed by the Venezuelan government — earlier this year the Trump administration had threatened to deploy more Navy vessels to the region as part of a crackdown on drug trafficking, believed to be a major source of income for the Venezuelan ruling clique.

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Syria under pressure

Syria's civil war, which began in 2011, has killed more than 380,000 people and forced more than 11 million from their homes. Many of the displaced are now in Europe, Turkey, Jordan, or other neighboring countries. The Syrian economy today is a third of its pre-war size.

But the government of Bashar-al Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, remains in power and controls about two-thirds of Syrian territory, much of that recaptured from rebels. Most of the rest of the country's land is occupied by US-backed Kurds, Turkey's army, or jihadis.

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What We're Watching: Turkey targets Iraqi Kurds, virus back in NZ, Irish government deal

Iraqi Kurds, beware of "Claw Eagle:" Turkish special forces have crossed into northern Iraq as part of a new offensive — dubbed "Operation Claw Eagle" by Ankara — to fight Kurdish militants there. The latest move follows Turkish airstrikes against Kurdistan People's Party forces earlier this week in response to attacks by Kurdish militants on army bases and police stations in southern Turkey. The Turkish military has battled rebel Kurds in northern Iraq for decades, but this time signs of Iranian air support suggest close cooperation between Ankara and Tehran, which is also keen to keep a lid on the ambitions of ethnic Kurds inside Iran.

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