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Iran's missiles threaten entire Middle East, says journalist Robin Wright

The US wants to get out of the Middle East, but for The New Yorker's Robin Wright, there's still one big problem: Iran. What's more, the Iranian threat goes well beyond nukes, as it now has the region's largest ballistic missiles arsenal. Iran's position, she says, is "Okay, you want us to limit ours? Then you limit everybody's in the regions, including Israel," — and that's a nonstarter for the Israelis. Watch her interview with Ian Bremmer on the upcoming episode of GZERO World.

What We're Watching: Egypt closes Gaza border, Swedish PM resigns, Tunisia's indefinite emergency

Egypt closes Gaza border: Egypt closed the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip this week, giving no indication when it'll reopen. Rafah, one of two economic gateways to Gaza and the only entrance not controlled by Israel, is the primary exit point for Palestinians in the Strip to travel overseas. So why did Egypt close it? Well, Cairo — which has been trying to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas militant group that runs Gaza since an 11-day war broke out in May — is extremely peeved at the lack of progress, and blames Hamas for the impasse. Much of this is linked to a recent wave of violence, whereby Hamas launched a series of bomb balloons across the border with Israel, causing multiple fires across Israeli communities, and prompting Israel to launch several military strikes in response. Egypt has long been a negotiator between Israel and the Palestinians, and Egypt-Israel ties have warmed in recent years: last week, Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel met with Israel's PM Naftali Bennett, and invited him to visit Egypt.

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What We're Watching: Modest hopes for Venezuelan talks, Israel-Poland diplomatic spat deepens, Ebola in the Ivory Coast

Will fresh talks help Venezuela? For just the fourth time in half a decade, the Maduro regime and opposition forces have met for fresh talks to try to chart a path forward for crisis-ridden Venezuela. The negotiations, held last week in Mexico City, were attended by both President Nicolás Maduro as well as opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who in 2019 declared himself interim president after an election widely viewed as rigged was met by mass protests. What's the aim of these talks? Well, depends who you ask. For Guaido's camp, the focus is on free and fair elections, the release of political prisoners, and human rights. (Maduro has shown some goodwill in recent days by agreeing to release opposition politician Freddy Guevara.) Maduro, on the other hand, is desperate to have crippling US sanctions lifted so Caracas doesn't have to rely as heavily on China, Russia and Iran. But because Maduro has refused to give up power, analysts say, the opposition's immediate goal now is to pave the way for local and regional elections in November, as well as to boost the COVID vaccine rollout. The next round of negotiations has been set for next month.

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What We’re Watching: Taliban loom large, China’s 5-year plan, Israel OKs West Bank construction, Zambians vote

US braces for Taliban takeover: Just weeks before US forces were set to fully withdraw from Afghanistan after almost 20 years, the Pentagon is sending 3,000 additional troops to guard Kabul's airport and help most US embassy staff leave the country safely. The State Department refused to call this development an evacuation, insisting that the embassy will remain open after the US withdrawal for some duties, including processing special US visa applications for Afghans who worked for and helped the US military. Meanwhile, Taliban forces have captured their eleventh provincial capital in just one week as they zero in on Kabul. The Taliban now control the country's second and third largest cities — Kandahar and Herat — as well as roughly two-thirds of all Afghan districts, raising fears of an imminent takeover. US intelligence now anticipates Kabul could fall within 30 to 90 days, much earlier than previous estimates. Given the speed of the Taliban advance, the Biden administration's partial — and hasty — drawdown of the US diplomatic mission in Kabul makes sense in order to avoid the chaotic scenes of 1975, when the last Americans to leave Saigon were lifted off in helicopters from the roof of the embassy after the Vietcong conquered the capital of then-South Vietnam.

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What we're watching: COVID boosters, Israel-Lebanon border flareup, Mexico vs gringo guns

Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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What We're Watching: YouTube snuffs Bolsonaro, Israel probes Pegasus, China rejects COVID inquiry (again)

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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US, NATO, & EU condemn China's Microsoft hack; Pegasus spyware leak

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

The US, NATO, and the EU have all condemned China for its hack of Microsoft Exchange servers. What happens next?

Now, the joint statement sends a strong signal, but there are operational steps that need to be clarified. Firstly, why was it possible to hack Microsoft servers at all and how to close the gaps to make software more resilient? Additionally, governments making statements condemning China or others are well-advised to attach consequences to such attributions. Sanctions of the economic, financial or immigration type, as well as restrictions on state-owned enterprises, should all be on the table. Certainly, clear criteria need to be there with regard to responsible behavior and the application of international law in cyberspace.

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What to expect from Biden-Putin summit; Israel-Hamas tenuous ceasefire holds

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

How did the Biden-Putin summit go?

Well, we don't know, because it's not over yet, but I'll tell you, the opening, the opening looked fine. They shook hands. They're well prepped. Putin had to be on time because Biden was coming later. That made it a little bit easier. I think this is so overdone. This is not Gorbachev-Reagan. This is Russia in the context of a much more important strategic priority, China, for the United States. I expect little is going to come out, in terms of substance. The meeting will be cordial. There will be some desire to work together on things like arms control. The big question will be, what exactly is said, and if anything is committed to on cyberattacks, how the US is going to respond because so far Biden's looked pretty weak on that issue.

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