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Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from Lebanon towards Israel over the Israeli Lebanese border, as seen from northern Israel, April 12, 2024.

REUTERS/Ayal Margolin

Iran strikes Israel. How will Netanyahu respond?

On Saturday, Iran launched roughly 300 drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation for Israel’s April 1 bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria. Some 99% of Iranian projectiles were destroyed by a combination of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, US firepower, and assistance from Britain, Germany, and reportedly Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Israel suffered minimal damage and no casualties.

The question now is what comes next, for the region, the Israel-Hamas war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the world’s great powers?

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President Joe Biden attends the return of the remains of the three slain US soldiers — Sgt. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, and Sgt. Kennedy Ladon Sanders — at Dover Air Force Base on Friday.

USA Today Network via Reuters

US strikes back after deadly drone attack

Nearly a week after a drone attack killed three American service members at a small US base in Jordan, the US responded late Friday by launching strikes against more than 85 targets in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon blames the Iran-backed Islamic Resistance in Iraq for the deadly drone attack.

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US-Iran tensions escalate after deadly drone attack
How will the US respond to Iranian proxy attacks? | Ian Bremmer | Quick Take

US-Iran tensions escalate after deadly drone attack

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody, Ian Bremmer here and a Quick Take to kick off your week right in midtown Manhattan, New York City. And the Middle East war continuing to expand as we have been convinced it would. This was this weekend, really the nightmare scenario for the Americans that given all of the Iranian proxy attacks against shipping and against US troops in the region, but eventually they would get through and kill some.

And that is exactly what happened. Three American servicemen killed, dozens injured, and now the Americans have to respond. That response will almost certainly be against Iranian forces to some degree directly. Whether or not that means hitting Iranian territory, that's an open question. But even though the Iranian government denied it, the United States has been very clear, “these are Iran supported attacks.”And while I'm fairly comfortable saying that the Iranians didn't likely order these attacks directly, they're certainly comfortable with the fact that they're going on. They're providing real time intelligence to the groups. They're providing real time weapons to the groups. So it's not like they had nothing to do with it.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a reception at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 21, 2023.

Sputnik/Pavel Byrkin/Kremlin via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Russia strikes Ukraine amid dueling wartime trips, Boris Johnson’s ‘Partygate’ showdown, Israeli settlements U-turn

After Xi-Putin summit, Moscow strikes Ukraine

Over the past few days, Vladimir Putin pulled out all the stops to entertain his "good old friend" Xi Jinping in Moscow, during what was perhaps the most geopolitically significant bilateral summit of the year so far.

Seven-course dinner — check. Insanely long red carpet at the Kremlin — check. Putin doing Xi the rare courtesy of showing up on time — check.

But beyond the pomp, ничего особенного (nothing much). The summit ended with a joint press conference featuring boilerplate statements about Sino-Russian cooperation. There was no mention of China potentially supplying arms to Russia, and no call for a ceasefire in Ukraine, although Putin did say that Xi's peace plan could be a first step toward a negotiated settlement “once the West and Kyiv are ready for it."

But then right after Xi's visit on Wednesday, the Kremlin launched fresh drone and missile strikes on Ukrainian cities, killing at least four people in a residential area outside Kyiv.

While President Volodymyr Zelensky has so far tried to remain open to Beijing's intervention, he tweeted that "every time someone tries to hear the word 'peace' in Moscow, another order is given there for such criminal strikes."

Is Putin feeling emboldened? From Putin's perspective, a visit from Xi, who’s been something of a homebody himself since the pandemic, lets Putin show that although the US and its allies have blackballed him, he is still far from isolated globally – and that the Russia-China friendship “without limits” is an axis of power Washington has to reckon with.

We're watching to see how — or if — Beijing responds to the latest onslaught that comes on the heels of Xi's whirlwind diplomacy.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with local officials in Sevastopol, Crimea March 18, 2023.

Sputnik/Russian Presidential Press Office/Kremlin via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Putin in Mariupol, Xi in Moscow, Israeli-Palestinian talks, Trump fearing arrest, Kosovo-Serbia agreement

A defiant Putin heads to Mariupol

Vladimir Putin visited the port city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, two days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for both him and Russia’s children’s commissioner for the mass abduction of at least 1,400 Ukrainian children. The court claims that some Ukrainian orphans have been forcibly resettled with Russian families, while others were sent to “re-education camps” in Russia with their parents' consent but have not been returned.

This is the closest Putin has gotten to the front lines since the war began in Feb. 2022. The strategic city of Mariupol, which became a symbol of Ukraine’s protracted struggle after Russian forces started pounding the city at the start of the war, was taken last May in a brutal offensive that killed at least 20,000 people.

Putin’s Mariupol visit came a day after his stop in Crimea, where he marked the ninth anniversary of Russia's annexation of the territory — and both publicized visits likely served as symbolic shows of defiance against both the ICC and the West.

While Putin is unlikely to be in the dock anytime soon, the ICC warrant is a major geopolitical blow for the Kremlin. It increases Putin's physical isolation – Germany, for example, has already said he’ll be arrested if he visits -- and it's less than ideal for him to be labeled a war criminal as he tries to keep nonaligned countries onside.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi upon his arrival in Cairo.

Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: MBS on tour, Lithuania vs. Russia, Spain’s moderate swing

MBS makes BFFs ahead of Biden visit

With barely a month until his controversial summit with President Joe Biden, the Saudi crown prince is on a regional tour this week to show that he’s hardly the “pariah” that America’s president once promised to make him. In Jordan, Mohammed bin Salman will look to patch up a monarchy-to-monarchy relationship that became strained last year over allegations of Saudi involvement in a plot to overthrow King Abdullah II. The Jordanians hope MBS’s visit leads to a resumption of lavish Saudi financial support. In Egypt, Crown Prince Mohammed will be highlighting Riyadh’s tight relationship with the Arab world’s most populous country. Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi enjoys strong backing from the Saudis, who have gifted or invested billions of dollars in Egypt in recent years. But the most significant stop on MBS’s tour will be in Turkey, where always-dicey relations between the regional rivals nearly broke off entirely over the Saudi government’s 2018 murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. But with Turkey looking for financial help to right a listing economy, and MBS looking to shore up ties with a mercurial member of NATO, it seems that bygones are bygones.

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Johnson meets Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm.

EYEPRESS via Reuters Connect

What We're Watching: UK-Nordic security pact, Biden-ASEAN summit, King Abdullah II at the White House

Boris Johnson embraces NATO-bound Nordics

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed security declarations on Wednesday with Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö. These documents are promises that if either Nordic country is attacked, Britain will come to its aid. In return, Sweden and Finland promise the same support for the United Kingdom. Asked for specifics, Johnson said his government would offer “whatever Sweden requested" and would “share more intelligence, bolster military exercises, and further joint development of technology.” On specific weapons, the UK PM said that would be determined by what was requested. These are simply political promises, not security guarantees of the kind NATO membership offers. But this show of solidarity comes at a sensitive moment; Finland and Sweden are widely expected to announce their application for NATO membership in the coming days, and their governments have warned that the “gray zone” period between formal application and certain acceptance will leave them vulnerable to various forms of Russian aggression. Meanwhile, Russia’s offensive in Ukraine continues, and US intelligence now believes Moscow is planning for a long war with intentions of achieving “goals beyond the Donbas.”

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What We're Watching: Jordanians vote, Trump's DOD shakeup, Russian navy in Sudan

Jordan's lackluster election: Amid a massive surge in coronavirus cases, Jordanians headed to the polls this week to elect 130 members to the lower house of parliament. Of more than 4.6 million eligible voters, only 29 percent showed up, the lowest turnout in many years, largely due to fear of COVID-19, a deepening economic crisis, and disillusionment with Jordan's unrepresentative political process. The system favors pro-monarchy tribal candidates and cronies loyal to the all-powerful King Abdullah II, who appoints all Senate members and can unilaterally dissolve parliament. This time, the main opposition party, linked to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, won only 10 seats, five less than in 2016, while women candidates reaped only 15 seats, largely because of a quota system. The Jordanian Kingdom has long been accused of overseeing an electoral system that under-represents cities that are Muslim Brotherhood strongholds, favoring more sparsely populated cities that support the Hashemite monarchy. Indeed, the Jordanian government has its work cut out for it amid a surging pandemic and worsening economic crisis — on top of the burden of providing refuge for some 650,000 Syrians.

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