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Is the global economy finally on the right track?
Is the global economy finally on the right track? | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

Is the global economy finally on the right track?

How’s the global economy doing… really? When it comes to the world’s post-COVID recovery, it’s a tale of two economies: the United States and everyone else. On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer sits down with economist and author Dambisa Moyo for a hard look at the health of the world’s finances and the impact of geopolitical crises in Europe and the Middle East on trade flows and inflation.

Right now, US indicators are strong, but Germany and the UK are slipping into mild recessions, and China’s collapsing real estate sector, local government debt, and exodus of foreign investment is dragging the world’s second-largest economy into stagnation. Not to mention, Global South countries are holding record amounts of debt. So what does it all mean moving forward? Is the global economy still shaking off its post-Covid hangover or are some of these problems more entrenched?

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Munich Security Conference 2024: What to expect
Munich Security Conference 2024: What to expect | Ian Bremmer | Quick Take

Munich Security Conference 2024: What to expect

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. It is the Munich Security Conference. It's that time of year, yet again, the 60th Munich Security Conference this year. And you would think that that would be like a big anniversary. It's like platinum or diamonds or something very valuable and exciting. And yet the value of the conference is becoming undermined. And it's becoming undermined not because it doesn't matter, but rather because leaders are less committed to it.

And that is a very deep concern. There's no annual theme to this year's conference, but every year they do put out an annual report. Came out a couple of days ago, and the theme this year was “lose-lose” dynamics. In other words, less focus on multilateralism, less focus on collective security, less focus on global cooperation and instead a prioritization of individual gain of countries and even of leaders. And that's not a great backdrop against a incredibly contentious US election, a war between Russia-Ukraine that isn't going very well, certainly not from the perspective of those that are attending the security conference and also a Middle East war that is expanding and threatens to get the Europeans and the Americans more and more involved. A couple of things that are worth paying attention to that may not be getting as much attention outside Germany.

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US-Iran tensions complicate Biden's Middle East strategy
US-Iran tensions complicate Biden's Middle East strategy | Ian Bremmer | Quick Take

US-Iran tensions complicate Biden's Middle East strategy

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here and a Quick Take to kick off your week. We are still very much focused on the Middle East. That is the top priority. Tony Blinken, Secretary of State, for his fifth trip to the Gulf since October 7th, those horrible terrorist attacks, Ukraine very far down the priority list compared to the engagement the Middle East is presently getting. It certainly feels that way. But that's what we're focusing on.

And the big issue is the American military response to that nightmare scenario that came to pass when US servicemen and women, dozens injured, three killed in Iranian proxy attacks on the Jordan-Syria border. The United States had to respond militarily, did respond militarily, but they also did not want to precipitate an Iranian war with the United States. So they tried to have their way on both sides of the equation and probably end up getting nothing that they want. What do I mean by that? Well, the United States did attack direct Iranian military assets, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military capabilities on the ground in Syria and Iraq, but also telegraphed that very clearly, very publicly, for about five days before they started the attacks, which meant that proxy leaders and most importantly, Iranian leaders were able to get out of Dodge and potentially protect the most sensitive equipment information from those US strikes.

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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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Houthi fighters and tribal supporters hold up their firearms during a protest against recent U.S.-led strikes on Houthi targets, near Sanaa, Yemen January 14, 2024.

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Playing with fire: Is retaliation the new normal in the Middle East?

The region was already a tinderbox, and now the adversaries are playing with matches.

Tehran takes aim: Iran launched an unprecedented – and unprovoked – attack on nuclear-armed Pakistan. The missile and drone attack was aimed at Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni militant group operating along Pakistan’s border and marks a massive escalation from Iran’s previous military exchanges with the group as Iran continues to retaliate for the suicide bombing that killed 86 people this month at a memorial procession for Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. Pakistan has vowed that the attacks will have “serious consequences.”

The attack comes the day after Iran launched ballistic missiles into Iraq and Syria with claims it was targeting Israel’s “headquarters of spies” and other places used to plan the bombing. The last two days have been Iran’s most direct show of force since January 2020, when it responded to Washington’s killing of Suleimani with missile strikes on US troops in Iraq. Ten of Monday’s missiles landed near the US consulate in northern Iraq, reflecting the escalatory risk involved with such strikes.

And don’t forget about Israel: Palestinian militants on Tuesday fired 25 rockets out of Gaza at the Israeli city of Netivot, which lies about six miles from the Gaza border. Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system generally intercepts rockets, and although there were no casualties, the attack exacerbates fears of Hamas’s enduring threat.

The attack is being used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war council as an excuse to backtrack on rhetoric that Israel is shifting to a more targeted campaign in Gaza. But many were already skeptical of this amid escalating attacks in North Gaza. More likely, the announcements and troop withdrawals aimed to bolster the economy and placate international criticism – particularly in the US, where Sen. Bernie Sanders has called for a Tuesday night vote to require the Biden administration to report on Israel's human rights practices.

However, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, has said that the attack in Netivot “proves that conquering Gaza is essential to realizing the war’s goals,” and that Israelis should prepare for the war to continue for months as support for retaliating for Oct. 7 and rescuing the hostages remains high domestically.

The rub: Whether it's Iran, the US, the Houthis, Israel, or Hamas, all sides see their attacks as retaliatory, which could quickly evolve into a cycle of escalation.

Podcast: Trouble ahead: The top global risks of 2024

Listen: In a special edition of the GZERO podcast, we're diving into our expectations for the topsy-turvy year ahead. The war in Ukraine is heading into a stalemate and possible partition. Israel's invasion of Gaza has amplified region-wide tensions that threaten to spill over into an even wider, even more disastrous, even ghastlier conflict. And in the United States, the presidential election threatens to rip apart the feeble tendrils holding together American democracy.

All those trends and more topped Eurasia Group's annual Top Risks project for 2024, which takes the view from 30,000 feet to summarize the most dangerous and looming unknowns in the coming year. Everything from out-of-control AI to China's slow-rolling economy made this year's list.

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Ian Explains: How is America's "Pivot to Asia" playing out?
Ian Explains: How is America's "Pivot to Asia" playing out? | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

Ian Explains: How is America's "Pivot to Asia" playing out?

Why can't the US seem to focus on the Asia-Pacific region instead of the Middle East?

In November 2011, President Barack Obama laid out his vision for America’s expanded role in the Asia-Pacific region, which soon became known as the "pivot to Asia.” American foreign policy, Obama announced, would be shifting its focus away from costly wars in the Middle East and towards strengthening partnerships in the Asia-Pacific to curb a rising China. In short, America’s 21st-century foreign policy would be pointed firmly to the East.

Fast-forward to 2023, and America’s “Pivot to Asia” is a little more complicated. The Israel-Hamas conflict, which could quite easily spiral into a larger regional war with the US and Iran, is only the latest example. And though not in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine remains one of the biggest and most expensive US foreign policy priorities. This is not, in short, the 21st-century foreign policy vision that President Obama had in mind.

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Palestinians evacuate an injured girl following an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza, on Oct. 18, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas.

Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto

The Israel-Hamas war: Where we are, two weeks in

It’s now been exactly two weeks since Hamas militants broke out of the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7 and went on a murderous rampage in southern Israel, killing more than 1,300 Israelis, most of them civilians, and kidnapping more than 200.

Israel’s resulting siege of Gaza and ongoing airstrikes have killed at least 3,000 people, including hundreds of children, and wounded thousands more. Nearly a quarter of Gaza’s two million people have fled their homes in the densely packed enclave, and the UN warns of a desperate humanitarian crisis there.

Now the conflict is set to get worse. Israel is preparing a massive ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, which could begin at any moment. The stated aim is to remove Hamas from power, but experts say this will entail gruesome urban combat, and it’s not clear what Israel’s political strategy for Gaza will be afterward. Israel's Defense Minister on Friday suggested it would be to renounce any "responsibility for life" in a post-war Gaza. With views on both sides of the Israel-Palestine now hardened into a new “holy war” (see our viewpoint on that here), it is hard to imagine any path to peace in the near future.

At the same time, the war has shattered the notion – increasingly taken for granted by Israeli and Arab leaders alike in recent years – that the Palestinian issue could simply be contained and forgotten. As recent mass protests have shown, Arab capitals must reckon again with popular anger about Palestinian suffering in a way that they have not had to for many years. There is no more talk, for example, of that Saudi-Israel normalization deal.

Now, as the conflict moves to a different phase, here are a few things to keep an eye on:

Will it become a regional war? Despite cheering on their Hamas protégés, Iran has shown no interest in entering the war, as Ian Bremmer pointed out this week. Israel and the US, meanwhile, have downplayed Iran’s involvement in the Oct. 7 attacks as well. That’s all good. But Iran’s proxies are a different story.

Israeli forces in the north have already had limited clashes with Hezbollah, the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese militant group that is also part of the Lebanese government. And on Thursday, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen reportedly launched several missiles toward Israel.

For now, watch Hezbollah. It has signaled solidarity with Hamas and warned of an “earthquake” if Israel invades Gaza. But the group also has to tread carefully: Lebanon is already wracked by economic crisis, and a full-scale war with Israel could inflict even deeper pain – especially since the US now has two carrier groups bobbing off the Israeli coast, ready to intervene if the fighting spreads. For a look at how people in the Lebanese capital of Beirut are feeling, see our special report here.

Families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas militants in Gaza set a Shabbat table with more than 200 empty seats for them at the "Hostages Square" outside the Art Museum of Tel Aviv, on Oct. 20, 2023. Families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas militants in Gaza set a Shabbat table with more than 200 empty seats for them at the "Hostages Square" outside the Art Museum of Tel Aviv, on Oct. 20, 2023. Gili Yaari/NurPhoto

Watch the occupied West Bank too. Violence between Israel and Palestinians was already at multi-year highs even before the Hamas rampage. Since then, protests have spread, and clashes have intensified: Settlers have opened fire on civilians, while Israel launched airstrikes on a refugee camp that it said was home to militants. More than 70 Palestinians have been killed, and hundreds have been arrested over the past two weeks. Aging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – who governs the West Bank – is struggling to master the situation, and the threat of a new intifada (mass uprising) is real.

The US role. President Joe Biden – who made at least half a trip to the region this week – has signaled strong moral, military, and financial solidarity with Israel, while also demanding humanitarian relief for Gaza. A deal to get aid in via Egypt was close on Friday, but Israel was seeking further assurances that any aid trucks wouldn’t include fuel or smuggled weapons for Hamas.

Biden returned home to deliver a prime-time foreign policy speech, framing Ukraine and Israel as part of the same US-led fight against “terrorism” and “dictatorships.” The upshot? He wants $105 billion from Congress for Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, and the US border. How much of that he’ll get will become clear in the coming weeks.

For a look at the challenges facing US policy towards Israel right now, this week's episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer features interviews with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Republican Representative Mike Waltz, of Florida.

Speaking of Congress, by the way, the House of Representatives is still without a speaker – we’re just happy that with Jim Jordan seemingly out of the race, we won’t be confused by headlines that seem to suggest King Abdullah is meddling in US politics.

The real costs of fake news. This war, like all conflicts in the social media age, is being fought not only on the ground but on the web, where the fog of war is as thick as cotton candy.

The costs of misinformation became clear this week when the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza City was struck by a munition of some kind on Tuesday night. International media initially reported Hamas claims that it was an Israeli bomb and that 500 were dead. Mass riots across the Arab world caused King Abdullah to cancel a scheduled summit of Arab leaders with Biden, which was meant to focus on humanitarian relief for Gaza.

Subsequent analysis of the hospital damage, including by open source investigators, seemed to lend credence to Israeli claims that it was a misfired or damaged rocket from within the Gaza Strip.

As of this writing, we still don’t know what happened, and with Israel preventing journalists or investigators from entering Gaza, we likely won’t for some time. But still, the lesson was clear: Think before you tweet.

See all of our coverage of the Israel-Hamas war here, including explainers of who Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are, our wildly popular map of Palestinian refugees, and our interview with a former US Green Beret about how to rescue the US citizens currently held hostage in Gaza.

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