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Iran's Ahmad Noorollahi, Sadegh Moharrami, and Alireza Jahanbakhsh line up during the national anthems before the World Cup match against England.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

What We're Watching: Iran's silent anthem, Russia's tech brain drain

Iran’s Kurds rise up, soccer squad goes silent

Even as widespread anti-government protests over democracy and women’s rights continue across Iran, things are getting particularly dicey in Kurdish-majority areas along the northwestern border with Iraq. Iran’s revolutionary guards have not only cracked down on the protests in the city of Mahabad, but they also reportedly sent missiles across the border into Kurdish areas of Iraq for good measure. Kurdish groups have struggled for independence from Iran for more than a century, and Mahabad is hugely symbolic — it was the capital of a short-lived independent Kurdish state in the 1940s. Meanwhile, the broader anti-government protests continue to get high-level sympathizers. Two prominent female actors who removed their headscarves publicly in solidarity were arrested over the weekend. Then, on Monday, Iranian footballers stunningly refused to sing Iran’s national anthem ahead of their opening World Cup match in Qatar as a show of support for the protests back home.

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Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, and Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov pose for a picture during the Central Asia-Russia summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

REUTERS/Turar Kazangapov

Bickering picks up steam in Russia’s backyard


Since it invaded Ukraine, Russia hasn't just been making enemies – it’s also been losing friends. Some Central Asian countries – considered part of Russia’s backyard thanks to their Soviet heritage – have begun distancing themselves from Moscow.

Tensions have been building: In October, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon told Vladimir Putin at a summit that his country needs “more respect.” At September’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov kept Putin waiting before a meeting. And last week, four of Russia’s treaty allies – Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan — abstained from a vote in the UN General Assembly that demanded Moscow pay war reparations to Ukraine.

“Central Asian Republics have always wanted to be free of Russian influence. Seeing Russia falter in Ukraine, they sense their opportunity,” says Husain Haqqani, director for Central and South Asia at Washington’s Hudson Institute.

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Why No One Approved of Olaf Scholz’ Trip to China | GZERO World

Why no one approved of Olaf Scholz’s trip to China

Why did German leader Olaf Scholz decide to make a solo trip to Beijing earlier this month? It's a question that many Germans, even within his own administration, are asking. GZERO's Alex Kliment takes a closer look.

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G-20 Summit: More Alignment Between US & Allies on Global Stage | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Can China lead on Russia/Ukraine peace?

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

Was the G-20 a success?

Not really, in the sense that there was no effective communique, the ball was not moved on serious needles as a G-20. On the other hand, the G-7 that met within the G-20 was certainly a success. Following on all these Russian attacks on Ukraine, you have even ever more alignment between the United States and its allies on the global stage. That's certainly a useful thing to maintain, especially as people are saying, "Oh, it's going to crumble. Oh, they're going to peel off."

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What a Mysterious Pipeline Attack Says About European Unity | GZERO World

What a mysterious pipeline attack says about European unity

When segments of the Nord Stream gas pipeline linking Russia to Europe mysteriously exploded last September, all eyes were on Moscow, Ian Bremmer tells GZERO World.

But proving a wide held suspicion that Russia was responsible has been a much harder task for European nations.

That's in part due to a long European history of reluctance to share intelligence among member nations.

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US House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) arrives for leadership elections at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
REUTERS/Leah Millis

What We’re Watching: Republican House, Israeli robo-guns, Poland’s back

GOP wins slim House majority

More than a week after the US midterm elections, the Republican Party finally clinched its 218th seat in the House on Wednesday, giving the GOP a razor-slim majority in the chamber. But with several races still not called, the exact margin remains unclear — the tighter it is, the harder it'll be for Kevin McCarthy, who’s expected to replace Nancy Pelosi as House speaker, to keep his caucus together. A Republican-held House effectively kills the Democrats’ legislative agenda, although retaining control of the Senate will keep extremist proposals away from President Joe Biden's desk and allow him to appoint federal judges. For the GOP, it's an opportunity to launch investigations on stuff like the origins of COVID, the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Republicans' favorite target: Biden's own son, Hunter. It might even lead to impeaching the president. On foreign policy, expect the GOP to penny-pinch US aid to Ukraine and make Congress get even tougher on China — perhaps not the best idea after Biden and Xi Jinping decided to cool things down at the G-20 in Bali.

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Who Blew Up the Nord Stream Pipelines? | GZERO World

Who blew up the Nord Stream pipelines?

The controversial Nordstream pipeline that connects Russia to Germany made headlines last September when segments of it mysteriously exploded, deep under water.

Who was responsible?

"My guess is the Russians," says German diplomat Christoph Heusgen tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

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Damages from the hits in Przewodów, a village in eastern Poland near the border with Ukraine.

Reuters

What We're Watching: Missiles in Poland, Chinese anger at zero-COVID

Who fired those missiles into Poland?

Explosions apparently caused by rockets or missiles killed two people Tuesday in the Polish town of Przewodów, several miles from the Ukrainian border. The incident occurred amid a barrage of Russian missile attacks on critical infrastructure across Ukraine. Poland went on heightened military readiness as some Polish officials suggested the projectiles might be Russian. An investigation is underway.

But the plot thickened early Wednesday when US President Joe Biden said at an emergency meeting on the subject in Bali, where he’s attending the G-20, that preliminary info suggests it’s “unlikely” the weapons were fired "from Russia." This raises the prospect that malfunctioning Ukrainian air defenses could have been responsible, or that the missiles could have been fired from nearby Belarus, which has supported Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia, for its part, says it has nothing to do with the incident at all.

The big questions are: Was it in fact a Russian missile or not? If so, is there any evidence the attack was deliberate, as some Ukrainian officials have friskily suggested, or merely a mistake in the fog of war?

The implications are huge — Poland is a NATO member, so any deliberate attack by Russia would raise the prospect of invoking the alliance’s Article 5 collective defense mechanism, in which all members go on a war footing to respond. That, of course, could set in motion an escalation between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

In the meantime, an Article 4 response is possible: a much mellower undertaking in which the alliance convenes a formal discussion on the incident but doesn’t take military action.

But a big question remains: Even if this incident was a Ukrainian own goal or a Russian mistake, what would NATO’s response be if Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to tweak the alliance with a bite along the Polish border?

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