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What We’re Watching: US-China Olympics drama, Venezuela’s struggling opposition, Syria goes narco

US government reps will boycott Beijing Olympics. The US announced Monday that American government officials will not attend the Beijing Winter Olympics. China responded to reports of the diplomatic boycott by saying that the move is a “naked political provocation” and an affront to China’s 1.4 billion people. For months, the Biden administration has toyed with whether to skip the Beijing Games because of China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and elsewhere. Washington, however, has not banned US athletes from competing, which would be a major escalation at a time when US-China relations are at their lowest point in years. Still, from Beijing’s perspective, the move is humiliating and a blow to its prestige on the world stage, particularly if other countries follow suit and pull their representatives, too. Beijing vowed Monday to hit Washington with “countermeasures” if it goes ahead with the diplomatic boycott, though it’s unclear what the CCP might whip up as payback.

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Turkey and Russia's Middle East power grabs

Turkey and Russia are asserting their influence in the Middle East like never before. That's according to Johns Hopkins University Middle East Scholar Vali Nasr, who joins Ian Bremmer on GZERO World to unpack the changing power dynamics in the Middle East and the American government's eagerness to pivot away from the region altogether. And while Russian leader Vladimir Putin's designs on the Middle East have been evident long before he started propping up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Nasr says that Turkey is less of an open book. "We actually don't have a handle on where Turkey's going in the Middle East. If it comes to a blow, either with Israel, with Iran, with Russia, what does it mean for NATO?" Nasr spoke with Ian Bremmer on an episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Is the US Misjudging the Middle East's Power Shifts? Vali Nasr's View

The geopolitics of the Middle East shake up

How have geopolitics in the Middle East changed over the last few decades, and what does it mean for the Biden administration's strategy in this region? Like the two presidents before him, Joe Biden is eager to shift focus and resources away from the Middle East to China and the growing competition it presents. But there are some loose ends to tie up first in the Middle East, to say the least. Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Is the US Misjudging the Middle East's Power Shifts? Vali Nasr's View

Has the Middle East’s “Arab Moment” passed?

President Biden's approach to the Middle East will have to adapt to the once-in-a-generation power grab occurring between Iran, Israel, and Turkey while Arab nations in the region increasingly lose influence. That's according to Johns Hopkins University Middle East scholar Vali Nasr. "The Arabs are not really deciding the geostrategy of the region. They're not the strongest players right now. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the events of the Arab Spring, the bigger players like Iraq, Syria, Egypt lost their footing—they've collapsed." Nasr spoke with Ian Bremmer on an episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Is the US Misjudging the Middle East's Power Shifts? Vali Nasr's View

Is the US misjudging the Middle East’s power shifts? Vali Nasr's view

"Pivot to Asia." It was the catchphrase floating around Washington DC's foreign policy circles in 2009 when President Obama first took office. And yet twelve years later, the Middle East continues to consume the attention of the United States' military and diplomatic efforts. Now President Biden is determined to change that, and to turn Washington's attention to Asia once and for all as he moves to confront a growing China. But according to Johns Hopkins University Middle East scholar Vali Nasr, President Biden's approach to the Middle East will have to adapt to the once-in-a-generation power grab occurring between Iran, Israel, and Turkey while Arab nations in the region increasingly lose influence.

The Graphic Truth: How a decade of war has crushed Syria

Syria's decade-long civil war has wreaked havoc on an entire generation of Syrians, and given rise to one of the worst refugee crises in decades. What was once a stable nation — albeit under dictatorial rule — with a sizable middle class has become a hellish reality: the economy is in shambles and state infrastructure has been pummeled, making access to basic services all but impossible. Across the country, families are struggling to pay for food staples, kids are out of school, and working-age people can't find jobs — the only Syrians who still prosper are those who left. We compare a few indicators from before and after the devastating conflict.

Syria before and after

This week, we mark the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of Syria's catastrophic civil war.

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Biden strikes Syria. Now what?

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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