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US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Itay Ben On/GPO/dpa

What We’re Watching: Blinken’s Middle East chats, Erdogan’s bid to split Nordics, Peru’s early election, China offers baby incentives

Blinken meets with Middle East leaders

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken picked a volatile time to visit the region. After first stopping in Egypt to meet with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the US’ top diplomat touched down in Israel on Monday, where he took part in a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. But Blinken’s visit comes amid a violent flareup in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Last week, Israel carried out an operation in Jenin in the West Bank, targeting members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in an operation that killed nine people, including civilians. Meanwhile, on Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire on Jews praying at a synagogue in East Jerusalem, killing seven. Then on Saturday, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy shot a father and son in Jerusalem’s Old City. What’s more, Israel is currently in the throes of a constitutional crisis as Netanyahu’s right-wing government seeks to dilute the power of the independent judiciary. But analysts say that the top agenda item is undoubtedly Iran. Over the weekend, Israel reportedly struck a compound in the Iranian city of Isfahan used to manufacture long-range missiles. (For more on the Isfahan attack and why Iran is feeling increasing pressure at home and abroad, watch Ian Bremmer’s Quick Take here.) It’s unclear whether the US was informed in advance about the strike, but Israeli leadership has in the past clashed with Washington over Jerusalem’s go-at-it-alone approach to dealing with Iran. As things become increasingly volatile in the Iran-Israel shadow war, Blinken presumably wants to make sure that the US is kept in the loop. On Tuesday, Blinken will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid.

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The Fight With Iran Is Growing | Quick Take | GZERO Media

The fight with Iran is growing

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and a Quick Take to kick off your week. And we see over the weekend, strikes, drone strikes, explosive drone strikes against Iran, the city of Isfahan, and in particular a major military facility responsible for the production of drones and ballistic missiles. Oh, my.

Of course, Iran is under lots of pressure these days. And not a lot of people are happy with what's happening in that country, not inside the country, with months now of major demonstrations that have only been met with repression from the Iranian government, from its theocracy, from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. We're also seeing that the Iranians are through nuclear breakout capability. They have more than enough, a highly enriched uranium at 60% level, which has no civilian use or purpose. It's only for a military program in a deep, under a mountain at this facility in Fordo, which you can't... The Israelis, for example, don't have the military capacity to strike it or destroy it, a problem, of course, as you think about Iran increasingly becoming a nuclear state.

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What to expect at the Biden-Bennett meeting at the White House

For the first time since assuming their posts, Israel's right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden will meet Friday for a face-to-face meeting at the White House. (Fun fact: Joe Biden was elected to the US Senate in 1972, the year Naftali Bennett was born.)

What's on the agenda — what likely isn't — and why does this meeting matter now?

Iran, obviously. Bennett may embrace a more conciliatory tone than his predecessor Bibi Netanyahu, but when it comes to Iran policy, he too thinks that a return to the nuclear deal would be catastrophic for Israel. For the Israelis, delivering that message feels all the more pressing given that their security establishment now warns that Tehran is only two months away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.

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