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What We're Watching: India-Pakistan talk water, Saudis float Yemen ceasefire, Polish writer in peril

India and Pakistan break bread over... water? Representatives from India and Pakistan are meeting this week to discuss water-sharing in the Indus River for the first time since the two countries severed relations following India's suspension of autonomy for Kashmir almost three years ago. It's a big deal — especially for the Pakistanis, whose farmers get 80 percent of the water they need to irrigate their crops from the Indus. Even more importantly, the meeting is also the latest sign of an apparent thaw in Indo-Pakistani ties, starting with last month's ceasefire agreement on Kashmir. A recently released readout of the secret talks that preceded that truce shows unusual impetus by both sides to make progress, and was followed up by rare conciliatory messages between Delhi and Islamabad. Given the long history of animosity between the two nuclear-armed nations -- they have gone to war three times since 1948 -- it's hard to be optimistic, but let's see if these water talks can move things along further.

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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

“Recalibrating” US priorities in the Middle East and the US-Saudi Arabia relationship

The famed "pivot to Asia" that President Obama promised when he took office in 2009 never came to pass, but President Biden is ready to make it a reality. Already, his administration's public statements on the Middle East have made clear that the region will no longer be the foreign policy priority that it once was. That message has been clearest, says Johns Hopkins Middle East scholar Vali Nasr, in how President Biden has approached Saudi Arabia. "The recalibration of policy with Saudi Arabia is a very powerful signal to the Kingdom that 'you need to play ball with your adversaries in the region… We're going treat you like every other country. No more special access to the Oval Office. And you need to finish the war in Yemen. And we're not going to keep funding, or supporting, the continuation of that war.'" Nasr's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of a new episode of GZERO World.

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

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

Listen: "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.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

What We're Watching: Yemen's aid struggles, North Korean antics, ethnic cleansing in Tigray

Yemen left behind: A virtual pledging event aimed at raising funds for war-torn Yemen raised $1.7 billion, well shy of the $3.85 billion the UN says is necessary to alleviate suffering from years of famine conditions and war. At the session, jointly hosted by Sweden and Switzerland, the US pledged $191 million towards Yemen's humanitarian effort, while the Germans promised $241 million. The UN says the pandemic has limited the ability of wealthy countries to provide humanitarian help for Yemen, where two-thirds of the population rely on food aid to survive after six years of conflict between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition. This development comes as the Biden administration has sought to enforce a ceasefire in Yemen by stopping US support for the Saudi military campaign there and removing the Houthis from the US' State Sponsors of Terrorism list to help open Yemen up to more aid. Meanwhile, the Houthis continue their assault of the city of Marib, now home to millions of displaced Yemenis, exacerbating the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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What We’re Watching: Polish abortion protests, US stops Saudi/UAE arms sales, GameStop’s wild run

Poland abortion showdown: Poland's conservative government has moved ahead with controversial restrictions on abortion that set the stage for the return of large protests. The new rules, which prohibit abortion even in cases of severe fetal abnormalities, were first approved by a constitutional tribunal last fall, prompting hundreds of thousands of protesters led by women's groups to hit the streets in the largest demonstrations since the fall of communism in 1989. Faced with that backlash, the government delayed implementing the new rules for several months before abruptly changing course on Wednesday. Even before the new rules, Poland had some of the tightest restrictions on abortion in Europe — last year barely 1,000 women in Poland had the procedure done, with fetal abnormalities accounting for almost all of those cases. Abortion has become a lightning-rod issue in a deeply Catholic country that is increasingly split between the conservative rural areas that form the government's voter base, and liberal big cities where the opposition is strong. We are watching the streets of Warsaw and Krakow to see what happens next.

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What We’re Watching: US pokes China on Taiwan, Yemeni rebels blacklisted, new Kyrgyz president

Embracing Taiwan and provoking China: Over the weekend, the Trump administration eased long-standing restrictions on US diplomatic relations with Taiwan. In essence, just as President Trump is preparing to exit the White House, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has lobbed a diplomatic Molotov cocktail toward Beijing and doubled down on the outgoing president's challenge to US orthodoxy on cross-Strait relations. In 1979, the US cut ties with Taiwan to open a new era in relations with China. Though Washington has continued to support Taiwan's security against possible Chinese attack, including by selling Taipei sophisticated weapons, Pompeo's directive goes much further in establishing new US-Taiwan ties — diplomatic and military — than any US administration in four decades. Although this isn't a complete break with the "One China Policy" and the US-Taiwan relationship remains "unofficial," we're watching now to see how the Chinese government will respond. It has good reason to wait to see what the incoming US president will say and do. That leaves Joe Biden with interesting problems, and Beijing wondering whether a future Republican president will push even harder on this hottest of hot-button issues.

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What we’re watching: US presidential debate, Yemeni prisoner swap, “illiberal” rule of law watchdog

The US debate, round #1: US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden will clash tonight in Cleveland in the first presidential debate of the 2020 cycle. The debate will, as always, provide a first opportunity to see the two candidates speak directly to (or over) one another, and Trump's line of attack will be interesting to watch. Will he hammer away at Biden's career as a DC insider in order to hurt the former vice president's support among working-class folks? Or will he try to knock Biden off balance with shots at his mental acuity? And Biden will need to come prepared to parry Trump if the president distorts facts or tells lies about his record. Surely the most anticipated moment will be Trump's response to the New York Times' bombshell weekend report on his tax returns. Will Biden use those revelations to attack Trump as a failed businessman, a tax cheat, or simply as a person with privileges that few voters enjoy? The event will certainly be a big spectacle, but barring a big surprise, its impact on the race itself might be smaller than you'd think: there appear to be few undecided voters this year, and neither man is a mystery at this point. According to a recent poll, less than 30 percent of Americans say the debates have mattered to them when casting their vote over the past twenty years.

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