The Clock-Watchers: Xi, Kim, Khamenei

The Clock-Watchers: Xi, Kim, Khamenei

Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump reached a trade truce with China, restarted nuclear talks with North Korea by taking an unprecedented step into that country, and then returned home to the news that Iran has officially exceeded the limits on uranium enrichment set by the 2016 nuclear accord that he ditched last year.

As Trump heads into the final 18 months of his (first?) presidential term, these three huge foreign policy challenges remain unresolved. Despite the ludicrous speed of the news cycle, 18 isn't long in global politics time. So if you're the leader of Iran, China, or North Korea, do you stall to run out the clock? Or do you take your best shot now to get what you want from Trump?

Put yourself in the shoes of these three men…

Ayatollah Khamenei: Trump wants you to sign on to a new, stricter nuclear deal, and he's been ratcheting up sanctions while blaming you for a spike in Persian Gulf shipping attacks. But he chose to hack rather than bomb you in retaliation when you shot down an American drone, which was nice of him. He says he wants to talk to you directly – he is probably salivating at the ratings it would deliver him -- but you aren't prepared to go from "Death to America" to "Welcome Donald Trump" quite so quickly.

Your best bet is probably to wait until 2020 to see if you can get a Democrat who is both more predictable and more favorably disposed to the original Iran deal.

Xi Jinping: Trump has agreed to postpone a massive new round of tariff increases in order to revive talks on a US-China trade deal. And he may even give a little relief to Huawei, your most important tech company. Still, Trump and his team want you to dismantle the state-powered economic system that Made China Great and which, you are certain, will make China the tech superpower of the future.

You are on the fence. If you wait out Trump, you might get a more conventional Democrat in 2020. But a new US president might work more effectively with US allies to lead a united front against your trade and tech practices. Then you'd really be in trouble.

Kim Jong-un: You already have nuclear weapons, and you aren't going to give them up altogether because they are your security guarantee – after all, you've had nightmares about what happened to Qaddafi. And you've balked at even partial concessions until Trump eases some of those crippling sanctions on your country. With a little economic help from China you can hang on for a long time like this. But, here's the thing: Trump seems to like you. To really, really like you. In fact, he likes you in a way that no other US president could have or will again. Shouldn't you leap at the chance to make some kind of deal now? If Trump loses, you might too. After all, as a wise man once said, "the waiting game sucks, let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos."

Beautiful powerful voice interlude: By the way, you may have seen that Trump praised Kim Jong-un's "powerful voice" voice at the DMZ. Whatever, Puppet Regime knew about the North Korean leader's vocal talents months ago when we penned a classic surf tune with him. Check it out here, losers.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

More Show less

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal