What We're Watching: Taliban government, Bolsonaro’s insurrection sputters, Myanmar uprising

What We're Watching: Taliban government, Bolsonaro’s insurrection sputters, Myanmar uprising

Taliban name interim government: Three weeks after taking over Afghanistan, the Taliban on Tueaday appointed an interim government made up largely by veterans of the 20-year war against the US. The most high-profile names are PM Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, foreign minister under the first Taliban regime (1996-2001); interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, with a $5 million US bounty because he's the leader of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, a group responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on US and Afghan forces; and deputy PM Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's top negotiator with the US in Qatar. The Taliban had promised an inclusive government that would represent all Afghans, but the interim one is dominated by ethnic Pashtuns. It also has exactly the number of women most predicted: zero. The Taliban hope that an interim cabinet will make it easier for them to gain international recognition and to get on with the complicated business of governing Afghanistan — and find the money to do so.


Bolsonaro's insurrection fails (for now): On Tuesday, Brazil's independence day, about 100,000 supporters of rightwing President Jair Bolsonaro marched in the capital Brasilia to protest against the Supreme Court for investigating him for spreading fake news and corruption. Hundreds broke through police barriers, but ultimately failed in their bid to reach Congress and the Supreme Court, which some of Bolsonaro's diehards wanted to occupy to emulate the January 6 US Capitol insurrection. They were also kept away from thousands of counter-protesters and supporters of leftwing former president Lula da Silva, who will probably run for his old job against Bolsonaro a year from now and is currently leading the polls by a big margin. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, had been firing up his base for days, declaring war on the courts and — taking a page from his pal Donald Trump's screenplay — insisting that he won't accept the result of the election if he doesn't win. Although Bolsonaro fell short of the 2-million strong turnout he was hoping for and his approval ratings continue to decline, don't expect him to give up anytime soon.

Myanmar's shadow government declares war on the junta: Eight months after the generals toppled Myanmar's democratically elected leaders, the government in exile has urged all citizens to join forces in a "people's defensive war" against the junta. That'll probably entail a combination of peaceful resistance by civilians, mass defections by bureaucrats and military/police personnel, and attacks by ethnic minority militias. The junta, for its part, says this is all just an attention-grabbing ploy ahead of next week's UN General Assembly, which still recognizes the previous government. Regardless, the call for a national uprising comes as Myanmar is currently suffering its worst violence since the coup, mostly in long-restive ethnic minority states. If the fighting extends to the rest of the country, especially cities, it could usher in a civil war in all but name where no outsider wants to intervene.

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Iran’s nuclear program runs hotter

Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

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January 6 laid bare "the deep divisions, the partisan infighting, the polarization within our society," says Fiona Hill, the former US senior director of the National Security Council. In a GZERO World interview, she spoke with Ian Bremmer about her concerns about the state of democracy in the United States.

Hill famously testified against her impeached boss, Donald Trump, who stayed in power after being acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. She also notes that divisions actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Watch this episode of GZERO World: American strife: Will US democracy survive? Fiona Hill explains post-Jan 6 stakes

Kevin Allison, director of geotech at Eurasia Group, is concerned about the rise of very powerful tech companies disrupting centuries of geopolitics led by the nation-state.

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The problem with China’s Zero COVID strategy: GZERO World with Ian Bremmer - the podcast

Listen: Xi Jinping's zero-COVID approach faces its toughest test to date with omicron. Why? Because China lacks mRNA jabs, and so few Chinese people have gotten COVID that overall protection is very low. A wave of lockdowns could disrupt the world's second-largest economy — just a month out from the Beijing Winter Olympics.

That could spell disaster for Beijing, Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. If things get really bad, though, Huang believes China will pivot to living with the virus, especially as the cost of keeping zero COVID in the age of omicron becomes too high.

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.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Kiev, Ukraine

First question, how is the crisis in this part of Europe developing?

Not good. There's been a week of intense diplomacy with talks in Geneva, and Brussels, and Vienna that produced virtually nothing. The Russian, sort of key demands are outrageously unrealistic. They know that is the case. The US is trying to engage them on somewhat different issues. We'll see if there's any prospect there, but it doesn't look too good. I think the likelihood is that we gradually will move into the phase of what the Russians call military technical measures, whatever that is.

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For Angela Hofmann, practice head for Industrial & Consumer at Eurasia Group, the world's most visible brands are in for a very rocky year.

Navigating culture wars will be very tricky, as well as fighting with competing demands from consumers, employees, and regulators on issues like China, diversity, and voting rights.

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Political polarization in the US isn’t just a problem within the country, points out former US national security official Fiona Hill. Deep divisions, she says, actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

“Putin loves our disunity," Russian expert Hill tells Ian Bremmer. "It's incredibly useful as a tool to exploit in that toolkit that he has.”

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An emboldened Putin thrives on American disunity

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