What We're Watching: Afghan peace talks, Israel-Bahrain normalize ties, Peruvian president impeached

Taliban delegates shake hands during talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar

Afghanistan peace talks kick off: Months of political wrangling and impasse dashed hopes of reconciliation in Afghanistan, but now expectations have risen again after historic intra-Afghan peace talks kicked off Saturday in Doha, the Qatari capital. These direct negotiations — the parameters of which were set out by the Taliban and the US government earlier this year — symbolize the first time the Afghan government and the Taliban are sitting down face-to-face since the US invasion two decades ago, in the hopes of establishing a power-sharing arrangement to end decades of violence. The Taliban, which subscribe to an extreme Islamic political ideology, have long deemed the US-bolstered Afghan government as illegitimate. But now, in showing a willingness to engage directly, the Taliban are offering the Afghan people — 90 percent of whom live below the poverty line — a (small) glimmer of home regarding the prospect of reconciliation. Still, divisions persist between the two sides on major issues including the role of religion in society, women and minority rights, and ongoing insurgent violence. Complicating matters further, this all comes as the Trump administration says it will withdraw thousands of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by November.


Israel, Bahrain establish diplomatic ties: After weeks of speculation following the historic peace deal signed between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain has followed suit in normalizing ties with the Jewish state. The Israel-Bahrain deal, also brokered by the Trump administration, formalizes relations between the two sides that have been warming behind closed doors for decades over mutual enmity towards Iran as well as a desire to deepen trade ties and security cooperation. It's also a sign, analysts say, of Bahrain's attempt to increasingly endear itself to Washington amid intensifying regional tumult. (Bahrain was one of only a few countries that expressed support for the Trump administration's Middle East peace proposal earlier this year, which most international players rejected as being overly deferential to Israel, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "green light" to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.) It's widely believed that neither the UAE nor Bahrain would have gone ahead with normalization without the go-ahead from the "mother hen" Saudi Arabia — yet another sign, they say, that compromise on the Palestinian issue is no longer a precondition for the Arab world embracing Israel.

Peruvian president impeached: Perú's parliament has approved impeachment proceedings against President Martín Vizcarra for allegedly trying to block an investigation into misuse of public funds. The centrist Vizcarra — who swept into power in 2018 on an anti-corruption agenda — denies the accusation of "moral incapacity" despite leaked audio recordings in which he appears to suggest lying about his hiring of an obscure singer for $49,500 to deliver "pro-government motivational talks." The (bizarre) bombshell revelation has provoked a public outcry in pandemic-stricken Perú, the country now with the highest COVID-19 death rate per capita in the world. Perú's economy is also struggling to recover from the three-month shutdown of the mining sector due to the coronavirus, which saw its quarterly GDP plummet by more than 40 percent in June. Will the Peruvian leader survive impeachment? Sixty-five out of 130 lawmakers voted in favor on Friday, but the opposition parties altogether hold 95 seats — more than the 87 votes needed to remove Vizcarra.

That's Bank of America's new target in its Environmental Business Initiative in order to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

Here's how it will drive innovation to address climate change.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

More Show less

More than a dozen COVID-19 vaccines have been fully approved or are currently in early use globally, and COVAX, the global initiative started last year by the World Health Organization and other partners, is pushing for equitable access to vaccines for all. But most of the half billion jabs given so far have gone to citizens of wealthy countries, with half going to the US and China alone. What's the problem with so-called vaccine nationalism? Ian Bremmer explains that besides the clear humanitarian concerns, the continued global spread of COVID increases the risk of new mutations and variants that can threaten the entire world, vaccinated or not.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Should wealthy individuals and nations shoulder more of the burden in addressing climate change? Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert argues that Big Tech leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk should shift more of their focus to fighting for our own planet's survival, instead of space exploration. "We're doing as much as we can to make life difficult on planet Earth for ourselves. But there's virtually nothing we could do to make it as difficult as life on Mars, where there's, among other things, no oxygen." Kolbert, the author of Under a White Sky, discusses why it's so crucial for a few rich countries to bear most of the climate burden, since they're also the biggest emitters. Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 16. Check local listings.

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

More Show less

Fighting climate change is about making the planet get less hot. The more quickly countries slow down their carbon emissions, the faster that'll happen. All the more important for the nations that pollute the most — but not all of them are on board. Although the majority, including China, are setting future targets to go Net Zero, India doesn't want to commit (yet) to when to stop burning fossil fuels to spur economic growth. We take a look at when the world's top polluting economies intend to go carbon-neutral, compared with their share of global emissions, of renewable energy as a source of electricity, and percentage of global coal consumption.

Peruvian runoff: Perú's presidential election is going to a runoff in June between two surprise and polarizing contenders, each of whom won less than 20 percent of votes in a highly fragmented first round. Pedro Castillo, a far-left union leader and teacher who benefited from a late surge in the polls, will battle rightwing populist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Castillo wants to rewrite the constitution to weaken the political influence of the country's business elite and maybe to allow the state to nationalize parts of the mining sector to pay for social programs for the poor. Fujimori wants to use mining revenues to create jobs by investing in infrastructure and healthcare. The runoff will probably be a national referendum on Fujimori, a divisive figure running for the top job for the third time. No Peruvian president has ever left office without facing corruption charges, but Fujimori already faces several — and she'll avoid jail time if she wins.

More Show less

900 million: Egypt has impounded the Ever Given, the ship that recently blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week, until its owners pay some $900 million in compensation for losses and the cost of the rescue operation. The blockage of this major naval chokepoint caused severe disruption to the global maritime shipping industry.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal