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What We're Watching: Iraq's new PM, conflict avocados

What We're Watching: Iraq's new PM, conflict avocados

Iraq's new prime minister: After two months of political stalemate and mass anti-government protests, Iraq has a prime minister. Mohammed Allawi, a former communications minister who resigned from that post in 2012 after accusing the government of corruption, will now run the country until early parliamentary elections are held at a yet to be determined date. Allawi, a Shia, is the cousin of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. His first few hours on the job haven't been easy: despite making overtures to the protesters in which he praised their "bravery," hundreds of people took to the streets Sunday in Baghdad and the country's predominantly Shiite south to oppose Allawi who, they say, represents the same corrupt political elite that's long failed them. But Allawi also enjoys the backing of Moqtada el-Sadr, the country's most powerful Shia cleric, and that counts for a lot. We're watching to see if Allawi can restore order to Iraq's unsettled internal politics, while also balancing Iraq's dicey relations with the US and Iran. No easy task, even for the deftest of politicians.


Narcos and avocados: Americans' increased use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl has cratered prices for organic opium in Mexico, forcing gangs there to turn to an unlikely alternative source of income: the avocado. The tropical fruit (yes, it's a fruit, don't @ us) has enjoyed a huge boom in the US in recent years, opening up $2bn in trade for Mexican farmers. And with opium prices falling, the narcos have swooped in to extort avocado farmers and hijack their shipments. The Financial Times reports that some municipalities are hiring special security services just to protect the avocado industry. You can learn more about the story in the excellent Netflix series Rotten. In the meantime, the next time you order an avocado toast at brunch, gaze deep into that green paste and contemplate the harrowing journey that it took to reach you. Opioids. Avocados. Violence. It's all connected. Enjoy!


Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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