What We’re Watching: Europe vs Iran

What We’re Watching: Europe vs Iran

Another escalation between the West and Iran – On Tuesday, France, Germany, and the UK formally opened the process, provided for in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, that could re-impose UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The deal to freeze Iran's nuclear program has been on life support since the US withdrew from it in May 2018 and slapped unilateral sanctions on Tehran. The Europeans had been working to keep the deal alive, even as Iran expanded its uranium enrichment activities in response to mounting financial pressure from Washington. But after the US drone attack that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qassim Suleimani last week, Tehran said it would no longer observe any limits to its nuclear program. Now the Europeans are saying that, though they regret the US withdrawal from the deal, they also can no longer ignore Iran's non-compliance. France, Germany, and the UK can extend this process indefinitely to prevent UN sanctions from coming into force. So, the main impact of the move, for now, will be to pressure Iran to come back to the negotiating table. We're watching for Tehran's next move.


France's Sahel summit – At a summit held Monday with West and Central African leaders, France's President Emmanuel Macron pledged to boost the French military presence in the Sahel region, adding an additional 220 troops to the 4,500 already there. The French military presence in the Sahel, a vast semi-arid area stretching across the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, began in 2013 in response to a surge of attacks in Mali by Islamist groups that has since spilled over into the Sahel. However, local African leaders have also had to grapple with the disapproval of communities unhappy with the presence of the former colonial power. Protestors – many inspired by Islamist clerics – have been demonstrating against the French military presence, prompting threats from Macron of a French troop withdrawal. As the recruiting power of local and foreign jihadist groups continues to grow, the threats to the region's people, and beyond, are quickly rising. (See our explainer here on how terrorism came to ravage the Sahel region).

Health challenges of the next decade – The World Health Organization (WHO) – the United Nations' top public health body – has released a list of the most pressing global health challenges that will shape the coming decade. Chief among them, according to WHO, is the climate crisis: "Air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people every year, while climate change causes more extreme weather events, exacerbates malnutrition and fuels the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria." Delivering healthcare in conflict zones and investing in healthcare workers and resources are also listed as health challenges worthy of greater public attention. Responding to the surging death toll from a measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, WHO recently issued a stern statement that said lack of funding is "a huge impediment" to disease containment; it asked countries around the world to fork out a collective $40 million over six months to implement elements of the outbreak response.

What We're Ignoring

Birthday greetings from President Trump – North Korea confirmed over the weekend that its leader, Kim Jong-un, had received a letter from President Trump wishing him a happy birthday. But it promptly shot down any hopes that the friendly gesture and Chairman Kim's "good personal feelings" about the US leader would help jumpstart stalled nuclear talks between the two countries. We're also ignoring Trump's birthday greetings, because we're pretty sure that when it comes to the 37-year-old Korean dictator's feelings about holding onto his nukes, the recent US assassination of Iran's second-most powerful man sent a much stronger message.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truck loads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

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As COP26 nears, the need for real climate action has never been more urgent. There are reasons for hope, but many scientists believe the ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is unattainable without immediate and significant change. Governments, financial institutions, and private sector companies alike have all recognized the need for a multistakeholder approach to solving this crisis of a lifetime.

Watch "Climate Crisis: Is net zero really possible?" a one-hour virtual livestream, hosted by GZERO Media and Microsoft as part of the Global Stage series, to hear scientists, corporate leaders and policymakers debate this question and offer critical perspectives on the way forward. Live on Tuesday, November 2nd at 11am ET, we'll break down what "net zero" means, take stock of where the world is on the path to carbon neutrality, and discuss critical steps needed to make real progress.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody and happy Monday. Back in the office, getting a little cool. So I've got my sweater going on. It's the first time I've had a sweater on. What do you do with that? Discussing fashion, as I talk to you about what is on my mind this week?

And what's on my mind this week, Facebook. Facebook is on my mind. It's a tough week for Facebook. There are all sorts of whistleblowers out there. There's testimony going on. There's calls for regulation. Everybody seems unhappy with them. Indeed, you even got the government relations types, Nick Clegg, who I've known for a long time back when he was a policymaker in the UK saying that the headlines are going to be rough, but we're are going to get through it. But I will say, first of all, I'm kind of skeptical that any of this goes anywhere in terms of impact on how Facebook actually operates.

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Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the EU's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

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