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.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.

"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.