What We’re Watching: Hariri back as Lebanese PM, US-India vs China, Iran’s US election shenanigans

Art by Gabriella Turrisi
Hariri 4.0 in Lebanon: Veteran politician Saad Hariri returns as Lebanon's prime minister almost exactly one year after he stepped down amid mass street protests over corruption and lack of jobs. Now, though, his job has become even tougher: sky-high inflation, cash-strapped banks, and rising poverty were all bad enough before first COVID-19 hit. Then a huge explosion in the Beirut port killed over 200 people and caused billions of dollars in damages. Although bringing back Hariri for his fourth stint as PM doesn't seem to jive with the Lebanese people's increasing demands for change to deal with the country's collapse, he was the only candidate with sufficient support to get nominated in Lebanon's famously complex political power-sharing system. So far, Hariri has promised to set up a team of experts to carry out long-overdue political and economic reforms Lebanon that needs to get a financial lifeline from international donors like France. Will Hariri 4.0 deliver?

India to get US satellite data: Ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's upcoming visit to India, a deal is in the works under which the Indian military would get access to US satellite data for its missiles and drones. The agreement helps India narrow its military gap with China, and is part of the Trump administration's broader efforts to check China's ambitions by bolstering the defense capabilities of other Asian countries. For years India has avoided getting dragged into the US-China tussle, but last summer's deadly border clash with the Chinese in the Himalayas prompted Delhi to take a more active role in the "Quad" group of countries (a security group including Australia, India, the US and Japan, which Beijing views as a US attempt to create a NATO-style anti-Chinese military alliance in the region). We're watching to see how China will react to further US-India military cooperation, and how the Indians will walk the fine line between bolstering their defenses and avoiding more open conflict with Beijing.

Iran pretending to be Proud: The FBI is blaming Iranian agents for a recent flurry of emails that threatened US voters if they don't vote for Donald Trump. The emails, supposedly from the Proud Boys — a pro-Trump far-right street gang — targeted registered Democrats with the message "vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you." US intelligence officials say the scam was designed to tarnish Trump, but to us it seems more like a bid to create broader confusion and distrust surrounding the election. You can expect more shenanigans of this kind in the coming days, as the Feds say both Iran and Russia have gained access to voter registration information in some US states. (They have not been able to change any information or affect any vote tallies.) But, in our view, any issues surrounding the legitimacy of the US election have much more to do with American polarization than with foreign meddling. If you disagree, we'd love to hear why.

Emily Ademola lives in an area of Nigeria that has been attacked by Boko Haram militants in the past. Looking for water was very risky, and without access to water, the community – especially children – were at risk of waterborne diseases. Eni, in partnership with FAO, built a water well in Emily's community in 2019.

Watch Emily's first-hand account about how access to water "close to our doorsteps" has improved the quality of life for her community and her family.

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

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While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Paris-London face-off at sea: France and the UK are at loggerheads in the high seas this week over post-Brexit fishing access in Jersey, an island off the English Channel. Furious at regulations that they say makes it harder to fish in these lucrative waters, dozens of French fishing boats amassed near the Channel Island, threatening to block access to the port. In response, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deployed two naval vessels — a move critics say was an unnecessary escalation, and an attempt by the PM to flex his muscles and bolster the Tory vote ahead of Thursday's regional election. France, for its part, sent its own naval ship and threatened to cut off Jersey's electricity supply, 90 percent of which comes from French underwater cables. Fishing rights was one of the final sticking points of Brexit trade negotiations, an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Though an UK-EU Brexit agreement was finally reached in December 2020, it's clear that there are still thorny issues that need to be resolved.

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10: Joshua Wong was sentenced along with other Hong Kong democracy activists to 10 months in prison for participating in a vigil last year marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Wong is currently behind bars for participating in separate pro-democracy protests, and will only start this new sentence after that term concludes in November.

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What's the biggest foreign policy misconception that Americans have about the US's role in the world? According to international relations expert Tom Nichols, too few Americans believe that the US, in fact, has a critical role in the world, and that the things Americans enjoy, from cheap goods to safe streets, are made possible because of American global leadership. "Americans have become so spoiled and inured to the idea that the world is a dangerous place that they don't understand that the seas are navigable because someone makes them that way. They don't understand that peace between the great powers is not simply like the weather, that just happens," Nichols tells Ian Bremmer. Their conversation is featured on an episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television – check local listings.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

The cover story of The Economist declares that Taiwan is "The most dangerous place on Earth," because China might finally be ready to plan an invasion of the island. But are the consequences of such a move worth the many risks to China and its President Xi Jinping? Ian Bremmer breaks out the Red Pen to to explain why a US-China war over Taiwan is unlikely.

We are taking our red pen to a recent article from The Economist. The Economist, you ask, how could I? I love The Economist, I know, I know. But you'd lose respect if I give this piece a pass. In fact, it was the magazine's cover story this week, so I had no choice. The image and headline say it all. Here it is, Taiwan is now "the most dangerous place on earth" as US/China relations continue to sour in the opening months of President Biden's administration.

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Would China really invade Taiwan?

The Red Pen

India’s COVID crisis hits home

GZERO World Clips
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal