What We’re Watching: Hariri’s out, Wong’s out, the Kurds are (maybe) out

What We’re Watching: Hariri’s out, Wong’s out, the Kurds are (maybe) out

Lebanon's PM throws in the towel: After two weeks of widespread anti-government protests, Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced yesterday that he and his government would resign, paving the way for new elections. Years' worth of rage over government corruption and bleak job prospects exploded in mid-October when the government proposed a tax on calls made using free internet messaging services. But it's unclear whether this will be enough for protesters, whose signature chant "all of them means all of them" emphasizes that they want to upend the entire political class. Hariri's resignation also defied Hezbollah, the political party and militia group, which is a crucial member of the country's national-unity government and has rejected calls for an early election. As of now, there's no sign that the protesters are willing to back down, or that Hezbollah will agree to resign from government.


Time runs out in northern Syria: According to a Russia-Turkey agreement, all Kurdish militants are now supposed to have withdrawn from the Turkish-administered "safe zone" that extends 20 miles into northern Syria. The Russians say the Kurds are out, but Turkey isn't ready to confirm that, and there are concerns that Turkey is preparing to charge further into Syria than agreed. After all, Ankara is openly aiming to ethnically cleanse the region of Kurds, in order to resettle it with up to two million Syrian Arab refugees currently living in Turkey. At the same time, Turkish soldiers have clashed with Syrian army troops for the first time. This means that Turkey, a NATO member, is now patrolling a safe zone cleared of former US allies with Russia, while also shooting at Syrian soldiers backed by...Russia.

A big candidate barred in Hong Kong: Joshua Wong, Hong Kong's budding pro-democracy activist, was barred on Tuesday from running in district council elections slated for November 24, because he has been "advocating or promoting self-determination" for the territory. Pro-Beijing candidates usually dominate local polls in Hong Kong, but months of political unrest over the mainland's encroachment on Hong Kong's freedoms have prompted a surge in the number of pro-democracy candidates running. Wong, the former student leader of the 2014 Umbrella movement, is the only banned candidate out of more than 1,100 contenders. Pro-democracy candidates and pro-Beijing incumbents are vying for seats that will give them a say in the nomination of Hong Kong's next leader.

What We're Ignoring:

The spy who stole al-Baghdadi's underwear: The operation to capture or kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was successful because of months-long cooperation between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US military. While these missions are often top secret, a rather unusual detail of the daring raid has been released: to make sure that US forces were trailing the right terrorist, a Kurdish spy stole al-Baghdadi's underwear in order to test his DNA and confirm a match! While it's comforting to know that US-Kurdish intelligence sharing paid off, we're ignoring this because, frankly, it's TMI.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

The minutiae of supply chains makes for boring dinner table talk, but it's increasingly becoming a hot topic of conversation now that packages are taking much longer to arrive in the consumer-oriented US, while prices of goods soar.

With the issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, right-wing media have dubbed President Biden the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, conjuring images of sad Christmas trees surrounded by distraught children whose holiday gifts are stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the NBA's latest rift with China, Brazil's Senate investigation, and COVID booster shots.

China wipes Boston Celtics from NBA broadcast after the "Free Tibet" speech from Enes Kanter. Is NBA boxing itself into a corner?

Nice mixed sports metaphor there. NBA has some challenges because they are of course the most progressive on political and social issues in the United States among sports leagues, but not when it comes to China, their most important international market. And you've seen that with LeBron James telling everyone about we need to learn better from the Communist Party on issues like Hong Kong and how Daryl Morey got hammered for taking his stance in favor of Hong Kong democracy. Well, Enes Kanter's doing the same thing and he's a second-string center. Didn't even play yesterday and still the Chinese said that they were not going to air any Boston Celtics games. Why? Because he criticized the Chinese government and had some "Free Tibet" sneakers. This is a real problem for a lot of corporations out there, but particularly publicly, the NBA. Watch for a bunch of American politicians to make it harder for the NBA going forward, saying how dare you kowtow to the Chinese when you're all about "Black Lives Matter" inside the United States. No fun.

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

A Trump media platform? Is this for real?

This week, President Trump announced his potential return to social media through the creation of his own digital media platform that's going to merge with an existing publicly-traded company in a deal known as a SPAC. These deals are increasingly popular for getting access to capital, and it seems like that's where President Trump is headed.

The publicly-traded company's stock was up on the news, but it's really hard to see this coming together. The Trump media company claims it wants to go up against not only Facebook and Twitter, but companies like Amazon and cloud computing and even Disney providing a safe space for conservatives to share their points of view. The fact of the matter is, conservatives do quite well on existing social media platforms when they aren't being kicked off for violating the terms of service, and other conservative social media platforms that have attempted to launch this year haven't really gone off the ground.

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Protests in Sudan: Protests are again shaking the Sudanese capital, as supporters of rival wings of the transitional government take to the streets. Back in 2019, after popular demonstrations led to the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir, a deal was struck between civilian activists and the army, in which a joint civilian-military government would run the country until fresh elections could be held in 2023. But now supporters of the military wing are calling on it to dissolve the government entirely, while supporters of the civilian wing are counter-protesting. Making matters worse, a pro-military tribal leader in Eastern Sudan has set up a blockade which is interrupting the flow of goods and food to the capital. The US, which backs the civilian wing, has sent an envoy to Khartoum as tensions rise, while Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are all vying for a piece as well.

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