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What we’re watching: Iran takes a bigger step towards a bomb

What we’re watching: Iran takes a bigger step towards a bomb

Iran steps further from the nuclear deal — Iran will restart uranium enrichment at its underground nuclear facility at Fordow, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, pulling Tehran further away from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that restricted the country's use of centrifuges. Iran will now begin injecting uranium gas into more than 1,000 centrifuges. While Tehran has steadily been violating more aspects of the agreement since President Trump withdrew from it last year and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran's economy, this is a serious step because it reduces the "breakout time" that Iran needs in order to build a working bomb. That poses a serious dilemma for the deal's other five signatories — Germany, France, the UK, Russia and China — which have tried to safeguard the agreement: they must now decide when Tehran's breaches become "critical," and how to react when they do.


India pulls out of a big trade deal – In the end, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the massive China-backed Asian trade deal that we flagged last week. RCEP would have freed up the flow of goods between 16 different countries accounting for one third of global economic output, including India and China. It'll now soldier on with 15 members, including China, but with India on the outside. Some commentators immediately drew parallels with President Trump's decision in 2017 to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal that Trump said was bad for American jobs despite its supporters' argument that it was important for US power in the Pacific. Like Trump, the benefits for Modi of walking out are mainly domestic - India's politically important farmers and manufacturers who feared a flood of cheap Chinese imports welcomed the move – while the downsides are mainly geopolitical: reduced influence and credibility in Asia.

A new prime minister in Romania – Romania's parliament narrowly approved a transitional government on Monday, making Ludovic Orban, a member of Romania's center-right National Liberal Party, the country's fourth prime minister since 2016. Orban replaces Social Democrat Viorica Dancila, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote last month, one of a string of setbacks that have hit the increasingly unpopular Social Democrats since they took charge of the government in 2016. With Orban (no relation to the Hungarian Prime Minister of the same name) now in charge of a minority government, Romania has an opportunity – albeit a fragile one – to hit reset on years of political dysfunction. Top of the agenda: decide on a new nominee for the European Commission, whose appointment has been held up after Romania's earlier appointee to the European Union's main executive body was rejected due to potential conflicts of interest.

What We're Ignoring:

Attempts to reassure us about Polish nuclear cannibal ants – There's good news and bad news here. First, the bad news: millions of wood ants that resorted to cannibalism after they fell into a pitch-black abandoned Soviet nuclear bunker in Poland years ago have escaped after scientists studying the colony built a wooden bridge that allowed them to get back to the surface. The good news, according to the scientists, is that even though this sounds the setup for a B-grade horror-action flick, the ants stopped eating each other after they rejoined their old nest above ground. We're ignoring these reassurances and will be steering clear of the nuclear cannibal ants for the foreseeable future.

Bank of America's $25 million jobs initiative provides Black and Hispanic-Latino individuals access to skills and training needed for jobs of the future. Learn more about the initiative, which involves partnerships with 21 community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic Serving Institutions.

Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Iran's nuclear tug-of-war: Hardliners in Iran's parliament passed a bill Tuesday suspending UN inspections of its nuclear sites and giving the go-ahead to massively increase uranium enrichment unless the US lifts its sanctions by February. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani opposes the measure, saying it would be "harmful" to diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with the incoming Biden administration in the US. But Iran's parliament doesn't actually need Rouhani's approval to pass the law, and regardless, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will have the final say on policy – as always! If the law is passed, it will immediately raise the stakes for Biden, who takes office on January 20. Both he and Rouhani say they are keen to resume dialogue in hopes of reviving the nuclear deal, which President Trump walked out of in 2018. But just days after the architect of Iran's nuclear program was assassinated (likely by Israel with the US' blessing) the hurdles to even beginning those talks are rising fast.

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"China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy." This was the message recently conveyed by a Chinese government official on the intensifying row with its Asia-Pacific neighbor, Australia.

China-Australia relations, steadily deteriorating in recent months over a range of political disputes, reached a new low this week when Beijing posted a doctored image on Twitter of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child's throat. Beijing's decision to post the fake image at a hypersensitive time for Australia's military establishment was a deliberate political provocation: beat Canberra while it's down.

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19.4: The Lebanese economy, waylaid by financial and political crises on top of the pandemic, is set to contract by a crippling 19.4 percent this year, according to the World Bank. Next year things hardly get better, with a contraction of 13.2 percent coming in 2021.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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