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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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