What We’re Watching: Iranian inauguration, Taliban go urban, Belarusian activist dead, China’s hog hotels

What We’re Watching: Iranian inauguration, Taliban go urban,  Belarusian activist dead, China’s hog hotels

Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi receives the endorsement decree for his presidency from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran August 3, 2021.

The Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.


Taliban capture key city: After taking over most of rural Afghanistan, the Taliban are now closing in on Afghan cities. This week, an Afghan general told residents to evacuate Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province, after the Taliban seized most of the urban area. This is a big blow for the government because it promised to defend provincial capitals. (Helmand witnessed back in 2009 one of the US/NATO military's most successful campaigns against the Taliban, although NATO forces always failed to stop the Taliban from using the province's poppy fields to fuel their lucrative opium trade.) Meanwhile, the Biden administration now says it'll expand US visa eligibility for Afghans fleeing the Taliban takeover. But, but, but… they'll need to apply outside the country, and Washington doesn't intend to help them get out. Afghanistan's neighbors could step in, but the last thing they want is a refugee crisis on their borders.

Belarus targets dissidents: Two days after a Belarusian sprinter sought refuge in Poland because she feared for her life after criticizing her country's government at the Tokyo Olympics, a prominent Belarusian dissident in exile has turned up dead in Ukraine. People close to Vitaly Shishov, head of a Kyiv-based NGO that helps Belarusians escape persecution, believe his death by hanging was carried out by hitmen sent by strongman President Alexander Lukashenko. Shishov is one of many young Belarusians who left the country a year ago following the regime's crackdown on mass street protests after Lukashenko's victory in the August 2020 presidential election, which outside observers say was rigged. If it's true that Lukashenko had Shishov killed, the Belarusian leader is clearly upping the ante on targeting his opponents abroad, just months after grounding an EU-bound flight to arrest an anti-government journalist. And there's not much Brussels can — or will — do about it.

China's pig hotels: If you're a Chinese pig, you're in luck. The state plans to house about 10,000 of you in a luxury condo with 24-hour security, veterinarians on call, gourmet meals, and health monitoring. This doesn't mean they don't want to eat you anymore (they do!), but rather, that they aim to keep you safe from all sorts of viruses — especially the devastating African swine flu, which wiped out half of all Chinese hogs in 2018. So say goodbye to eating scraps on a family farm, you now live in the lap of luxury. The catch is that you'll still be expected to get plump and juicy for char siu.

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Does the EU really have a foreign policy?

For decades, European leaders have debated the question of whether Europe should have a common foreign policy that’s independent of the United States.

Germany, the UK, and countries situated closest to Russia have traditionally preferred to rely on membership in NATO and US military strength to safeguard European security at a cost affordable for them.

French leaders, by contrast, have argued that, with or without NATO, Europe needs an approach to foreign-policy questions that doesn’t depend on alignment, or even agreement, with Washington.

There are those within many EU countries who agree that Europe must speak with a single clear voice if the EU is to promote European values and protect European interests in a world of US, Chinese, and Russian power.

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A recent spate of violent crimes in New York City has made national headlines. Since Eric Adams was sworn in four weeks ago as mayor of America’s most populous city, violence on the streets — and the subways — has again become a major political focus. Things got even more heated this week, when two young cops were killed while responding to a domestic dispute in Harlem.

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FILE PHOTO of a F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the Argonauts of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, launches off the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Jan. 14, 2022.

U.S Navy/EYEPRESS

100 million: The US Navy is scrambling to find a $100 million F-35 stealth fighter jet that crashed and sank soon after taking off on Monday from an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. One expert described the Cold War-ish race to locate the remains — stocked with classified equipment — before the Chinese do as "basically The Hunt For Red October meets The Abyss."

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The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a pipe at the Chelyabinsk pipe rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020.

Nord Stream 2 used as a bargaining chip with Russia. The US now says that if Russia invades Ukraine, it’ll block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is set to transfer even more natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. This is a big deal, considering that Germany – thirsty for more Russian gas – has long been pushing for the pipeline to start operating despite ongoing objections from Washington. The $11 billion energy project, which would double Russian gas exports to Germany, is seen as (a big) part of the reason why Berlin is reluctant to push back hard against the Kremlin over its troop buildup at the Ukrainian border. Still, German officials admit Nord Stream 2 could face sanctions if the Russians invade, suggesting that the Americans’ threat was likely coordinated with Berlin in advance. This comes amid ongoing diplomatic attempts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, with US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz set to meet at the White House on February 7.

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Putin Has a “Noose” Around Ukraine, Says Russia Analyst Alina Polyakova | GZERO World

What’s going on in Vladimir Putin’s mind? That’s the million-dollar question.

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Ever wonder why everything seems to be a major crisis these days? For former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, it's because artificial intelligence has determined that's the only way to get your attention.

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"Oh my God there's another message. Oh my God, there's another crisis. Oh my God, there's another outrage. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God," he says. "I don't think humans, at least in modern society where [we’ve] evolved to be in an 'Oh my God' situation all day."

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Merkin' It With Angela Merkel | PUPPET REGIME | GZERO Media

Angela Merkel is retired — but only from politics. Still, maybe she's not as good at other jobs as she was as German chancellor.

Watch more PUPPET REGIME!

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