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What We're Watching: Iran's nuclear tug-of-war, Hong Kong's doomed democracy, Hungarian politician's "misstep"

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei alongside an activist holding an image of slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani

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.

What's next for Hong Kong's beleaguered opposition? China struck a major blow against the Hong Kong democracy movement on Wednesday, when a local court sentenced prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong to more than 13 months in prison for his role in last year's protests, while his co-defendant, Agnes Chow, was given a 10-month sentence. Wong, Chow and Ivan Lam, another member of the pro-democracy group, pleaded guilty to unauthorized assembly charges in connection with a June 2019 demonstration in which Wong shouted "no riots, only tyranny" through a loudspeaker. That protest, sparked by Beijing's attempt to extend its legal jurisdiction over Hong Kong, swelled into months of sometimes violent mass demonstrations against mainland China's broader attempts to quash the city's unique democratic institutions. As those lost steam this year amid the pandemic, Beijing imposed a draconian new security law on the city, with wide scope to punish dissent. The jailing of Wong comes just a few weeks after pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong resigned en masse over the expulsion of some of their members from the city's legislature. Can Hong Kong's once-vibrant democracy movement survive?

A Hungarian politician's delicious downfall: A prominent anti-gay member of Hungary's far-right Fidesz party has resigned his post as an EU parliamentarian after he was caught fleeing an illegal gay sex party in Brussels. Jozsef Szajer, who reportedly shimmied down a drainpipe when the police showed up to bust the soiree for violating pandemic lockdown rules, was reportedly caught on the street outside with his hands bloodied and drugs in his backpack. Szajer, a founding member of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ultraconservative Fidesz party, headed the party's delegation to the European Parliament. He was directly involved in efforts to ban gay marriage at home in Hungary. He has apologized to his family for "the misstep."


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