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What We're Watching: Brexit Battles, Israel and Iran, and Clashes in Cameroon

Brexit Battles – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has asked Queen Elizabeth to temporarily suspend Parliament for five weeks starting in September. That would dramatically shrink the time available for MPs who oppose the government's Brexit plans to pass legislation before the October 31 Brexit deadline that would prevent the UK from crashing out of the EU without a deal – and may make it impossible. Hobbling Parliament could give Johnson more leverage in his talks with the EU to modify the terms of the UK's withdrawal agreement, after Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron promised to consider any credible new ideas from Johnson on how to handle the Irish border. But this is a huge escalation, and MPs may respond with their own nuclear option – a no-confidence vote.


Iran-Israel Proxy Flare-Up – On Sunday, Israel confirmed it bombed an Iran-backed militia group in Syria that it says was preparing to launch "killer drones" against Israeli targets. Israel is also thought to be behind attacks on Iranian-allied groups in Lebanon and Iraq, and hits on Hamas targets in Gaza. The governments of Iraq and Lebanon condemned the strikes, while Hezbollah promised retaliation. With three weeks to go until snap elections that will determine Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's (Bibi) political fate, we're watching to see whether this flare-up escalates, and whether it boosts Bibi's election chances against former Israel Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz.

Clashes in Cameroon – English-speaking regions of majority Francophone Cameroon are on lockdown following a violent weekend in which clashes between the army and Anglophone separatists killed 40 people and sent tens of thousands of residents fleeing for safety. The conflict started in 2016, when the central government cracked down on English speakers protesting a move to impose French on local schools and courts. The flare-up in recent days came a week after 10 prominent Anglophone separatists were handed life sentences for rebellion. So far, more than 2,000 people have died and more than 500,000 have been displaced in the three-year-old conflict.

What We're Ignoring:

US-Iran talks – The surprise visit of Iran's foreign minister to the recent G7 Summit, at France's invitation, has raised expectations that Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani might meet on the sidelines of next month's UN General Assembly meetings in New York. We shouldn't get our hopes up for a breakthrough. In Iran, it's the Supreme Leader, not the president, who makes the big foreign-policy decisions, and Ayatollah Khamenei has dismissed the idea of a meeting. Even if he agrees and Trump and Rouhani do sit down together, Iran is highly unlikely to make big concessions from a position of economic weakness, and Trump won't relent on sanctions. As Willis wrote in yesterday's edition, Iran's government is among those hoping to get a better deal from a new US president in 2021.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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