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.

Last week, in Fulton, WI, together with election officials from the state of Wisconsin and the election technology company VotingWorks, Microsoft piloted ElectionGuard in an actual election for the first time.

As voters in Fulton cast ballots in a primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates, the official count was tallied using paper ballots as usual. However, ElectionGuard also provided an encrypted digital tally of the vote that enabled voters to confirm their votes have been counted and not altered. The pilot is one step in a deliberate and careful process to get ElectionGuard right before it's used more broadly across the country.

Read more about the process at Microsoft On The Issues.

Coronavirus, and the anxiety it provokes, have spread far beyond China. More than 1,200 additional cases are now confirmed across more than 30 countries. Fears are growing that the outbreak has reached the early stages of a global pandemic, because infections in South Korea, Italy, and Iran have no apparent connection to China, where the first reported cases emerged.

Alongside its obvious public health and economic effects, coronavirus is also shaking up politics—especially in a few countries where governments have good cause to worry how citizens will judge their performance.

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Ian Bremmer explains the history and significance of the annual Munich Security Conference, now in its 56th year. The gathering of heads of state and top foreign and security ministers has diffused some political bombs and been the source of stinging barbs as world leaders spar on a global stage and behind closed doors.

Joseph Stiglitz, American economist, public policy analyst, and professor at Columbia University spoke with Ian Bremmer at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany. The Nobel prize-winning economist weighs in on the global impact of coronavirus and whether or not he feels the U.S. economy is in good shape. Spoiler alert: He doesn't believe the hype.

The coronavirus, which first surfaced in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has infected more than 79,500 people in China and at least 33 other countries. Two months since it was first identified, coronavirus has spread far beyond China's borders, with several Italian towns now under quarantine. Global financial markets have also taken a hit as investors are on edge about the uncertainty. Here's a look at where the coronavirus has spread to date.