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What We're Watching: Jordanians vote, Trump's DOD shakeup, Russian navy in Sudan

Jordan prepares for parliamentary elections. Reuters

Jordan's lackluster election: Amid a massive surge in coronavirus cases, Jordanians headed to the polls this week to elect 130 members to the lower house of parliament. Of more than 4.6 million eligible voters, only 29 percent showed up, the lowest turnout in many years, largely due to fear of COVID-19, a deepening economic crisis, and disillusionment with Jordan's unrepresentative political process. The system favors pro-monarchy tribal candidates and cronies loyal to the all-powerful King Abdullah II, who appoints all Senate members and can unilaterally dissolve parliament. This time, the main opposition party, linked to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, won only 10 seats, five less than in 2016, while women candidates reaped only 15 seats, largely because of a quota system. The Jordanian Kingdom has long been accused of overseeing an electoral system that under-represents cities that are Muslim Brotherhood strongholds, favoring more sparsely populated cities that support the Hashemite monarchy. Indeed, the Jordanian government has its work cut out for it amid a surging pandemic and worsening economic crisis — on top of the burden of providing refuge for some 650,000 Syrians.


Trump's DOD moves: It's been a busy week at the Pentagon. First, President Trump fired US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, before proceeding to dismiss other career staffers at the Department of Defense, replacing them with Trump loyalists. The motives for the shakeup during a lame-duck presidency are unclear. Initially, some analysts surmised that the president was trying to ensure that the US military would have his back if he refused to vacate the White House when Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20, 2021. But now some experts are suggesting that what Trump really wants is to expedite the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. Trump, according to that hypothesis, was frustrated at Esper and the generals for pushing back against the president's longtime plan to get all the troops home by Christmas amid rising intra-Afghan violence.

Russian navy in... Sudan? Russia is planning to build a navy base in Sudan — its first in Africa since the end of the Cold War — to gain access to the Red Sea. In exchange, the Sudanese will get Russian weapons and air support for its navy. The deal comes as President Vladimir Putin is seeking to expand Russia's military footprint across the continent by building up to six bases in African countries. Putin's strategy is a simple one: shore up authoritarian regimes that are friendly to Moscow, including with Russian mercenaries to fight on their behalf. Interestingly, the Sudan deal is going ahead despite the fact that it was approved three years ago by Omar al-Bashir — the country's former dictator who was deposed in 2019 — but didn't go through because al-Bashir was worried about being perceived as cozying up to Moscow and peeving the US. Sudan is now on the cusp of being removed from the US' state sponsor of terrorism list, allowing it to access financial markets. Is Khartoum hedging its bets by playing both sides?

A century after the rise and destruction of Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood, Greenwood Rising is turning the site of a tragedy into a vibrant community hub, supported by a $1 million grant from Bank of America.

Greenwood, or Black Wall Street, was a thriving community of Black-owned businesses until the race-fueled massacre of 1921 that killed hundreds of Black residents and wiped out the neighborhood's homes and businesses. Nearing the 100th anniversary of this tragedy, focused activity in the neighborhood—including a history center—is bringing to life the spirit of Black Wall Street.

The most ambitious global vaccination drive in history is in motion. Over the past three months, more than 213 million COVID-19 shots have been administered across 95 countries, and the vaccination rate is slowly increasing. At the current rate, around 6.11 million doses are being administered daily.

It's a rare bit of hopeful news after 15 months of collective misery. So where do things stand at the moment, and what's keeping the world from getting to herd immunity faster?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

With protests growing, where does that leave the Myanmar coup?

Well, certainly no feeling on the part of the military that they need to back down under either domestic or international pressure. There's been relatively limited violence, thankfully so far. A few protesters have been killed. They've used tear gas, they've used water cannons, but much less of a crackdown than certainly they're capable of or that we've seen from the Myanmar military historically. That, of course, gives the protesters on the ground more incentive to think that they have success, and they can continue.

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Reducing carbon emissions is good for the planet and good for your lungs, but there's one group of countries that might not be so keen on green: those that rely heavily on oil and gas exports to run their economies. As the rest of the world gets closer to "Net Zero" in the coming decades, these petrostates will be in big trouble unless they diversify their economies — fast. So, how vulnerable are the world's top oil and gas producers to a low-carbon future? We look at how the treasuries of the 20 most hydrocarbon-dependent nations will fare over the next two decades under what the Carbon Tracker Initiative refers to as a scenario in which global demand for oil and gas will be much lower than today.

US to release Khashoggi report: The Biden administration's intel chief is expected to release on Thursday a report on the murder of Saudi dissident journalist — and US resident — Jamal Khashoggi. In line with previously reported findings, the assessment will say that Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was involved in the plot to kill and dismember Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Aside from a sprinkling of new details, we don't expect much from the report itself, but we are keen to see how it shapes US-Saudi relations under Joe Biden, who has promised to take a harder line with Riyadh over human rights and security issues than his predecessor did. Part of that new approach is that the US president will no longer speak directly to the Crown Prince himself as Trump did — from now on, only his dad, King Salman, gets calls from the White House.

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