What We’re Watching: Libya’s future, Azeris and Iranians bicker, Shakira fights wild boars

What We’re Watching: Libya’s future, Azeris and Iranians bicker, Shakira fights wild boars

Will Libya's elections go ahead? Should they? Libya, mired in a decade-long civil war, is set to hold elections for a new president and parliament later this year. The US, along with Italy and France, say that elections should go ahead no matter what. But other Western players have pushed back, saying that ongoing civil war means the country isn't yet ready for democracy, and the result of an election won't be deemed legitimate. Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000-20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries are still lurking in Libya, mostly deployed by Russia and Turkey, neither of which are in any hurry to recall their mercs, perhaps just in case the election doesn't work out and Libya slides back into civil war. Complicating matters further, last week the lower house of parliament passed a no-confidence vote against the UN-backed government over misuse of public funds. The interim government has been accused of stalling elections, instead calling for a "stabilization initiative" that would help lay the groundwork for a free and fair vote later on. But that is unlikely to fly with general Khalifa Hafta, who heads the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army and has long been vying for control of the oil-rich country.


Not now, Iran and Azerbaijan! Why is Iran massing military equipment on the border with its northern neighbor Azerbaijan? The two countries have been at odds in recent weeks after Azeri cops started fining and detaining Iranian truck drivers crossing their territory to deliver cargos to Azerbaijan's arch-enemy Armenia. Recall that last year Azerbaijan won a brutal war with Armenia over the long-contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Iran's relations with the Azeris have always been touchy: for one thing, the two countries are rival gas export powers; for another, Iran doesn't love Azerbaijan's close ties with Israel, Tehran's number one bête noire. As tensions flare, both sides have to tread carefully. Azerbaijan doesn't want open conflict with much larger Iran, while Tehran has a lot on its plate — the economy is a shambles, nuclear talks with the US are stalled, and it's already managing proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen.

Wild boars attack Shakira in Barcelona: Imagine you're strolling through a beautiful Barcelona park. Then you run into two wild boars. Yes, wild boars. That's exactly what happened on Wednesday to Shakira, the Colombian pop star whose hips never lie. Shakira says the wild boars then "attacked" her and her eight-year-old son Milan — whose dad is the FC Barcelona soccer player Gerard Piqué — before dragging away her bag and destroying its contents. Shakira's brush with the sharp-tusked hairy hogs is only the latest incident of wild boars — whose forest habitat across Europe is increasingly being wiped out by climate change and urban development — encroaching on European cities. They've become a big nuisance in Berlin, where hundreds have been culled, and Rome, where mayoral candidates are blaming each other for the "invasion." An even more serious threat is that wild boars carry infectious diseases that can be dangerous for humans.

During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK. These are just a few of the insights in the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Read additional highlights from the Microsoft on the Issues blog and find the full report here.

If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

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Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed by rebels on 20 October, 2011, after a NATO intervention designed to protect civilians helped strengthen an uprising against his regime. Since then, the country has been mired in chaos as different factions have battled for control, resulting in extensive destruction and human causalities. Libya has been nominally governed since 2014 by warring administrations backed by foreign powers in the west and east of the country. Last year, UN mediation efforts finally began to gain traction with an agreement on a cease-fire and a roadmap for elections to be held later this year. We talked with Eurasia Group expert Ahmed Morsy to find out how things are going.

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China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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6,000: Poland has doubled the number of troops guarding its border with Belarus to almost 6,000 because of a surge in migrants trying to cross over (there were 612 attempts on Monday alone). Warsaw accuses Minsk of sending non-EU migrants into Poland as payback for EU sanctions against Belarus.

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Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

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