What We’re Watching: Libya’s future, Russia vs UK in Black Sea, US blocks Iranian news sites

What We’re Watching: Libya’s future, Russia vs UK in Black Sea, US blocks Iranian news sites

Peace in Libya? Representatives from several outside players with a stake in Libya's future are meeting in Berlin with the country's interim unity government to chart a path toward peace after a decade of bloody internal conflict. Since 2011, the energy-rich North African country has been split between areas controlled by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army, a militia headed by warlord Khalifa Haftar. It's long been a proxy war as well, with Turkey backing the GNA and Gulf states and Russia supporting Haftar. One major concern is what to do with the 20,000 foreign troops currently in the country, which include Turkish soldiers and Syrian fighters on Ankara's payroll in Tripoli, as well as Russian mercenaries. Western powers want the Turks and Russians to withdraw their forces, but Ankara and Moscow would rather wait to see how things play out. Another thorny issue is how 75 UN-appointed Libyan lawmakers will agree on the legal basis to hold a general election in December without a constitution in place. We'll be tracking progress on both.


Black Sea shenanigans: Moscow says it happened, London says it didn't. Who ya gonna believe? Russia claimed Wednesday it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs to scare off a British warship near the Crimean coast. As the Russians tell it, the Brits beat a hasty retreat, but the UK denies that anything of the sort happened at all. As they tell it, the warship was unbothered as it conducted "innocent passage" through Ukrainian territorial waters. And there's the rub — ever since Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin considers the waters in question to be its own, and Moscow gets very prickly about NATO ships showing up there. Regardless of whether shots were fired or not, the incident underscores how fragile relations between Russia and the "West" are, even after that Biden-Putin summit last week which was meant to smooth things over.

US swipes Iranian news sites: The US Justice Department has taken down 33 Iran-affiliated news websites for allegedly spreading disinformation among American voters before the 2020 US presidential election, and another three for links to an Iranian terrorist group. Although the websites are owned by US companies which did nothing wrong, the DOJ has legal basis to shutter them because the Iranian entities did not register the domain names with US authorities — a breach of US sanctions against Iran. All of this happens as Americans and Iranians continue to renegotiate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with both sides, as usual, playing hard-to-get. Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi doesn't want to meet Joe Biden, but we all know that it's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — who still wants to make an agreement but doesn't want to seem too eager — who will have the final say.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted millions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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