What we’re Watching: Trump's Warring Impulses on Iran

What we’re Watching: Trump's Warring Impulses on Iran

War With Iran Or...Not? — On Thursday, Iran shot down a US drone over the Persian Gulf. Tehran says the craft was in its airspace, while Trump says it was over international waters and that Iran made a "big mistake" (though he also said he thought it was not "intentional"). This is the latest provocation in a tense situation between the US and Iran, and Trump seems to have competing impulses here. On the one hand, he needs to appear tough on Iran and has hinted that there will be a response. But on the other, as he stressed to the press on Thursday, he campaigned in 2016 on getting the US out of "endless" foreign military entanglements. We are watching to see not only how he squares that circle in response to the drone hit, but how he balances these impulses more broadly as he seeks re-election. In fact, reports emerged this morning that Trump had abruptly called off a pre-dawn plan to hit Iranian missile and radar sites. It's unclear if this was due to a change of heart or a logistical complication. But that giant thudding sound you hear? It's National Security Adviser John Bolton, who's been spoiling for an Iran strike for years, banging his head and mustache against the wall. So close!

Putin's Puffed-up Poll Numbers — Earlier this month, Kremlin-backed polling agency VTsIOM asked Russians which politicians they trusted. Putin scored just over 30%. The Kremlin wasn't happy about it and just five days later, VTsIOM altered the question to ask whether respondents trusted Putin or not — his new score was 72.3%. Neat trick! But Putin's broader approval ratings, as measured by independent pollster Levada, have fallen sharply since his re-election for a fourth term, and especially after the government introduced a pension reform plan that sparked protests across the country. Putin tried to reassure his people yesterday during his annual live call-in show, but we're watching to see if the trend continues and what Putin, now nearing 20 years in power, can do about it.

What We're Ignoring

Nigeria's Cash-Quaffing Wildlife — Somebody owes the gorillas of Nigeria's Kano state a serious apology. Some of the gate fees recently went missing from the Kano Zoo and local media reported that the money — 6.8 million naira or about $22,000 — had been eaten by a hungry gorilla. Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano state governor, pointed out that the zoo has no gorilla and has reported the matter to local anticorruption authorities. The news comes just weeks after a woman in Benue state claimed that $100,000 trusted to her care had been eaten by a snake. We are ignoring these incidents because given the level of local corruption, cash is still much more likely to disappear into the pockets of real officials than into the mouths of phantom animals.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Iran was involved in two naval incidents in the Gulf of Oman in recent days. The US, UK, and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack that killed two European nationals. Iran has rejected the accusations. Iran is also suspected in the "potential hijack" of a tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

These provocations are happening just as Iran inaugurates a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and as talks continue over the possible US re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What's the connection between these events? We asked Henry Rome, Eurasia Group's deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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Does alcohol help bring the world together?

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