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What we're watching: The Czarmaker of Syria

What we're watching: The Czarmaker of Syria

Syria's new kingmaker – As a shaky US-brokered Turkish ceasefire in northern Syria entered its final hours on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on a plan for northern Syria. Russia will now work with Turkey to ensure the removal of Kurdish forces from the 22-mile deep "safe zone" that Turkey won in its negotiation with the (departing) US five days ago. This is a big win for Putin, who, by virtue of his backing for Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, is now the decisive figure in what happens in the region. Turkey also continues to make out pretty well, as we've written recently. But it is a huge loss for the perpetually luckless Kurds, who will be forced to leave a huge swathe of their homeland. They will also now need to depend chiefly on Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. Whether that's better or worse than relying on the fickle United States remains to be seen.


Rising chances of a UK election – Boris Johnson has his Brexit deal. Sort of. In a landmark vote on Tuesday, the House of Commons voted 329-299 in favor of the UK prime minister's EU withdrawal agreement on its second reading in Parliament. In classic Brexit fashion, that's not the end of the story. Parliament also rejected the PM's plan to ram through a final vote by Friday, all but scuppering Johnson's bid to ensure that the UK exits the EU on October 31 as promised. With the EU indicating it will extend the Brexit deadline yet again, possibly through the end of January, Johnson now faces a fateful choice: He can accept the delay and try to get the final bill passed after Parliament has had time to scrutinize it. Or he could roll the dice and call a snap election. The latter option could be a tempting gamble for Johnson: it would allow him to campaign as the man standing up to pro-Remain MPs who are bent on thwarting the will of the people on Brexit, try to win a clear endorsement from voters for his deal, and take advantage of Jeremy Corbyn's weakness as Labour leader to try to secure a stronger governing mandate for the next five years. So, Boris, you feeling lucky?

Bibi out, Gantz in—Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu has failed to form a government for the second time this year, and President Reuven Rivlin will now tap his rival, the Blue and White party's Benny Gantz, to take a shot at forming a majority coalition in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Gantz will have 28 days to pull it off. If he can't – and his path to a majority is very difficult – Israelis could soon head to their third election in just 12 months, a scenario most are loath to contemplate. One alternative to that would be a unity government in which Gantz and Netanyahu share power. But Gantz is firm: he says he won't serve with the Likud party so long as Netanyahu, who's facing corruption charges, is at its helm.

What We're Ignoring:

Mauricio Macri's crowd size – On Sunday, Argentines go to the polls for a first round of presidential voting, and incumbent President Mauricio Macri is a huge underdog in the race against Peronist party leader Alberto Fernandez. Still, last weekend about 300,000 people turned out for a Macri rally in Buenos Aires. We are ignoring this last gasp of momentum for Macri, because although he still has the support of many urban voters frightened by the idea of a return to power of left-populist Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the opposition candidate for vice president, the nationwide vote is still likely to be decided by economic conditions across the country. Those are bad, and don't appear to be improving.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

Today at 12 noon EST, join GZERO Media for a virtual Town Hall, "Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year," presented in partnership with Eurasia Group and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Our panel will discuss the road ahead in the global response to the COVID crisis. Will there be more multilateral cooperation on issues like gender equality moving forward from the pandemic?

Watch the event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/townhall

Our moderator, CNBC health care correspondent Bertha Coombs, along with Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, and Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, will speak with distinguished experts on three key issues:

Heidi Larson, Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project

  • How will COVID vaccines be distributed safely?

Minouche Shafik, Director of London School of Economics & Political Science

  • How has the pandemic disproportionately impacted women?

Madeleine Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management; former US Secretary of State

  • What is the opportunity for global cooperation emerging from this crisis, and what are the greatest political risks?
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How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely available in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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