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.

"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 billions 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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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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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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