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SnapshotsAug 11, 2020 | 19:49 GMT
Beijing Moves to Temper Tensions in Hong Kong With an Extended Legislative Term
Beijing's recent decision to extend the Hong Kong legislature's term creates a cover for Chinese action, which seeks to temper tensions both within the city as well as with the United States, while still emphasizing the continuity of One Country, Two Systems by putting the responsibility in the hands of the Hong Kong government. On Aug. 11, China's National People's Congress Standing Committee approved extending the term of the current Hong Kong legislative council for at least a year, leaving the Hong Kong government to decide whether the four pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from elections will keep their seats in the legislature. Reports suggest that lawmakers will not be required to swear new oaths of office or make a controversial pledge to uphold the new national security law.
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SnapshotsAug 10, 2020 | 21:25 GMT
In Hong Kong, a Series of Raids and Arrests Portends Further Crackdowns
With elections now delayed to 2021, the recent arrests of activists and a pro-democracy media tycoon in Hong Kong likely herald a new period of more aggressive crackdowns on figures Beijing perceives as threats to the city's stability. On Aug. 10, Hong Kong's newly established National Security Department police unit carried out a series of raids and arrests across the city that netted 10 individuals for allegedly violating the new national security law. The city's year-long election delay will grant Beijing and city authorities greater room to escalate crackdowns without undermining the legitimacy of pro-Beijing candidates, or sacrificing the city's political system and jeopardizing its role as a global financial hub.
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AssessmentsAug 10, 2020 | 16:57 GMT
A man looks from the balcony of a building, damaged by the port explosion a day earlier, in Beirut, Lebanon on Aug. 5, 2020.
Will the Beirut Disaster Finally Yield Political Change in Lebanon?
The rising tide of popular anger over the Beirut explosion, along with the subsequent resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government, could yield piecemeal economic and political reforms by reinvigorating demands for real change in Lebanon’s entrenched political system, which has long benefited wealthy sectarian stakeholders while failing to address the country's deteriorating economy. 
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SnapshotsAug 7, 2020 | 20:48 GMT
With Tech Bans and Hong Kong Sanctions, Trump Hits China With a One-Two Punch
In the United States' pressure campaign against China, President Donald Trump's threshold for action is decreasing and his tolerance for risk of blowback to U.S. economic interests appears to be rising -- a trend confirmed by the White House's move to both restrict transactions by U.S. entities with China's TikTok and WeChat apps, as well as impose sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in the Hong Kong crisis. Such blowback includes the impact of U.S. restrictions on U.S. businesses in China, as well as the threat of Chinese retaliation. Although both of these moves are part of a long-term bipartisan trend towards greater confrontation with China, U.S. President Donald Trump's electoral challenges will lead to an increasingly volatile dynamic ahead of the November vote, even as he tries to walk the line of preserving, at least in name, the U.S.-China trade deal as a key campaign promise. 
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On GeopoliticsAug 7, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A U.S. soldier (left) stands guard next to a South Korean soldier (right) in Panmunjom, South Korea, on July 27, 2019, during a ceremony commemorating the 66th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice Agreement.
With the Drawdown of U.S. Forces in Germany, Is South Korea Next?
With the drawdown of U.S. forces in Germany underway, a reduction of U.S. forces in South Korea is now more likely than ever, given evolving U.S. defense priorities and longstanding trends on the Korean Peninsula. Rumors of an imminent U.S. force drawdown in Korea have been circulating since at least 2019, and President Donald Trump has made it clear he wants to reduce large overseas basing. South Korea, however, is a particularly contentious case, as any changes to the size and structure of U.S. forces must take into consideration both the local mission of deterring against North Korea, as well as the broader U.S. strategic mission of refocusing on great power competition, particularly with China. And that will require reassessing South Korea's own national defense capabilities, the benefits and risks of having a large forward force based on the Asian mainland, and the impact of any shift in forces on
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SITUATION REPORTAug 6, 2020 | 18:52 GMT
U.S., China: Beijing Condemns Health Secretary’s Upcoming Visit to Taiwan
China’s foreign ministry said it firmly opposes any official U.S. exchanges with Taiwan, warning that a visit to the island by a U.S. Cabinet official would threaten “peace and stability” in the region, AFP reported Aug. 5. The statement comes a day after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that Secretary Alex Azar would lead a delegation to Taipai in the coming days to discuss Taiwan’s successful COVID-19 strategy.
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AssessmentsAug 5, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A view of Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, at sunrise.
COVID-19 Risks Robbing Dubai of Its Economic and Political Autonomy
By sapping Dubai's economic growth, the COVID-19 pandemic will also ultimately erode the emirate's political and economic independence from neighboring Abu Dhabi. Without the tools and funding needed to support its own recovery, Dubai will likely be forced to rely on another bailout from wealthy Abu Dhabi, which could impact Dubai's development plans, especially in tourism and finance. 
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AssessmentsAug 4, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Plainclothed Belarus' security forces and riot police officers detain a protester at an opposition demonstration in Minsk, Belarus, on July 14, 2020.
In Belarus, an Election Fuels the Fight for Russia's Borderlands
The likely tumultuous aftermath of Belarus's upcoming presidential election could significantly shake up the balance of power in the strategic borderland region between Russia and Western Europe. Amid the growing popularity of opposition movements in Belarus, the outcome of the country's Aug. 9 presidential election is widely expected to be heavily contested. The likely emergence of post-election protests will cast doubt over President Alexander Lukashenko's grasp on power and could open the door to a potential regime change. Belarus's importance to Russia's external security strategy will make Moscow extremely invested in the outcome of any power struggle in the country, which could prompt Russia to intervene directly.
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SnapshotsAug 4, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
In Jordan, a Government Crackdown on Civil Dissent Risks Backfiring
The arrests of teachers union leaders in Jordan risks fueling unrest in the typically politically stable country against a government the United States relies on for its regional counterterrorism efforts. On July 25, Jordanian security forces arrested over a dozen key members of the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate and charged them with corruption, incitement, financial irregularities and criminal activities. Forces also raided the union’s offices and shut them down for two years. Nasser Nawasreh, acting head of the Teachers Syndicate, was charged with incitement specifically over a speech he gave on July 22 that sharply criticized Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s government. A government spokesman said that the arrests were conducted to prevent the union from staging planned sit-ins and demonstrations that risked harming “the state’s essential services and their functioning.”
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AssessmentsAug 3, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An oil pumpjack operates in Signal Hill, California, on April 21, 2020, a day after oil prices dropped to below zero amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid a Global COVID-19 Resurgence, Oil Prices Are Poised to Stall
The resurgence of COVID-19 infections in many countries around the world has undermined the oil market's notion that the recovery in petroleum product demand will continue upward in the absence of a vaccine. Expectations of a swift demand recovery in recent weeks have also been hampered by concerns about new mandatory lockdowns in places where economic activity had resumed, as well as slower economic recoveries elsewhere. Crude oil prices are thus likely to stall heading into the fourth quarter of 2020 as global demand remains sluggish, while modest rises in OPEC+ supply undermine efforts to rapidly balance the market and drain excess inventories. This means the fiscal position of countries highly dependent on oil export revenues will likely continue to be strained, and that any recovery in drilling activity and the oilfield services sector will also be slow.
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