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AssessmentsOct 23, 2020 | 20:31 GMT
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrives at the office of President Michel Aoun, after the latter appointed him to form a government on Oct. 22, 2020, in Beirut, Lebanon.
In Lebanon, Hariri’s Return Will Ease Markets and Enrage Protesters
Saad Hariri’s return as Lebanon’s prime minister will unlock access to French aid and likely improve the country’s economic stability, but it will also trigger a fresh round of unrest by reinforcing popular perceptions that political reform is unlikely. On Oct. 22, Lebanese President Michel Aoun named Hariri, a prominent Sunni politician, prime minister-designate and tasked him with forming a government. Most political parties approved the nomination, indicating cross-sectarian approval for the three-time prime minister. The Iran-backed militant group and Shiite political party, Hezbollah, even tacitly approved Hariri’s nomination, despite disapproving of other candidates up to this point. 
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AssessmentsOct 23, 2020 | 18:21 GMT
Fans of the Saudi national football team cheer during a match against Qatar at the King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Nov. 26, 2014.
Budget Cuts Will Test Saudis’ Loyalty to Their Government
New survey data suggests that Saudi Arabia’s citizens remain politically aligned with and supportive of the government, though that support may quickly dissipate as Riyadh makes difficult decisions on economic restructuring. The Arab Opinion Index, a survey compiled by the Doha Institute in Qatar, gives rare insight into regional social and political trends in the Middle East. For Saudi Arabia, the latest survey findings reveal a population largely content with their economic and political situations. Saudis’ economic well-being, however, will be undercut as pandemic-related losses of oil revenue and the arrival of peak oil demand force their government to make deeper cuts to crucial social programs, creating pockets of unrest across the kingdom.
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AssessmentsOct 22, 2020 | 21:23 GMT
A building remains on fire in Lekki, Nigeria, on Oct. 21, 2020, after #EndSARS protests escalated into violent clashes with police the previous night.
Nigeria's #EndSARS Protests Back Its President Into a Corner
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his government have few good options to contain the country’s growing protest movement without sparking broader security concerns and potentially exacerbating social tensions. More than two weeks of protests against police brutality erupted into violence on Oct. 20, when live ammunition was used against demonstrators at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos State, killing at least one person and injuring dozens more. A viral video showing an alleged murder of a man by the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) initially sparked the protests. SARS was disbanded by the government on Oct. 11 in response to initial protests, but the so-called #EndSARS movement formed amid the uproar has since expanded its focus to ending all forms of police brutality in Nigeria. 
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SITUATION REPORTOct 22, 2020 | 19:51 GMT
U.S.: Officials Accuse Iran of Election-Influence Campaign, Warn of Russian Threat
U.S. officials have accused Iranian actors of sending emails to residents in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania and other states, in which they posed as members of the U.S. far-right group Proud Boys and threatened retaliation if the recipients did not vote for U.S. President Donald Trump, NPR reported Oct. 21.
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AssessmentsOct 22, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
U.S. Naval Update Map: Oct. 22, 2020
The Naval Update Map shows the approximate current locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) and Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), based on available open-source information. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update. CSGs and ARGs are the keys to U.S. dominance over the world's oceans. A CSG is centered on an aircraft carrier and includes significant offensive strike capability. An ARG is centered on three amphibious warfare ships, with a Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked.
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SITUATION REPORTOct 21, 2020 | 19:06 GMT
Zambia: Bondholders Abstain From Rejecting Debt Moratorium
A group of investors holding 40 percent of Zambia’s eurobonds abstained from rejecting a proposal for a six-month debt moratorium while it looks for concrete evidence that all Chinese claims, including those of state-owned banks and policy banks, will be treated comparably and that there will be involvement from the International Monetary Fund, Bloomberg reported Oct 21.
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SITUATION REPORTOct 20, 2020 | 20:00 GMT
Sudan: Country Too Unstable to Normalize Ties With Israel, Warn Officials
Two senior Sudanese government officials said that Sudan would need to stabilize itself economically and politically before it normalized relations with Israel, warning that a move too soon would deepen splits in the government and even put the country’s nascent government at risk, Reuters reported Oct. 20
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SnapshotsOct 20, 2020 | 17:49 GMT
A satellite image shows Europe at night.
The U.S. Ramps Up Financial Support to Central and Eastern Europe
U.S. financial support for the Three Seas Initiative shows the White House remains committed to its security and economic engagements in Central and Eastern Europe, with an eye on countering China and Russia’s presence in the region. On Oct. 19, the United States announced that it will contribute $300 million to the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund, which finances cross-border energy, transport and digital infrastructure projects in the regions between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, raising its capital base to over $1.3 billion. The United States will use cooperation with the Three Seas Initiative to compete with China and Russia for influence in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as promote its foreign policy agenda in the region (which does not always align with that of the European Union). However, internal divisions among Three Seas Initiative countries will limit the effectiveness of such U.S. influence campaigns by weakening the group’s
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SnapshotsOct 15, 2020 | 21:23 GMT
The U.S. State Department building is seen in Washington D.C. on July 22, 2019.
The White House’s Hong Kong Report Maintains Its Measured Approach
The White House is continuing its cautious and relatively slow-paced approach to Hong Kong, as it tries to avoid disrupting business continuity in the city and ensure the volatile political dynamic doesn’t drive the overall U.S.-China dynamic, including outreach on issues such as trade. On Oct. 14, the U.S. State Department issued its required Hong Kong Autonomy Act report to Congress, listing 10 Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to have materially contributed to eroding the region's autonomy. The report warned that banks that conduct significant transactions with the individuals listed could face U.S. secondary sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. dollar transactions and measures targeting corporate leadership. This sets the stage for a potential increase of U.S. pressure on foreign, Hong Kong and Chinese financial institutions operating in the city. However, the nature of the Oct. 14 report suggests a less escalatory approach, though that could change depending on the
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AssessmentsOct 15, 2020 | 16:08 GMT
A close-up view shows the Alipay logo in Ant Group’s office in Shanghai, China, on Aug. 28, 2020.
The U.S. Sets Its Eyes on Chinese Fintech Companies
The U.S. government will likely increase restrictions on the use of Chinese payment systems in the United States, but any decisions regarding broader action on Chinese data acquisition is unlikely ahead of the U.S. election in November. On Sept. 30, senior Trump administration officials reportedly discussed imposing new restrictions on WeChat Pay and Alipay -- the two payment apps owned by the Chinese fintech giants Tencent and Ant Group, respectively. Some White House officials have advocated for wider restrictions that could affect the use of the payment apps outside the United States as part of the administration’s push to limit China’s overall access to the U.S. market due to national security concerns. But any initial U.S. restrictions will likely be limited to WeChat Pay and Alipay’s specific use in the United States and its access to U.S. technology in order to limit the risk of provoking Chinese retaliation and/or self-inflicted
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AssessmentsOct 15, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
U.S. Naval Update Map: Oct. 15, 2020
The Naval Update Map shows the approximate current locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) and Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), based on available open-source information. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update. CSGs and ARGs are the keys to U.S. dominance over the world's oceans. A CSG is centered on an aircraft carrier and includes significant offensive strike capability. An ARG is centered on three amphibious warfare ships, with a Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked.
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