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SnapshotsOct 1, 2020 | 17:06 GMT
French President Emmanuel Macron leaves the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, on July 20, 2020. Leaders from the 27 EU member states met on July 19 to discuss the bloc’s budget and new COVID-19 recovery package.
Disputes Risk Delaying EU Disbursement of COVID-19 Relief Funds
Ongoing disputes in the European Union over how to implement the bloc’s new 750 billion euro ($881 billion) COVID-19 recovery fund could delay the disbursement of loans and grants to struggling EU economies -- a situation that would be particularly problematic for Southern Europe, where the recessions are deep. The disputes also highlight the extent to which Brussels struggles to quickly react to political and economic crises, which will continue to undermine the European Union’s ability to address internal and external challenges. In July, EU governments agreed to link the disbursement of money from the COVID-19 relief fund to keeping a strong rule of law, but did not establish the mechanism to do it. In late September, Germany presented a proposal to sever funding for countries where corruption or mismanagement in the use of the funds is detected. Other Western European governments, however, believe Berlin’s proposal is too soft, and
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AssessmentsSep 29, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An illustration shows the flags of Israel and Iran painted on a cracked wall.
For Israel, a New U.S. President Could Mean a Renewed Anti-Iran Push
A victory by U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden in November could prompt Israel to escalate its attacks against Iran in both current and new theaters across the Middle East in order to derail a potential U.S. return to diplomacy with Israel’s regional archnemesis. Before the U.S. election, Israel is unlikely to significantly alter its current strategy of recurrent, opportunistic strikes against Iranian forces in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, since Tehran’s nuclear program is not yet showing signs of the imminent development of a nuclear weapon. Increased attacks against Iran in the coming weeks would also risk jeopardizing the electoral prospects of Israel’s close U.S. ally, President Donald Trump, who is trying to use his reputation as a regional peace broker to bolster his chances of reelection in November. Moreover, Israel’s current “shadow war” with Iran, fought through proxy theaters and covertly within Iran itself, can continue to allow Israel to
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AssessmentsSep 25, 2020 | 20:27 GMT
A picture taken on Aug. 14, 2018, shows the logo of Turkey's central bank at the entrance of its headquarters in Ankara.
Contextualizing Turkey’s Surprise Interest Rate Hike
On Sept. 24, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) announced a surprise interest rate hike in a preemptive move that seeks to prevent the country’s depreciating currency from unfolding into a larger banking or balance of payments and external debt crisis. The steadily declining value of Turkey’s national currency, the lira, is largely the result of economic imbalances -- partially precipitated by a highly negative real interest rate, a credit-fueled construction boom, and large external financing needs, as well as the CBRT’s lack of credibility and near exhaustion of Ankara’s foreign currency reserves.
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SnapshotsSep 25, 2020 | 17:42 GMT
In Kuwait, a Blocked Debt Law Portends a Dissolved Parliament
Kuwait’s pandemic-related financial struggles may force its leader, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, to bypass the country’s legislative process in order to push through a crucial debt law that remains locked in parliament. The need to enact other overdue reforms may also tempt Al Sabah to extend a potential parliamentary suspension -- a politically risky move that would also require suspending Kuwait's constitution. On Sept. 23, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Kuwait's sovereign credit rating for the first time to “A1,” citing the country's liquidity crisis that has been brought on by low oil prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its announcement, Moody’s also specifically referenced the Kuwaiti government’s failure to pass a debt law that would help mitigate the country’s current financial woes by enabling its finance ministry to issue sovereign bonds.
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On GeopoliticsSep 25, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A damaged EU flag is seen in Brenzone, Italy, on Aug. 14, 2019. 
The Quest for European Unity: No End of History
Europe faces a challenge of identity and international role over the next decade. For nearly 500 years, Europe sat at the center of the international system, its internal competitions rippling out across the globe. But the relative balance of global power and influence has shifted. And rather than being the driving force of global dynamics, Europe is increasingly caught between major powers: the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and now the United States and China. Internally, Europe still strives for the creation of a continental union, though those dreams have been eroded by financial crises, Brexit and a resurgence of nationalism in recent years. Externally, Europe remains fragmented in its foreign policy and prioritization. The shifting patterns of global competition will compel Europe to rethink its internal structures and to come to grips with defining its interests abroad. Otherwise, it will find itself drifting further
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SnapshotsSep 24, 2020 | 19:59 GMT
COVID-19 Tests Jordan’s Stability
Jordan’s deteriorating social and economic conditions due to COVID-19 are driving support to Islamist parties, raising the risk of a government crackdown that could fan the flames of radicalism. Despite recording fewer than 5,000 COVID-19 cases since March, Jordan has taken a strict lockdown approach, with tight border controls and restricted incoming arrivals for tourist locations. The subsequent impact on business activity, and in particular tourism revenue (which accounts for nearly 20 percent of Jordan’s GDP), has in turn taken a steep toll country’s economy, with unemployment now expected to hit an all-time high of 25 percent by the end of this year. 
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SnapshotsSep 22, 2020 | 22:24 GMT
Reading the Fine Print of Angola’s Debt Restructuring
The International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s recently announced $1 billion disbursement to Angola is based partly on China indicating a willingness to defer 2020 debts. But Beijing's creditor role may be complicated by possible efforts to take an equity stake in some of the Southern African country's oil fields. And while the funds will help fill some of Angola's financing gaps, there is clearly a market view that the country may require more comprehensive debt restructuring, even if it doesn't happen until 2021 or later. 
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SnapshotsSep 14, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
New U.S. Sanctions Against Hezbollah Risk Thwarting Lebanon's Progress
New U.S. Sanctions against Hezbollah risk extending Lebanon's economic and political crises by undercutting French efforts to broker Lebanese domestic political and economic reforms, which require the Iran-backed militant group and political party's support. On Sept. 8, the United States issued sanctions against two Lebanese politicians for engaging in corruption and providing "material support" to Hezbollah. The policy change appears to expand U.S. actions in recent years against the group, which has long been a target of Washington's efforts to counter Iranian proxies and allies throughout the Middle East. This is the first time the United States has targeted individuals with second-order connections to the group, broadening its scope of sanctions in ways that will impact a larger cross-section of Lebanese politicians across all major factions. The widening net will also create regulatory barriers that are likely to further spook investors and international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund.
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