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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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SnapshotsOct 21, 2020 | 22:02 GMT
Policemen walk near an overlook at the Giza Pyramids in Egypt ahead of a ceremony commemorating the launch of the site's first environmentally-friendly bus and restaurant on Oct. 20, 2020.
The Cost of Egypt’s Continued Economic Growth
Egypt’s strong macroeconomic performance amid the COVID-19 pandemic and continued appeal to foreign investors hold promise for Cairo’s near-term financial stability. But it does not resolve the country’s stubbornly high poverty levels, which will eventually become a political liability by stoking anti-government sentiment. In an address on Oct. 18, Egypt’s finance minister said economic growth has exceeded even the finance ministry’s previous projections for 2020. This confidence reflects recent positive adjustments to Egypt’s economic outlook projections by Fitch Ratings, Deutsche Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- all of which now see Egypt’s economy growing at 3.5 percent of GDP in this year, exceeding the performance of most of its regional peers. But Cairo’s ongoing pursuit of business-friendly economic reforms in lieu of measures that address rising poverty levels could backfire by raising the risk of social unrest that ultimately deters foreign investment.
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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 19, 2020 | 22:14 GMT
A protester uses a loudspeaker to talk to the crowd during an anti-government rally in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct. 19, 2020.
Gauging the Thai Government’s Response to Growing Protests
The recent escalation of the monthslong Thai student protest movement will compel the government to step up its restrictions on dissent and intensify efforts to co-opt the protesters’ less controversial demands through a limited constitutional reform process. This could cause protests to drag on amid continued controversy over the scope and pace of such amendments, even as it eases overall public support for demonstrations. Between Oct. 13 and Oct. 19, Thai protesters turned out on the streets of Bangkok for the most sustained period of protest-related disruptions since the movement kicked off in earnest in July. Demonstrators also appeared in 20 other locations nationwide in smaller numbers. 
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