Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Coming Up This Week
Syria is holding parliamentary elections today—at least in areas the government controls. Pres. Assad’s Baath party is expected to win handily.
The Summer Olympics were supposed to start this Friday in Tokyo, but were delayed until 2021.
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Pres. Rouhani caused some confusion when he estimated Iran had seen 25 million coronavirus cases since the outbreak started—that’s twice the current official global total (which tallies just 272k cases in Iran), and almost a third of Iran’s population of 81 million. Iranian health officials downplayed his estimate.
There was yet another explosion at an Iranian facility today. This one happened at a power plant in central Isfahan province, and Iran blamed it on wear and tear of a transformer. It seems highly unlikely there would be so many “accidental” or “wear and tear”-related incidents at Iranian nuclear, military, and energy facilities in the last month.
China is facing another coronavirus outbreak—this time in Xinjiang. Beijing declared it a “wartime situation,” and quickly / opportunistically locked Urumqi down.
The Three Gorges Dam was opened to relieve extreme water levels behind it that had caused flooding and killed a dozen people.
The GNA seems to be moving military assets towards Sirte ahead of a campaign to capture the strategic gateway to the LNA’s eastern strongholds. Witnesses reported seeing a column of around 200 GNA military vehicles heading east from Misrata toward Sirte today.
Egypt has said it would step in if the GNA captures Sirte, and the Egyptian parliament is due to discuss the situation in Libya—and potentially decide whether to intervene—this week.
Azerbaijan threatened to carry out a “high-precision strike” on Armenia’s Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, and Armenia condemned the “absolute absence of responsibility.” This latest escalation seems to have started because both sides were doing engineering work near the border, but lacked a good communications channel to explain intent to the other side.
Azerbaijan also warned of disruptions to its energy production and exports due to the latest clashes (some pipelines and other energy infrastructure traverse the region where Azerbaijan and Armenia are fighting).
The Taliban claimed an IED attack that killed the police chief of Surobi district in Paktika—along with three of his guards. Another district police chief was killed in Nawbahar, Zabul, but the Taliban hasn’t claimed that one yet.
The Taliban released Sikh leader Nidan Singh, who it had kidnapped in Paktika on June 22nd. India rejoiced.
Venezuela’s government banned bitcoin mining in low-income neighborhoods and government-subsidized housing. The military recently seized over 300 Antminers—machines to mine bitcoin—from desperately poor Venezuelans, ostensibly out of concern for the machines’ high power consumption.
The U.S. asked Guyana to broadcast Voice of America into Venezuela using a local medium wave tower, but Guyana declined to do so because it doesn’t want to start a new tiff with Venezuela right now: “Given the length of an unpoliced western border, the influx of refugees, the unsettled territorial question and the public health risks, it would not be in our national interest to do anything to contribute to destabilising relations at this time” (Pres. Granger).
EU leaders are in their third day of talks over a mammoth coronavirus recovery fund, but they’re apparently still very far from an agreement.
Kuwait’s 91-year-old emir was hospitalized over health concerns, and the crown prince has taken over some duties.