Qasem Soleimani

On 3 January 2020, it was reported that General Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s “most powerful military commander”, was killed by a US air strike. On 7 January, it was reported that Iran fired 22 missiles at a US base in Iraq, but that there were no reported casualties. The situation remains on-going. This article provides context to the US-Iran relationship up until the US air strike, and how tensions have escalated recently. In May 2018, the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, which the author argues “helped set off the chain of events”. In December 2019, the US carried out an airstrike in response to a previous Iranian attack on an American contractor. After the airstrike, members of the Iranian militia that had been targeted “stormed” the US Embassy. It was after this that the US embarked on the latest airstrike. Hussain makes an initial prediction that short-term effects of the US’s air strike could include physical retaliation or cyberattacks by Iran. Looking more long-term, Hussain writes that the killing of Soleimani significantly reduces the chances that the US will re-enter the nuclear agreement with Iran if President Trump loses the 2020 election.

Back to the 1920s

At the beginning of a new year, Stewart Patrick draws parallels between the upcoming decade and that of the 1920s. He argues that similar themes of both include “populist nationalism” and “authoritarian politics”, as well as “technological disruption” and “geopolitical competition”. He contends that in addition to “well-established threats”, such as nuclear capabilities, the new decade holds further dangers such as “competition in cyberspace” and the possibility of “global ecological collapse”. Patrick compares the global landscape of the 1920s in both ideological and economic terms. He states that in interwar Europe “the centre failed to hold, empowering extremists both right and left”. He likens this to the current situation, where “centrist parties are again under pressure across the continent”. Economically, he argues that during the 1920s “economic growth flowed disproportionately to the upper echelons of society” and cautions that “innovation and widespread automation” in the current age could “eliminate many livelihoods […] exacerbating inequality and societal tensions”.  Patrick finally compares the current US president’s disdain for the World Trade Organisation with that of the 1920s president towards the League of Nations. He ultimately concludes that the lack of “enlightened international leadership” in the world today is “dangerous”. He predicts that this “vacuum” makes it unlikely the world will be able to solve the kinds of problems he references in the article.

Brazil’s Data Paradox

Muggah reflects on what he perceives to be the highs and lows of Brazil’s attempts to introduce data protection laws to the country. He explains that two global events prompted the move towards greater legislation: Edward Snowden revealing details of US surveillance projects in 2013 and the Cambridge Analytica revelations from 2018. The Brazilian government approved the “far-reaching” data protection law in mid-2018, but it is not due to come into force until August 2020. However, the government have not yet been able to appoint an authority to oversee enforcement of the new legislation, due to tensions with the former president, Michel Temer, and the new president, Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019. Muggah states that President Temer initially “vetoed” the creation of any oversight body, but later supported the creation of an interim agency, with a temporary tenure that could subsequently be made permanent. Since taking office, President Bolsonaro has restricted the powers of this agency further. Due to these events, Muggah states that neither companies nor ordinary citizens have been prepared for the changes that are due to take place. The article notes that the Brazilian congress is currently considering plans to postpone the enforcement of the law until 2022. Further, Muggah mentions that there have been private calls by some to scrap the bill altogether. The author himself disagrees with both ideas and argues the country should “accelerate” the introduction of the new law.