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Iran’s conservatives are making a comeback.
The so-called “principlists” wedded to the theocratic ideals of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution look set to win parliamentary elections on Friday. That will give them momentum for next year’s presidential vote and the eight-year political cycle to follow, Marc Champion and Arsalan Shahla report.
Long gone is the euphoria evoked by the moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s victory in 2013. Hopes that the nuclear deal two years later would trigger a wave of foreign investment and open the nation of 84 million to the West have long since faded.
President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the accord cost Rouhani credibility, and U.S. sanctions have pounded the economy, which shrank 9.5% last year.
Relations with key Middle East nations are at rock bottom. While China provides some succor, it is reluctant to risk U.S. penalties by buying much more Iranian oil.
For the current leadership in Tehran, there’s a faint glimmer of hope that Trump will lose office in November. With the economy at least stabilizing for now, they appear confident they can ride out sanctions until then.
At a time when the Iranian electorate is showing little enthusiasm for the vote, Trump’s actions have largely empowered the conservatives. They never supported the nuclear deal in the first place.
First look | Michael Bloomberg, whose rise in the polls has rattled the Democratic presidential field, will face rivals eager to take him on in person for the first time on a debate stage, injecting a new, untested candidate into what had become almost routine campaign events. For many voters, tonight’s event in Las Vegas will mark an initial chance to see the former New York mayor live instead of in a television ad.
(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.) Trump is set to rally voters today in Arizona, where an influx of new residents challenge the president’s hold on the Republican-dominated state.
Brexit redux | Anyone who thought that Brexit turmoil was over when the U.K. left the European Union on Jan. 31 looks sadly mistaken. The British government is playing hardball with the EU, threatening a violent rupture when the transition period ends on Dec. 31. That has business alarmed, and is breathing new life into the remnants of the Remain campaign fighting to stay close to the single market, Alex Morales and Olivia Konotey-Ahulu report.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is looking at Australia’s “points-based” skilled workers’ program as a guide for how to tackle immigration post-Brexit. Read more here.
Giving out pardons | Trump announced a set of clemencies and pardons, including for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of public corruption, and for financier Michael Milken, who was found guilty of securities fraud. He also pardoned former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and Edward DeBartolo Jr., who owned the San Francisco 49ers football team for 23 years.
Attorney General William Barr has told associates he might resign in response to Trump’s comments and tweets about Justice Department investigations.
Critical phase | It’s already spread wider than SARS in 2003 and it’s more dangerous than swine flu. And while the coronavirus doesn’t kill at anywhere near the terrifying pace of Ebola in 2014, it can be passed through the air. In less than three months, it’s infected tens of thousands of people. Experts warn if it remains a severe virus and takes off in other parts of the world, it could be almost as serious as the 1918 flu pandemic.
Media crackdown | China revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters following a dispute over a controversial headline in the newspaper’s opinion section. The government took action after it said the Journal refused to apologize for a “racially discriminatory” op-ed that described China as the “sick man of Asia,” a phrase used by 19th century European powers. It ran as Beijing began its battle against the deadly coronavirus.
What to Watch
Trump is casting doubts over the likelihood of an anticipated trade deal with India, just days before a scheduled visit to the South Asian power Afghan’s incumbent president, Ashraf Ghani, was finally declared the winner of a dispute election that began in September. His main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, rejected the outcome and declared himself the victor. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo sought yesterday to reassure African allies that Washington is committed to fighting Islamist militants even as the Trump administration weighs cutting troops stationed across the continent.
Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at email@example.com.And finally ... China’s Communist Party invented a duo of virtual social media influencers in its latest bid to win over millennials. Instead, they did the opposite. The regime’s Youth League this week debuted the anime characters — adolescents in traditional garb with names straight out of Mao Zedong’s poetic oeuvre — on the social site Weibo. It ignited an onslaught of ridicule and vitriol, prompting the Youth League to pull them offline within hours.
--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter and Ruth Pollard.
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