TIME europe

These 5 Facts Explain Europe’s Deadly Migrants Crisis

Ship with large number of undocumented migrants runs aground at Rhodes
Loukas Mastis—EPA Illegal migrants arriving at Zefyros beach at Rhodes island, Greece, April 20, 2015.

Over 1,500 migrants have died trying to reach Europe—and the numbers are only likely to increase unless the EU takes real action

On April 19, more than 600 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean when their boat capsized on its way from Africa to Italy. On April 12, about 400 people died in a separate shipwreck. So far in 2015, 1,600 migrants have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, and authorities fear that the number will surge as the weather warms. These five stats explain the rising tide of migration problems for Europe and for the desperate migrants of Africa and the Middle East.

1. Political Refugees Fleeing to Europe

EU member states received 216,300 applications for asylum last year. A large number of these asylum seekers are fleeing from Syria (civil war), Eritrea (dictatorship) and Mali (another civil war). Many of them are officially recognized as “refugees” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a status that affords certain legal protections. But navigating the red tape takes time. Rather than waiting for a reluctant host country to take them in, many of these refugees entrust their fates to smugglers. As we’ve seen time and again, this can lead to tragic results.

(UNHCR, VOX)

2. Trouble on the Rise

75% of migrant deaths worldwide occur in the Mediterranean Sea. Europe has already seen a 43% increase in migrants through the first two months of 2015, and peak migration season (typically May through September) hasn’t yet begun. In 2014, the top countries of origin of people attempting to enter Europe by sea were Syria (67,000), Eritrea (34,000), Afghanistan (13,000) and Mali (10,000). Currently, an estimated 600,000 people are waiting in Libya to emigrate, according to Vox. These people represent three years worth of migration to Europe at the present rate.

(Guardian, BBC, Economist, VOX)

3. The Insufficient European Response

Even for those migrants who safely reach European shores, their troubles are far from over. The EU requires that asylum petitions be processed by the country in which migrants first arrive. As a result, southern countries such as Malta, Italy and Greece have found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of incoming migrants, while richer northern countries receive relatively few. Until last year, Italy had a program in place to find and rescue migrant ships, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Italy had to spend $9.7 million a month to fund the program, and so turned to the rest of Europe for help. The United Kingdom and others made it clear that they would not offer support for rescue operations, for fear doing so would encourage more people to attempt to make the dangerous sea crossing. This past fall, the EU’s border patrol agency Frontex took over responsibility from Italian authorities—with a budget that is about a seventh of what Italy was spending on its own.

(FiveThirtyEight, VOX, Economist)

4. Turkey Stands Apart

While Italy and the rest of the EU struggle, neighboring Turkey has been busy hosting 1.6 million displaced Syrians within its borders, or about half the people who have fled that country since the fighting began there nearly four years ago. Taking in refugees is not cheap; the total cost to Turkey is estimated to be $4.5 billion and rising. Turkey has introduced new regulations to give the Syrians a more robust legal status in the country, which includes access to basic services like health care and education. But Istanbul has stopped short of granting these migrants official refugee status, which would provide them with additional social services.

(New York Times, World Bulletin)

5. Rise in Xenophobia

The cost of taking in migrants is not measured only in dollars or euros. As Europe’s economy has struggled to rebound, anti-immigrant attitudes have risen across the continent. In a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2014, a median of 55% of Europeans surveyed wanted to limit immigration. The percentages were much higher in struggling countries like Greece (86%) and Italy (80%). The rise in xenophobia has propelled new far-right parties to the political forefront, and older parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France are looking to play a much larger role in their countries’ politics in years to come. As long as high-unemployment persists in the Euro region, rising xenophobia in EU countries will be an important driver in shaping EU migrant policy.

(New York Times, Pew Research Center)

TIME Iran

Ignore the Noise in Washington and Tehran. An Iran Nuclear Deal Is Still Likely

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses military commanders in Tehran on April 19, 2015,
Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/AP Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses military commanders in Tehran on April 19, 2015,

Despite the criticisms around the Iran negotiations, a deal is still more likely than not. But the real challenge will be implementation

In his first public comments after the U.S. and Iran settled on a nuclear framework agreement, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei pulled no punches: “The whole problem comes now that the details should be discussed, because the other side is stubborn, difficult to deal with, breaks promises and is a backstabber.”

Critics quickly pointed to the statement as proof that hopes for a final deal are evaporating. But the Ayatollah’s combative words don’t move the needle on whether we’ll get a final deal by the June 30 deadline.

Khamenei is posturing for two separate audiences. His hardline supporters in Iran could undermine his political authority if they believe he is capitulating to the West. The Ayatollah needs to placate this group while his negotiators, led by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, hammer out a deal behind closed doors. His second audience is the Western negotiators with whom he is trying to drive a hard bargain. Khamenei’s comments put more pressure on them, and sends a signal to his own negotiators not to cede ground.

But Khamenei authorized Iran’s president to appoint negotiators to work out a deal. The Supreme Leader has praised those negotiators via Twitter. The talks couldn’t have progressed this far if Khamenei wasn’t serious about getting a deal done to escape Western sanctions.

In fact, American detractors of the potential deal are engaging in a very similar form of theater. U.S. politicians want to score political points as much as their Iranian counterparts do: congressional Republicans and GOP presidential hopefuls are badmouthing the deal to ding President Obama and gain traction on the biggest global issue of the day. But the reality is that it will be impossible for Republicans to peel off enough Democrats to reach a veto-proof majority and overturn a final deal. The international community favors an Iran deal, and the American public is wary of undertaking military actions that could lead to another Middle East war.

A final deal between the U.S. and Iran remains more likely than not, but it’s not vitriolic tweets that threaten it most—it’s the remaining sticking points between the two sides. How much enriched uranium would Iran be allowed to stockpile? How much will a deal limit nuclear research using advanced machines? At what pace and in what sequence will the West lift sanctions while Iran carries out its end of the bargain?

These are critical and complex questions, but both sides know that they exist, and nothing that has been said from the sidelines in Tehran or Washington has changed that.

Yet even if the U.S. and Iran manage to agree on a final deal, the negotiations won’t end. The devil lies in the details of implementation. What happens if the U.S. discovers in four or five years that Iran is cheating, hiding nuclear weapons work from inspectors? How feasible will it be to punish Iran for undermining a deal, especially once sanctions are peeled back and Iran emerges from international isolation?

Reaching a deal is one thing. Making sure it doesn’t unravel is something else—and something that may be even tougher.

TIME Cuba

These 5 Facts Explain the Economic Upsides of an Opened Cuba

The Caribbean country could be the next frontier of global business

Taking Cuba off the list of nations that sponsor terrorism is the latest development that will attract foreign companies to the island. So who wants in? These five stats explain which industries present the most opportunities as Cuba opens for business.

1. Money flowing home

One of the immediate benefits of renewed relations with Cuba is the increase in permitted remittance flows. The most recent figures put annual cash remittances to Cuba at approximately $5.1 billion, a level greater than the four fastest growing sectors of the Cuban economy combined. Now, permitted remittance levels from the U.S. will be raised fourfold, from $2,000 to $8,000 per year. This will help drive an increase in spending power in Cuba, which is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 4.6% through this decade. For global companies seeking a foothold anywhere they can, more money in the pockets of Cubans means more fuel for expansion. Take Coca-Cola. With an open Cuba, Coke could be legally be sold in every country in the world save one: North Korea.

(Fortune, The White House, Euromonitor, Wall Street Journal)

2. A lot more visitors

Just 110 miles off the coast of Florida, Cuba should be a natural magnet for American travelers. Despite needing to meet special criteria to receive a visa from the State Department—allowable categories include educational and journalistic activities—170,000 Americans visited the country last year. As the restrictions slacken, the sky is literally the limit. JetBlue already charters flights to Cuba from the U.S., but the budget airline wants to start running regular commercial flights. American Airlines Group now flies to Cuba 20 times per week, a 33% increase in flights compared to just a year ago. More flights—and more competition—will make airfare more affordable, driving additional tourist traffic.

(Travel Pulse, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal)

3. Communication breakthroughs

Only one in ten Cubans regularly use mobile phones and only one in twenty have uncensored access to the Internet. Even state-restricted Internet penetration currently stands at just 23.2%. The telecom infrastructure is so underdeveloped that an hour of regulated Internet connectivity can cost up to 20% of the average Cuban’s monthly salary. There’s serious demand for the major infrastructure investments needed to improve these numbers. Some start-ups are making waves in spite of shoddy internet. Airbnb, a website that lets people rent out lodging, announced that it has started booking rooms in Cuba with over 1,000 hosts. It gets around the lack of Internet by teaming with middlemen who have long worked to link tourists with bed and breakfasts.

(Wharton, Freedom House, Fast Company)

4. A cure for Cuba

Cuba has the third highest number of physicians per capita, behind only Monaco and Qatar. They’re even used as an export: Venezuela pays $5.5 billion a year for the almost 40,000 Cuban medical professionals who now make up half of its health-care personnel. Cuban doctors lack access to most American pharmaceutical products and, importantly, to third-generation antibiotics. For its part, Cuba’s surprisingly robust biotech industry makes a number of vaccines not currently available in the U.S. With the normalization of relations, Cuba can look to fully capitalize on its medical strengths.

(Bloomberg, World Health Organization, Modern Healthcare, Brookings)

5. Foreign investment

Cuba currently attracts around $500 million in foreign direct investment (FDI)—good for just 1% of GDP. Given its tumultuous political history and underdeveloped economy, it is difficult to accurately predict how quickly investors will flock once the embargo has been lifted. But a good comparison might be the Dominican Republic, another Caribbean nation with roughly the same size population as Cuba. The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that Cuba could potentially attract as much foreign capital as the Dominican Republic, which currently receives $17 billion in FDI ($2 billion from the U.S). But this won’t happen overnight—in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, Cuba ranks 177th out of 178, ahead only of North Korea.

(Wharton, ASCE, Peterson Institute, Heritage Foundation)

TIME trade

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Help Define President Obama’s Legacy

US President Barack Obama speaks while Japan's new conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens, following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on Feb. 22, 2013.
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama speaks while Japan's new conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens, following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on Feb. 22, 2013.

The massive TPP trade deal could help boost the global economy and President Obama's legacy—if Congress lets it happen

In the next few days, the Senate will begin debate on one of the most important questions it will answer this decade—whether to grant the President “trade promotion authority” (TPA), also known as “fast track.” This move would give President Obama and his successors the authority to place trade agreements before Congress for a simple up-or-down vote, denying lawmakers the chance to filibuster or add amendments to the deal which change its rules.

Those in favor say that Presidents can’t negotiate growth-boosting trade deals without fast track authority, because other governments won’t make concessions if they know that Congress can later rewrite parts of the agreement. Those who oppose TPA say the devil remains in the details—small changes within a massive trade deal can have huge impacts on individual business sectors, and on the winners and losers in any agreement. They say trade deals are too important for the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Americans to leave their elected representatives with no say in their content.

That debate is now coming to a head because negotiations among a dozen Pacific Rim nations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—an enormous multilateral trade deal involving a dozen Pacific rim countries—are entering the final stages. The talks now include the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. This group represents 40 percent of world trade and 40 percent of global GDP. Without TPA, there will be no TPP, say trade advocates, which would cost America significantly. Too bad, counter trade opponents. If Americans can’t influence the deal’s content through their representatives, America is better off without it.

What’s at stake? TPP proponents say the deal would generate hundreds of billions of dollars of economic gains over the next decade by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers across the 12 countries it covers. It would enhance security relations among member states, boost labor and economic standards and set rules for global commerce on free-market terms. For some countries, TPP would give their economies a significant boost. Projected GDP growth in Japan and Singapore for 2025 would be nearly a full 2 percent higher with the deal than without. Malaysia’s GDP might be higher by more than 5 percent. The difference for Vietnam might be more than 10 percent.

For the U.S., the political and security impact of the TPP is more important than the economic effects. In 2025, US GDP will be $77 billion higher with TPP than without it—just 0.3 percent. But the White House says it will boost exports by 4.39 percent over 2025 baseline forecasts. If true, that matters, because exports create the kinds of middle class jobs that boost longer-term growth and reduce income inequality. TPP would also give the U.S. a firmer commercial foothold in the world’s most economically dynamic region. And it would do so while growing the economies of U.S. partners and allies, which are anxious to avoid overdependence on fast-expanding China. That’s good for US security interests and makes TPP a central element of the Obama Administration’s long-promised pivot to Asia.

This is a big moment for those who believe in the power of trade to boost economic trajectories. In 2012, China surpassed the United States to become the world’s no. 1 trading nation in total trading volume. Today, there are 124 countries that trade more with protectionist China than with free trade America. That’s why the Trans-Pacific Partnership—whether he can pass it or not—will be a crucial part of Barack Obama’s legacy.

TIME Terrorism

These 5 Facts Explain Terrorism in Kenya

Family members sit on a bench as they wait to view the bodies of their loved ones who had been killed in an attack on Garissa University College, at a mortuary in Nairobi on April 8, 2015.
Dai Kurokawa—EPA Family members sit on a bench as they wait to view the bodies of their loved ones who had been killed in an attack on Garissa University College, at a mortuary in Nairobi on April 8, 2015.

Porous borders,a bad economy and corruption have made Kenya a sitting target for al-Shabab

The tragic Garissa University College attack in Kenya on April 2 led to 147 deaths and a global outpouring of shock and sympathy. But it didn’t approach the intense level of commentary—from journalists and world leaders alike—that the Charlie Hebdo attack in France garnered, despite a far higher death toll. To put this tragedy in context, it’s important to understand the state of play between al-Shabab and Kenya. Here are five stats on the attacks that cover everything from the porous Kenya-Somalia border to the cash incentive for would-be terrorist recruits.

1. Kenya suffers more than its share

The fight against al-Shabab in East Africa is a regional effort. With 3,664 people deployed, Kenya provides fewer personnel to the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia than Uganda, Ethiopia or Burundi do. Yet it is Kenya that has borne the brunt of al-Shabab’s attacks outside Somalia. Since 2012, the group has killed over 600 people in Kenya. There has been only one major attack outside Somalia’s borders that didn’t target Kenya: the 2010 Kampala bombings. The Garissa siege was the deadliest terror attack in Kenya since the 1998 al-Qaeda bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi.

(The Boston Globe, Council on Foreign Relations, The New York Times, The Washington Post)

2. The problem of porous borders

A porous border helps Al-Shabab target Kenya. Though the Kenyan government has announced plans to build a wall along parts of the 424 mile-long border with Somalia, the structure could cost as much as $17 billion—and it wouldn’t address other glaring issues. Kenya’s police force is among the most corrupt in East Africa; members of al-Shabab can easily buy passage and visas from officials. Payments to officers made up almost 50% of all bribes in Kenya in 2014. Garissa County is particularly vulnerable. The area is home to Dadaab, one of the world’s biggest refugee camps with over 336,000 Somalis. Garissa was the victim of more than a fifth of al-Shabab’s attacks in Kenya between 2009 and 2013.

(Global Terrorism Database, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, BBC)

3. Weak security

The siege at Garissa lasted nearly 15 hours. Yet, security forces were only deployed 7 hours after the attack began, and there was a two-hour briefing when they arrived in the area. They didn’t enter the university until 11 hours had passed. Why the glacial response? The two fixed-wing planes that security forces flew in were too small for all of the officers and their equipment; no police choppers were available. Despite legislation passed in 2011 to overhaul the police, intelligence and defense forces in Kenya, not much progress has been made. Anti-terror police units in Nairobi have a budget as low as $735 per month for operations, and police officers are paid around $200 per month. For comparison, some Kenyan parliamentarians earn up to $15,000 monthly. According to some estimates, over 300,000 people are employed as private security guards in Kenya, whereas Kenya’s police force numbers approximately 60,000.

(The Boston Globe, Daily Mail, Daily Nation, Aljazeera)

4. Local tensions

Muslims make up about a tenth of Kenya’s population, and they reside primarily in the Northeast and along the coast. These communities lag in development, due to limited public and private investment, giving rise to local tension and instability. The northeast region bordering Somalia, an area the size of Mississippi, has less than 100 miles of tarmacked roads. Kenyan-Somali clan conflict and banditry has led to past conflicts in the area, including the 1980 Garissa massacre and the 1984 Wagalla massacre—resulting in the deaths of over 4,000 ethnic Somalis. Though Garissa County is a predominantly ethnic Somali area, students from across Kenya attend the university. The Shabab attackers singled out Christians for execution.

(The Guardian, The World Post, Aljazeera, Climate Change and Security Conference, The New York Times)

5. Recruiting made easy

Al-Shabab translates to ‘the youth’ in Arabic, a fitting name for an organization that feeds off limited opportunities for young people in the region. According to BBC News, roughly a quarter of al-Shabab’s 7,000-9,000 forces are Kenyan. Many of them were attracted to al-Shabab’s high salaries for new recruits, which are reportedly more than $1,000. Meanwhile, the average monthly wage in Kenya is $76 ($912 annual). Some 70% of working class youth are currently unemployed.

(BBC News (a), BBC News (b), Reuters, Aljazeera)

TIME Israel

The U.S. and Israel Are Divided — and That Won’t Change

President Barack Obama meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington on Oct. 1, 2014.
Kevin Lamarque—Reuters President Barack Obama meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington on Oct. 1, 2014.

Obama and Netanyahu don't like each other, but Israel and the U.S. will have problems even when they're both out of office

Some accuse President Obama of undermining Israel’s security to protect a peace process that’s going nowhere. Others say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is poisoning Israel’s relations with his country’s superpower protector and isolating Israel internationally. It’s clear that Obama and Netanyahu don’t trust or like each other. But the widening divide between these countries can’t be reduced to a personality conflict between leaders. Differences in the interests and worldviews of the two governments are becoming more important.

Begin with the “two-state solution.” In Washington, leaders of both parties will continue to prioritize the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security. But Obama isn’t the only U.S. official who publicly supports the idea of an eventual Israeli compromise with Palestinians. Former President George W. Bush described himself in 2008 as the “first American president to call for a Palestinian state.” Support for this aspiration remains part of the Republican Party platform.

Israelis, on the other hand, even those who support a two-state solution in principle, are far more aware of the challenges in creating a viable country that connects Gaza and the West Bank—to say nothing of the political nightmare of trying to evict thousands of Israeli settlers from disputed land. Support for a two-state solution is not dead in either country, but Americans and Israelis do not look at this question with the same eyes. With every surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence, that gap becomes more obvious.

Obama and Netanyahu also hold opposing views on how best to ensure that Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons, but that difference reflects divergent ideas within their governments on the role Iran might play in the future. For the Obama administration, Iran might one day become an agent of change in the Middle East, because it’s a country that holds genuinely contested elections, however flawed, and it’s one in which a sizeable majority isn’t old enough to remember the religious revolution that the country’s leaders say gives them their mandate. For Israel’s government, Iran’s hardliners remain in firm control. Whatever the aspirations of its young people, Israel believes Iran must remain isolated until its elections are fully free and fair and its leaders recognize Israel’s right to exist. Nuclear negotiations have widened this gap.

These differences are made possible by the reality that the United States can afford to be less involved in the region’s rivalries than it once was. First, following the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is limited public support in the United States for any military commitment that might require a costly long-term occupation of territory. Bombing ISIS is one thing; invading Iraq all over again is another. Americans are not ready for a war with Iran. Second, the remarkable surge in U.S. domestic energy production of recent years leaves the U.S. less vulnerable to Middle East conflict. By the end of this decade, the United States will produce almost half the crude oil it consumes. More than 80 percent of its oil will come from North and South America. By 2020, the US could be the world’s largest oil producer, and by 2035 the country could become almost entirely energy self-sufficient.

That advantage allows the U.S. President to shift security and trade policy toward a stronger focus on East Asia, the region more important than any other for the strength and resilience of the global economy over the next generation. The men and women hoping to succeed Obama as President can afford to offer familiar reassurances on America’s commitment to Israel’s security, but the shifting international landscape, the challenges and opportunities created by China’s continued rise and new trans-Pacific trade opportunities will occupy a growing percentage of the next administration’s time.

Netanyahu has won another term, though his staying power will remain in question. Obama will be in office for another 22 months. The next leaders of the two countries will surely like each other better than Netanyahu and Obama do, but differences in U.S. and Israeli national interests are not going away.

TIME Iran

These 5 Facts Explain the State of Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and others wait for a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 27, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Brendan Smialowski—Reuters Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and others wait for a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 27, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Sanctions, demographics, oil and cyberwarfare

As leaders in the United States and Iran maintain laser focus on the ongoing nuclear negotiations, it’s valuable to take a broader look at Iran’s politics, its economy, and its relations with the United States. Here are five stats that explain everything from Iran’s goals in cyberspace to its views of Western powers.

1. Sanctions and their discontents

Sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy. According to the Congressional Research Service, Iran’s economy is 15 to 20% smaller than it would have been without the sanctions that have been enacted since 2010. They leave Iran unable to access nearly four-fifths of the $100 billion in reserves the country holds in international accounts. Iran’s oil output has fallen off a cliff. Four years ago, Iran sold some 2.5 million barrels of oil and condensates a day. Over the last year, the country has averaged just over a million barrels a day. Even as the exports have fallen and the price has plummeted, oil still accounts for 42% of government revenues. Iran’s latest budget will slash spending by 11% after accounting for inflation.

(Bloomberg, The Economist)

2. Cyber-spending spree

But despite the belt-tightening, Tehran has been willing to splurge in one area. Funding for cyber security in the 2015/16 budget is 1200% higher than the $3.4 million allotted in 2013/14. Up until 2010, Iran’s chief focus in cyberspace was managing internal dissidents. But after news of the Stuxnet virus—a U.S.-led cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program—went public in 2010, Iran’s leaders shifted gears. According to one estimate, Iran spent over $1 billion on its cyber capabilities in 2012 alone. That year, it conducted the Shamoon attack, wiping data from about 30,000 machines belonging to Saudi oil company Aramco. In 2013, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard publicly declared that Iran was “the fourth biggest cyber power among the world’s cyber armies.”

(Global Voices, Wired, Strategic Studies Institute, Wall Street Journal)

3. New generation and old leadership

The median age in Iran is 28, and youth unemployment in the country hovers around 25%. Nearly seven out of ten Iranians are under 35 years old, too young to remember the Iranian revolution of 1979. But the country is controlled by older men, many of whom had an instrumental role in the revolution. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 75 years old; there have been concerns about his health and Iran’s eventual succession plan. Iran’s Assembly of Experts is an opaque institution with huge symbolic importance: it is tasked with selecting and overseeing Iran’s Supreme Leader. The Assembly’s Chairman passed away in October at the age of 83. His replacement? Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, who is…83 years old.

(New York Times, CIA World Factbook, BBC)

4. The feeling is mutual

Over 70% of Iranians view the United States unfavorably—and 58% have “very unfavorable” views. On the flip side, more than three-quarters of surveyed Americans have unfavorable views of Iran. But that’s a more modest stance than some other European powers: 80% of French and 85% of Germans have unfavorable views of Iran. According to recent polls, Iran is no longer considered “the United States’ greatest enemy today.” In 2012, 32% of those polled chose Iran, good for first place. In 2015, just 9% selected Iran, placing it fourth behind China, North Korea and Russia, respectively.

(Center for International & Security Studies, Pew Research Center, Vox)

5. Support for a deal?

Negative views of Iran haven’t undermined Americans’ desire to try and cut a deal: 68% of Americans favor diplomacy with Iran. It’s a bipartisan majority: 77% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans are in favor of talks. Iranians have mixed expectations: only 48% think that President Rouhani will be successful in reaching an agreement. But if we do see a final deal, a lot more than Iranian oil could open up. Western businesses would love to break into a country that is more populous than Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Israel, Bahrain, Lebanon and Jordan combined.

(Center for International & Security Studies, CNN survey, CIA World Factbook)

TIME

China Challenges America’s Financial Leadership

Washington wants its allies to stay away from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

On March 20, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters that under the right circumstances, his government might become a member of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). In Washington, which has urged allies to steer clear of the AIIB, jaws dropped. Tokyo, Washington’s closest Asian ally, is disregarding U.S. concerns and considering membership in an investment bank led by Japan’s primary rival.

There’s a bigger story here. Now that most U.S. troops are home from Iraq and Afghanistan, President Barack Obama knows there’s little domestic support for military operations that might demand another costly long-term commitment. That’s why he’s relied on sanctions, surveillance, drones, international institutions and willing, capable, like-minded allies to fight his foreign policy battles.

Yet it’s increasingly clear that none of those assets can solve some of Washington’s most pressing security problems. Sanctions can combine with lower oil prices to drive Russia into a deep recession, but they won’t force President Vladimir Putin to relax his grip on Ukraine’s throat. They can draw Iran to the bargaining table, but they can’t force Tehran to give up its nuclear program.

Surveillance has likewise proved a double-edged sword. American allies want access to the information Washington collects, but revelations that the National Security Agency has listened in on Germany’s Chancellor and other U.S. partners hardened attitudes in those countries toward Washington. And drones can take down groups of bad guys, but they won’t eliminate an enormous threat like ISIS–and they often kill innocents.

Now there’s the AIIB. For decades, Washington has used its dominant influence in the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank to strengthen relations with European and Asian partners and guide developing countries toward Western values by conditioning aid on U.S.-backed reforms. Those countries had no choice: there was no credible alternative to the U.S.-led system.

That’s changing. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the $50 billion AIIB in October; Beijing will probably hold a stake of up to 50% in the new institution. By providing project loans to developing countries in Asia, the bank will extend China’s reach and diminish U.S. negotiating leverage. That’s why the Obama Administration is so worried.

On March 13, Britain applied to become a member of China’s new bank, and in a rare fit of public anger toward its closest ally, the White House accused London of “constant accommodation” of China. Then France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland announced plans to follow Britain’s lead. The Saudis have signed on. Australia and South Korea, key U.S. allies that initially balked at joining the AIIB, are now reconsidering. The IMF and the World Bank have both recently said they would cooperate with the AIIB. It’s been a long time since Washington has looked so isolated.

Some will blame the Obama Administration, but Britain’s decision to sign up for China’s bank reflects its need to attract new volumes of Chinese investment. Australia already counts China as its top trade partner. South Korea now enjoys higher trade volume with China than with the U.S. and Japan combined. The Saudis understand that America will become less dependent on its oil over time. Even Japan must protect its relations with both America and China.

U.S. allies are not shunning Washington. They’re hedging their bets to adapt to a world where economic power is more widely distributed. Shared values still matter, and all these countries will continue to count on strong relations with the world’s only superpower. But Obama and his successors will face a difficult question: In a world that needs America less, how can Washington protect and maintain its dominant influence?

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy

Read next: 8 Surprising Economic Trends That Will Shape the Next Century

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This appears in the April 06, 2015 issue of TIME.
TIME Globalization

These Are the 7 Challenges of Globalization

What happens as the world becomes even more interconnected…and even more leaderless?

Some argue that globalization is grinding to a screeching halt. In a world of increased conflict and turmoil, where major powers jockey for influence, financial sanctions have become a go-to weapon and even the Internet threatens to splinter, then surely the cross-border flow of money, ideas, information, goods and services will begin to slow—or even reverse.

Others argue that globalization is really just Americanization by other means. After all, the United States still dominates the international financial system. Information hurtling through cyberspace promotes the democratization of information, because it creates demand for still more information and forces autocrats to care more about public opinion. As developing countries develop, aren’t they becoming more like America?

Not anymore. If globalization has promoted the American dream over the past quarter century, it’s only because the United States has been a dominant power. There is nothing inherently American or Western about globalization itself. And times are changing.

Globalization isn’t going away—in fact, it will continue apace. But the U.S.-led world order is deteriorating. An inconsistent, war-weary United States is no longer willing and able to provide global leadership—and no other country is stepping up to take its place: the rest of the West is distracted with problems at home, and allies are looking to hedge their bets.

Meanwhile, developing countries have become powerful enough to start dismantling the U.S.-led international system; China, Russia, Turkey, and a host of other emerging markets have more ability to ‘veto’ global initiatives that they disagree with. But they are not yet synchronized or influential enough—and their values and interests are too divergent—to offer adequate alternatives of their own. The result is a regionalized world where Americanization and globalization are no longer one and the same.

This unprecedented combination will generate a lot of new risks and opportunities. I recently helped the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Geoeconomics with a report that outlines the seven major challenges to globalization in an interconnected, de-Americanized world.

My piece in the report focuses on one particular challenge: weaker underdogs. With a widening leadership vacuum at the very top, we are seeing regional heavyweights with more room to operate. Think: Russia’s intrusions in its backyard, Germany’s firm control over Eurozone policy, or China’s rapid rise in the Asia-Pacific. These major countries are consolidating power, often at the expense of the smaller countries around them. This ‘hollowing of the peripherals’ will accelerate in a world that is becoming rudderless at the global level.

This is just one of the seven trends we’ve highlighted. Read the full “Seven Challenges to Globalization” report here: http://www.weforum.org/reports/geo-economics-seven-challenges-globalization

 

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