Saturday, the 5th of May
Donald Trump, by his own description, is a deal-maker. But in many cases (the TPP, the Paris Climate Agreement, NATO, the United Nations, NAFTA and Obamacare to name a few) he has also been, or at least has threatened to be, a deal-breaker.

This week we look at one such deal that he has been threatening to void and re-negotiate on better terms. Leaks from the White House over the past two weeks have suggested that the president has made up his mind to leave the Iran nuclear deal. We dive deeper into why this is the case, and what it means for the world.
A masterclass in PowerPoint. PHOTO: Amir Cohen / Reuters
What is the "Iran Nuclear Deal"?
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in Vienna in July 2015 by Iran, Britain, China, Russia, the United States, France, Germany and the European Union.

Although Iran's nuclear program had already tapered off in 2009, the JCPOA guaranteed that it stayed shut. Under the agreement, Tehran would hand over all weapons-grade Uranium and 98% of its low-grade stockpile. And the gas centrifuges, heavy water facilities and other supporting infrastructure would be either discontinued or dismantled. In return the United States and its allies would remove or reduce crippling economic sanctions on Iran's oil and gas production. The accord was a breakthrough after more than a decade of tensions between Iran and the West. It is due to be renewed in exactly one week.

Has it worked so far?
By most accounts, yes. The consensus view is that Tehran has assiduously abided by the spirit and letter of the agreement, even though secondary American sanctions have diminished the promised economic benefits of the deal.

The reason the deal is at risk now is because of what else Iran does outside the JCPOA's purview. The sticking points are Iran's ballistic missile program, its military footprint in Syria and Iraq, and its support for Hezbollah and the Houthis. The diktat from Washington is that these other military endeavours should be included in the deal. But Iran's veteran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has responded with a straight bat: saying that Iran won't be bullied into renegotiating the deal.

Show and tell
Bibi Netanyahu travelled to Washington this week to convince Trump to leave the JCPOA and relayed his message through a medium that he knows will cut through: television. In a primetime segment the visiting Israeli Prime Minister strode across a stage repeating the phrase "Iran lied". With a wall of props behind him (purportedly containing secret Iranian nuclear documents stolen by Mossad), Bibi delivered his message: that Iran cannot be trusted.

Who wants it gone?
Trump has taken umbrage with the JCPOA in part because it was the crowning achievement of his predecessor's administration. Add to that the fact that Iran's influence and military presence in Iraq and Syria has ballooned over the past 2 years. Hurrying things along is Trump's new National Security Advisor - John Bolton - perhaps the most outspoken critic of JCPOA in Washington and a long-time advocate of military action against Iran. And last but not least are the US administration's increasingly close ties to Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of whom face real and concrete threats from Iran.

The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is desperate for leverage over his old enemy on the other side of the Gulf. The presence of a tenacious Iranian proxy just over the border in Yemen is unacceptable to the Saudi royal palace. While the extent of Iran's actual influence over the Houthis is debatable, the fact that their missiles are being launched at Riyadh is not. Israel's generals face a similar quandary: the approaching victory of the Assad regime in Syria's civil war will create a permanent Iranian presence just on other side of the Golan Heights. Tel Aviv's displeasure can be read in the fact that its air force is now bombing Iranian weapons stockpiles in Syria.

Who wants to keep it?
Just about everybody else. All other signatories of the agreement have vocally defended the deal, arguing in no uncertain terms that Iran has kept up its side of the bargain. The International Atomic Energy Agency (responsible for overseeing Iran's compliance with the deal) released a statement flatly contradicting Netanyahu. The IAEA insists that there are "no credible indications" that Iran has pursued a nuclear program beyond 2009. French President Emmanuel Macron too spent a great deal of his recent trip to Washington trying to extract assurances from Trump on the JCPOA.  As did Angela Merkel. There is a narrow possibility that even if the US exits the JCPOA, the European Union may still be able to enforce it; but the US abrogation would have a severe destabilising effect nonetheless.

War games
Behind the props and the threats lies a broader truth. The crew at the helm of America have begun a pivot towards Asia. But this change in direction is dangerous for Israel and Saudi Arabia because they can't check a resurgent Iran (keeper of the eighth-largest standing army in the world). Even so, their options are few: a broad military intervention against Iran would be ruinous. Neither Bibi nor MbS can afford to have Iranian missiles landing in Tel Aviv or Riyadh.

And so these strange bedfellows (fittingly for these strange times) now seek to curtail Iran by undercutting the JCPOA.
Rudd-erless. PHOTO: Leon Neal
For weeks Amber Rudd, the United Kingdom's Home Secretary, had staved off attacks, issued mea culpas and played the blame game. She was in the spotlight over the Windrush scandal, a forced deportation program that targeted Afro-Caribbean UK residents; many of whom had spent decades in Britain.

This week Rudd fell on her sword, leaving Prime Minister Theresa May without a key ally. While May has tried to draw a line under the saga there are tough questions being asked about her own involvement as the former head of Home Affairs.

Rudd's replacement Sajid Javid is also set to give his boss headaches but for different reasons. During his first days on the front bench Javid criticised May's preferred Brexit plan and sided with the hard-Brexiters led by Jacob Rees-Mogg. The PM is seeking a Brexit-lite 'customs partnership' that would entail the UK levying tariffs on behalf of Brussels. It's detractors, led by Rees-Mogg, have pointed out that this leaves Britain in a de facto customs union. 

Meanwhile, the government's latest Brexit legislation suffered yet another defeat (the tenth so far) in the House of Lords. The peers comfortably voted in protections to ensure that no 'checks and controls' manifest at the Northern Irish border. As our readers will recall, this issue (or rather, impasse) is of primary importance. As the Tories inflict wounds upon one another, bureaucrats in Brussels labour away in pursuit of an increasingly unclear goal.
A dark day for Afghanistan's journalists. PHOTO: Associated Press
On Monday a twin suicide bombing shook Kabul and the global community of reporters. As dust from the first explosion settled, a swarm of emergency personnel, soldiers and journalists descended upon the scene. It was then that a suicide bomber - dressed as a journalist - detonated a second device amongst a pack of reporters. The blast killed eight reporters and 26 onlookers. Amongst the dead was AFP's principal Afghan photographer. The very same day a BBC journalist was also shot dead in Khost province.

These attacks occurred just days before World Press Freedom Day; the UN-sponsored day of recognition for journalism's role in the proper functioning of a democracy. As some countries praised their press on Thursday, Afghanistan's journalists buried their colleagues. Increasingly illiberal governments around the world are silencing, jailing or killing reporters. Two such countries, Myanmar and Turkey, continue to clamp down on the voices of dissent in plain view. 

Each of these events captured the global news-cycle for only half a day. Meanwhile in DC handwringing over a comedian's comments at the White House Correspondent's Dinner dominated the news cycle for days; a sign of how much needs to be done to fix the news. 
A trail of destruction. PHOTO: Hindustan Times
  1. The Indian states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were upended by a powerful sandstorm on Thursday; the 'freak' weather event claimed at least 125 lives
  2. Hapless Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani raised eyebrows when he flatly contradicted the president during a Fox News interview and divulged privileged State Department intelligence
  3. Chinese smart-phone manufacturer Xiaomi filed for the biggest IPO in years ($10b); in a coup for Beijing the company will list in Hong Kong rather than New York
  4. An Australian court ruled that Cardinal George Pell - the world's third most powerful Catholic cleric - must stand trial for historical cases of child sex abuse
  5. Cambridge Analytica and its parent company filed for bankruptcy to avoid scrutiny, and promptly re-formed with the same staff and address as 'Emerdata'
  6. Journalists revealed that US special forces in northern Yemen are assisting Saudi Arabia's war against the Houthis
  7. Telecommunications powerhouses Sprint and T-Mobile announced plans to merge in a $27b deal with far-reaching consequences for AT&T, Verizon, and consumers
  8. Across Europe labour rights activists and a sizeable group of agitators celebrated May Day with customary (violent) clashes with police
  9. After a significant amount of vacillation the Trump Administration wrote in exemptions for allies stung by incoming steel and aluminium tariffs
  10. Apple used its free kick from recent tax breaks to launch a $100b share buy-back from investors; the decision follows a very healthy earnings report
Turning back the clock. PHOTO: The Conversation
On a lush Filipino island history has been rewritten. The Cagayan Valley on Luzon has been the site of intensive excavations after a startling find: a butchered Ice Age rhinoceros. The team, led by Australian Gerrit van der Bergh, discovered sharp stone tools nearby that corresponded with cuts into the giant animal's bones. It's evidence that archaic hominins were present in the region some 700,000 years ago. An extraordinary find. 

We can now safely put to bed one of 2017s weirdest stories. If that has you confused - fair enough - it was a big field. We're talking about the revelation that US Company Hobby Lobby's devout Christian owner had paid millions for priceless artefacts to be stolen from Iraq. The rapacious collector, who feigned ignorance, had arranged for Mesopotamian antiquities and cuneiform tablets to be delivered from ISIS-controlled territory. This week they were returned to Iraq. 
Kanpur is choked with traffic. PHOTO: AFP
The World Health Organisation released an alarming report into global air quality this week: 90% of the world's population is breathing polluted air. The survey found that 14 of the 20 worst polluted cities are in India, with the manufacturing hub of Kanpur topping the list (with five times the safe level of airborne pollution). As the global population booms so too will deaths from pollutants; in 2016 an estimated 7 million people died from this largely preventable factor. 

In a step backwards for pro-choice campaigners, Iowa's state legislature passed the most restrictive abortion controls in America. The 51-46 decision in the majority Republican state ruled that abortions are illegal after a foetal heartbeat is detected. This usually occurs at the six-week mark; a point at which many women are still unaware they are pregnant. In Republican state houses across the country a concerted effort is underway to provide the legal underpinnings to challenge Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
Your weekend long read... There was a clear stand-out this week at inkl. The Economist lends its heft to the push for universal healthcare. A fascinating read.

Quote of the week... "Swedish meatballs are actually based on a  recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century. Let's stick to the facts" - A Swedish twitter user ignites a global argument on the origins of our favourite foods.

What we're reading... This absolute scorcher from The New Yorker's Ben Taub: The Spy Who Came Home.

One last thing... If you haven't purchased an inkl plan as yet, we're offering you a month for just 99c. That's just 3 cents a day to read the world's best news coverage. Help us help the news help you.

Have an excellent weekend.

Tom Wharton for inkl.