3 Huge Stories to Follow This Weekend

1) Iran Nuke Talks Down to the Wire

In Brief: This is arguably the most critical time yet in the complex negotiations that may lead to a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran. Negotiators from the Permanent 5 members of the Security Council plus Germany–the so-called P5+1 —  have until Tuesday to reach a broad agreement with Iranians in which Iran would curtail its nuclear program and put it under rigorous international inspection. In exchange, Iran will get some relief from sanctions.

The diplomacy and negotiations have reached a frenetic pace. Over the past few days, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has spoken directly with the President of France and Prime Minister of the UK (and indirectly to Barack Obama though a letter, the contents of which have not been disclosed by the White House). Foreign Ministers from the P5+1 counties and Iran are in Lausanne, Switzerland for a final weekend of negotiations. Their self-imposed deadline of March 31 will probably not be extended any further so we are truly down to the wire. If a deal is struck–and that’s still a big ‘if’– it will be a broad political agreement that will set the stage for future highly technical negotiations about its implementation.

Want to go deeper?  

In the first seven minutes of this podcast episode, Joe Cirincione offers a compelling argument for why this nuclear deal would be a profoundly transformative moment for international peace and security.

The first six minutes this conversation with Trita Parsi takes an interesting look at the prospects of a nuclear deal through the perspective of domestic Iranian politics.

Twitter Users to Follow for #IranNukeTalks





2) Big Elections in Nigeria

In Brief: Africa’s largest democracy  holds elections tomorrow. President Goodluck Jonathan is facing a tough re-election battle with longtime rival Muhammadu Buhari. These elections would be exceedingly consequential on their own and possibly expose deep geographic and ethnic divisions in the country. Jonathan is a Christian and draws most of his support from the South. Buhari is a Muslim from the North. But as always, it’s way more complicated than that.

With the Boko Haram insurgency raging in parts of the country and the prospects of election-related violence not insignificant, these elections –which were delayed six weeks over security concerns–are taking on heightened importance.

Want to go deeper?

A policy brief from the Council on Foreign Relations.

A 14 minute election explainer from the Global Dispatches Podcast, featuring journalist Dayo Olopade

Twitter Users to Follow for #NigeriaDecides

Jina Moore @ItsJina

Alkasim Abdulkader @alkayy

Tahir Sherriff

Heidi Voigt @HeidiVoigt

Joe Penny @JoePenny

3) Yemen Disintegrates

In Brief: Yemen is the poorest country in the region and is fast becoming the newest and hottest disaster in the Middle East. Sectarian violence and a power struggle between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the largely Saudi backed government of Abd-Rabbu Hadi has exploded into conflict. Last weekend, rebels cemented their control over the country’s third largest city.  And this week, the Saudi and US-backed prime minister fled Yemen to Saudi Arabia, at which point Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against Houthi positions inside Yemen. A ground invasion may be in the offing, and here Saudi Arabia would likely be supported by Egypt and other Gulf Countries.

The situation in Yemen combines the worst aspects of Syria and Libya. That is, sectarian bloodletting with a dash of daesh and outside rivals using local militias as proxies. It threatens to escalate tensions in the middle east even further–if that was even possible. Events on the ground are fast moving. As is the the UN-lead diplomacy to try and put a lid on this conflict before it explodes even further.

Want to Go Deeper?

The International Crisis Group is due out with its report later today. They always offer clarity and wisdom in situations like this. UPDATE: Here it is:

Twitter Users to Follow for Yemen

Laura Kasinof @Kasinof

Farea al-Muslimi @almuslimi

Gregory Johnson @GregoryDJohnson