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High-level delegations from over 40 countries will meet in Warsaw, Poland, this week to discuss the future of the Middle East in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). For Washington, represented by Vice President Pence and Secretary Pompeo, the meeting will be a major test for their vision of a Middle East that excludes diplomatic relations with Iran.

Secretary of State Pompeo. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images

Background: President Trump's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA last year has created one of the thorniest points of transatlantic division. The EU continues to support the agreement, and many Western Europeans view the conference as an uncomfortable dilemma between sticking to the EU's commitment and taking part in a summit that explicitly excludes Iran.

For Poland, this will be a chance to play a hosting role on a key international issue, and to further strengthen a growing alliance with the U.S. While Warsaw has so far remained within the EU consensus on the JCPOA, it has also been receptive to U.S. concerns over Iran's ballistic missile program and support for terrorist organizations.

Reality check: For the summit to be a conducive forum for the U.S., Arab states, Israel and the EU to begin to work out their differences, it will require careful diplomacy, wide consultations with U.S. allies, and the perception that Washington can act as an honest broker. So far, quite a few key players remain unconvinced, with several of the foreign ministers of big EU countries still waiting until the last moment to decide on their participation.

What to watch: The big challenges to Middle Eastern stability — Syria, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — require, at the very least, agreement between the U.S. and its allies in both the Middle East and Europe. If the Warsaw conference is seen as a predominantly anti-Iranian summit, it will only exacerbate transatlantic divisions, leaving the U.S. with fewer allies in the Middle East, and Poland with a political price to pay within the EU.

Michal Baranowski is the director of the German Marshall Fund’s Warsaw office.

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump-backed Perdue says he wouldn’t have certified Georgia 2020 results

Perdue at a December 2020 campaign event in Columbus, Ga. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Georgia gubernatorial candidate David Perdue wouldn’t have signed the certification of the state’s 2020 election results if he had been governor at the time, the former Senate Republican told Axios.

  • “Not with the information that was available at the time and not with the information that has come out now. They had plenty of time to investigate this. And I wouldn’t have signed it until those things had been investigated and that’s all we were asking for," he said.

Why it matters: There has been no evidence widespread fraud took place in Georgia's elections last year and the November results were counted three times, once by hand.

Beijing Olympics: These countries have announced diplomatic boycotts

Photo: Zhang Qiang/VCG via Getty Images

Several countries, including Canada and Australia, have announced they will join the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest human rights abuses committed by China's government.

Driving the news: Leaders have faced pressure from human rights groups and others to boycott the Games, pointing to the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's Xinjiang region and other abuses.

Biden directs federal government to become carbon neutral by 2050

President Biden speaking to reporters outside of the White House on Dec. 8.

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that requires the federal government achieve multiple goals related to reducing its carbon emissions, including achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: Meeting the objectives of the order would require a massive investment by the federal government to buy electric vehicles, upgrade buildings and change how it procures electricity.