Welcome back to Axios World. We've got a 1,480-word (5.5-minute) journey for you this evening.
Situational awareness: Russian hackers from the military intelligence unit known as the GRU successfully targeted Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the impeachment inquiry, due to unsubstantiated allegations about its former board member Hunter Biden (NY Times).
Riot police and demonstrators on Saturday near Tehran's Amir Kabir University. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images
Twelve days in which war between the U.S. and Iran seemed to loom ever closer began and ended with apparent Iranian mistakes.
The big picture: Iran is under growing pressure, while President Trump appears emboldened. But as the dust clears, there are lessons to be learned for the next time the two square off.
The first mistake: The escalation began on Dec. 27 when rockets fired by an Iran-backed militia killed a U.S. contractor, Nawres Waleed Hamid.
Trump's gamble: Cham Wings Airlines Flight 6Q501 landed in Baghdad at 12:36am local time on the morning of Jan. 3. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and his entourage were the first passengers to depart, per NYT.
The second mistake: Ukraine Airlines Flight 752 began its ascent out of Tehran at 6:12am on Jan. 8, carrying 176 passengers and crew.
Between the lines: "The irony is that this unpredictable and unplanned event might end up having more serious implications for the Iranian regime than countless deliberate U.S. attempts to destabilize it," Rob Malley, CEO of the International Crisis Group and a former Obama adviser, tells Axios.
What to watch: "President Trump's approach to foreign policy is self-reinforcing: If he undertakes unconventional action (like moving the embassy to Jerusalem or killing Soleimani) and the anticipated blowback does not occur, he is emboldened to take more, bolder and riskier moves," Malley says.
The dam, as of 2017. Photo: Gioia Forster/picture alliance via Getty Images
Officials from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan convened in Washington today ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline they set to reach a deal on what will be Africa’s largest hydropower dam.
Driving the news: Ethiopia, which began construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in 2011, considers it both a major economic opportunity and a matter of national pride. It plans to start filling the dam within months.
What to watch: “If the dispute is not resolved by Jan. 15 the nations will have several options ... from using an international mediator to involving the heads of states,” per Reuters.
Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said (R) helps carry the coffin of Sultan Qaboos. Photo: AFP via Getty
Oman's first political transition in half a century has been marked by visits from world leaders and tributes to Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who died on Friday.
Why it matters: Qaboos' cousin and successor, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, has said he'll maintain the foreign policy neutrality that's made Oman a key mediator, including between the U.S. and Iran.
Flashback: "At the age of 29, with British support, [Qaboos] overthrew his father, Said bin Taimur, a reclusive and ultra-conservative ruler who banned a range of things, including listening to the radio or wearing sunglasses, and decided who could get married, be educated or leave the country," per the BBC.
Salvini's opponents left the door open for him. Photo: Salvatore Laporta/Kontrolab/LightRocket via Getty
Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, seemed to have miscalculated catastrophically in August.
Where things stand: Any sighs of relief from Salvini's foes, who include French President Emmanuel Macron and many in Brussels, now appear premature.
What to watch, per the FT:
Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a very bad political day, Axios contributor Barak Ravid reports.
Driving the news: Less than 50 days before Israel's third elections in a year, three new political developments will make his efforts to get re-elected much harder.
1. The three corruption indictments against Netanyahu are a defining factor in the election, particularly now that he is seeking parliamentary immunity.
2. On the left...
3. On the right...
Why it matters: All four parties were in danger of falling below the electoral threshold, and that risk now remains for two parties within Netanyahu's right-wing bloc.
In "The Scientist and the Spy," out Feb. 4, former China correspondent Mara Hvistendahl traces the history of China's theft of trade secrets through the case of a Chinese scientist imprisoned in 2016 for stealing corn seed from Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer.
In the process, Hvistendahl exposes a classified FBI program that tracked Chinese scientists and science students in the U.S. beginning in 1967 and at least through the 1970s, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes:
Why it matters: Recent FBI indictments and investigations, targeting Chinese researchers in the U.S. and aimed at stemming the unauthorized flow of science and tech secrets to China, have raised fears among Chinese Americans that another period of racially tinged suspicion is upon them.
Residents of Talisay, Philippines, watch the eruption of Taal Volcano, which forced some 30,000 people to evacuate and shut down much of the capital, Manila. Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images
"They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me."— Kimia Alizadeh, the first and only Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal. She announced Saturday that she had defected.