Welcome back to Axios World. We're zipping around the world tonight in 1,696 words (6 minutes).
Protestors in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Photo: AFP via Getty Images
Earth-shaking demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq have the political classes in both countries in retreat — and regional power Iran under pressure.
The big picture: Political offices in both countries are divvied up between religious and ethnic groups, but protesters claim the political factions have divided power and wealth among themselves at the expense of the citizens.
Driving the news: Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, made a secret trip to Baghdad last week to prevent the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who had been under pressure to resign, Reuters reports.
Zoom out: “Baghdad and Beirut’s fragile democracies were born of conflict: a devastating civil war in Lebanon, which pitted religious communities against each [other] and ended in 1990; and the power vacuum that followed the ousting of Saddam [Hussein],” FT notes.
Zoom in: Some protestors are specifically targeting Iranian influence.
What they're saying: Khamenei claimed in a speech that "the U.S. and Western intelligence agencies, with the help of money from regional countries, are instigating unrest in the region." He urged authorities in both countries to "stabilize these security threats.”
Go deeper: One year of "maximum pressure" on Iran
Naimski (back right) behind Polish President Andrzej Duda and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Photo: Karol Serewis/Gallo Images Poland/Getty Images
Poland's populist ruling party, Law and Justice, has earned the praise of President Trump for defending "sovereignty" and the criticism of Brussels for weakening democratic institutions, particularly the judiciary.
What they're saying: Piotr Naimski, a senior Law and Justice official and the minister responsible for energy strategy, told me in a phone interview last week that such critics are "completely wrong."
Axios: What does it mean on the substance for Poland to talk about sovereignty? Because obviously Poland is a sovereign country. What are we supposed to take away from that idea?
Axios: But if you're a non-Christian living in Poland are you less Polish?
The bottom line: Naimski went on to defend Poland's record on immigration, having accepted many Ukrainian refugees, and said the government was made up of "Polish patriots" — not nationalists.
Jokowi at his inauguration. Photo: Anton Raharjo/NurPhoto via Getty Images
President Joko Widodo, newly sworn in for his second term, has outraged Indonesians by appearing to abandon his fights against corruption and for political change, Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations writes for Axios Expert Voices.
Driving the news: Jokowi did little as parliament passed legislation gutting the country’s anti-graft watchdog. Thousands demonstrated against that decision and other potential laws that would drastically reduce personal freedoms. The protests left hundreds injured and three students killed.
In winning his second term, he fought off a challenge from Prabowo Subianto — a former general who has touted his strongman, anti-democratic appeal and has allegedly overseen widespread rights abuses — only to turn around and appoint him defense minister.
Where it stands: Jokowi’s economic program has been relatively successful. His administration has taken important steps to reduce poverty and improve growth, although Indonesia’s economy still struggles with monopolies, graft and red tape.
The bottom line: Jokowi’s economic focus might further boost Indonesia’s growth rate, while cementing a parallel legacy of democratic decay.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
“Emotion recognition was the crime prevention buzz-phrase on everyone’s lips this week at China’s largest surveillance tech expo.”
Reality check: "The science on emotion recognition is pretty bogus," ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley tells my colleague Orion Rummler.
What's happening: China says it's rolling out the tech in Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims are kept in mass detainment camps, and in subway stations and airports to "identify criminal suspects," per FT.
The technology is also being developed in the U.S.
Between the lines: Even if the tech doesn't track emotions all that well, being watched or even thinking you're being watched can still have a psychological effect and encourage people to change their behavior, as seen in workplace polling, Orion writes.
An overhead view of illegal mining. Photo: Joao Laet/AFP via Getty Images
Jon Lee Anderson goes deep into the Amazon for this week's New Yorker, reporting from an indigenous reserve where both the environment and the local way of life are at risk from illegal mining and deforestation.
The bottom line: Illegal gold mining brings in an estimated $1 billion per year, and the practice is growing more lucrative and more common — with massive environmental repercussions.
Thank you for the overwhelming response to the U.K. special report. I'm incredibly fortunate to have such an engaged, curious and kind readership.
Why it matters: Most (but not all) of those who wrote in said they'd like to see more special reports in the future, which means I need to come up with some ideas.
Let me know if any of these are of interest, if you have another idea, or what you'd like a deeper dive on down the road. Thanks in advance!
Just reply to this email to let me know what you think.
Scene from a market in Delhi, where the new edition of Axios World must have just landed. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images
"The U.S. is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens. Ours is a realistic and pragmatic model."— Mike Pompeo today, announcing the U.S. would begin to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. The U.S. is the only country in the world not to support the accord.