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The funeral ceremony in Tehran. Photo: Iranian Defense Ministry via Getty

Iranian leaders are weighing their response to the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, known as the father of Iran’s military nuclear program, who was given a state funeral Monday in Tehran.

The big picture: Iran has accused Israel of carrying out Friday’s attack, but senior leaders have suggested that they’ll choose patience over an immediate escalation that could play into the hands of the Israelis and the outgoing Trump administration.

  • Still, some sort of Iranian response is likely in the coming weeks — as are further provocations from Israel or the U.S.

Background: The attack on Fakhrizadeh was preceded by a flurry of meetings between anti-Iran leaders — including one involving Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

  • An increasingly cohesive anti-Iran axis — consisting of Israel and several Gulf countries — has sent clear signals to the incoming Biden administration that it will oppose any attempts to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
  • Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been attempting to block Biden’s path back to the deal by stoking tensions and piling on new sanctions, aided by Israel.

What to watch: Biden says the U.S. will return to the deal (which would require lifting sanctions) if Iran returns to compliance, but Fakhrizadeh’s killing could make a swift pivot to U.S.-Iran diplomacy much more challenging.

Zoom out: With 50 days left between now and Biden’s inauguration, governments across the Middle East are preparing for a post-Trump world.

  • Saudi Arabia is seeking a deal to end its three-year blockade of Qatar, hoping to remove one irritant in relations with Biden that are already likely to be tense, per the FT. Jared Kushner is traveling to both countries in an effort to seal such a deal, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.
  • Palestinian leaders have ended a boycott of coordination with Israel as part of a charm offensive to encourage Biden to roll back Trump’s policies, Barak reports.
  • And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sent early signals he’ll attempt to put past friction with Biden aside and seek a pragmatic relationship.

Go deeper

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President Biden swiftly recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate pact and the World Health Organization, but America's broader foreign policy is in a state of flux between the Trump and Biden eras.

Driving the news: One of the most striking moves from the Biden administration thus far was a show of continuity — concurring with the Trump administration's last-minute determination that China had committed "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims.

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Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

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Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 1 hour ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.