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American sanctions bring more agony to Iran’s dysfunctional economy

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IT TOOK two years to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran—and a few strokes of a pen to undo it. On August 6th President Donald Trump signed an executive order restoring sanctions aimed at Iran’s car industry, its trade in gold and its access to dollars, among other things. It makes good on the president’s promise to withdraw from the deal, signed in 2015, which gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme. The sanctions will hurt. Whether they will accomplish anything else is up for debate. Contrary to his campaign promise, Mr Trump cannot unilaterally “tear up” the deal. It has five other signatories: Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. All say it is working, an assessment backed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which certifies Iran’s comp

A bubbling Islamist insurgency in Mozambique could grow deadlier

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RESIDENTS of Naunde village were woken by gunshots at around 2am on June 5th. Two of the attackers carried guns. The other three, armed with machetes, set houses on fire. Then they chased down a local chief and hacked off his head in front of horrified neighbours. They also killed six others, including an Islamic leader whom they beheaded in a mosque. The attack, documented by Human Rights Watch, a pressure group, is one of several dozen carried out by jihadists in Cabo Delgado—a mostly Muslim, coastal province in Mozambique’s far north—since October 2017. Recently many have followed a similar pattern: hit-and-run raids during which attackers torch houses, steal supplies and behead victims. In May terrorists decapitated ten people, including children. Officials have tried to brush off

Why Hamas jails people who can’t pay their debts

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In the red? Free bed ZIAD AL-ZAYYAN traded his home for his freedom. For years he ran a profitable business importing ceramic tiles to Gaza. In 2016 he took out a loan to pay for an order worth 80,000 shekels ($20,830). But in a besieged territory with 43% unemployment, fewer and fewer people can afford to fix up their homes. Mr Zayyan could not find any customers for his last order. Desperate to pay off his creditors, he sold his flat in Nuseirat, a refugee camp south of Gaza City. He got $17,000 for it, 23% less than what he paid three years earlier. “All of that money went to cover the loan,” he says. His alternative was jail. Most countries have abolished debtors’ prisons. Palestine should have, too. It signed a UN treaty that forbids them. But they still exist in Gaza, which has be

Refugees have become a pawn in the struggle for Syria

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The courageous few FEW believed President Bashar al-Assad would survive the rebellion that swept his country seven years ago. But Syria’s blood-soaked dictator is on the brink of defeating those who tried to topple him. The only rebels left are boxed into a corner of Syria’s north-west, in Idlib province. Regime forces are mustering at its edge, having recently seized rebel-held areas near the border with Jordan and Israel, in the south. The fall of Idlib would sound the rebellion’s death knell. Trapped between rebels and the regime in Idlib are 2.6m civilians. More than half have already fled fighting in other parts of the country. The offensive in the south pushed hundreds of thousands of Syrians out of their homes. The UN warns that an assault on Idlib could displace 2m more. Turkish

Eritrea, Africa’s most repressive state, begins to open up

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ERITREA, one of Africa’s newest countries, was born in battle. First it fought for 30 years to break away from Ethiopia, its bigger neighbour to the south, achieving that goal in 1993. In 1998 it was embroiled in another bloody war that cost perhaps 70,000 lives after it invaded Ethiopia over a trifling border dispute. A decade later it invaded tiny Djibouti over an argument about whether the border ran along the top or sides of some hills in the desert. Reminders of its violent history are everywhere. In Asmara, the highland capital, posters and murals commemorate its war of independence. On the edge of the city lies a graveyard for tanks. In the Red Sea port town of Massawa stand the remains of an Italian-era bank battered by aerial bombardment three decades ago. Eritrea signed a pea

Saudi Arabia may relax its ban on Christian churches

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FOR a generation the Saudi antiquities authority has kept it under wraps. The ruins remain out of bounds behind metal gates and wire fencing. A guard shoos the curious away with threats of arrest. But if independent studies are correct, tucked in the dunes and palms near the eastern oilfields lies a 7th-century monastery, the existence of which suggests that Islam once tolerated church-building in Arabia. Muhammad bin Salman, the modernising crown prince, has defied clerics by allowing cinemas, open-air pop concerts and even female drivers in his puritanical kingdom. But approving churches for the 1.4m Christians in Saudi Arabia risks breaking one taboo too many. “Elsewhere it’s no problem, but two dins, or religions, have no place in the Arabian peninsula,” says a senior prince, reciti

Zimbabwe’s elections turn violent

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The ruling party’s new voter-outreach programme SO MUCH for a fresh start. The elections in Zimbabwe on July 30th were meant to usher in a new era for a country ruined by nearly four decades of misrule by Robert Mugabe. But the vote and its aftermath have showcased an all-too-familiar mix of chicanery and violence on the part of Zanu-PF, the ruling party, and its military backers. After toppling Mr Mugabe in a bloodless coup in November and promising a clean election, they have returned to form. And in doing so they have thrown into jeopardy their plans to end Zimbabwe’s pariah status. The week began peacefully enough. Under the gaze of observers from three continents, election day was the most orderly in recent memory. As soon as counting began, however, the MDC Alliance, the main oppo