On the world's agenda this week: the UN Security Council debates another round of sanctions on Iran and the tentative future of the mission in Afghanistan; Greece is set to receive the first payment of its second bailout; and Britain's chancellor seems likely to give more tax breaks to the rich.
UN to sanction Iran?
There is a long list of countries, including the United States, those in the European Union, and Japan with sanctions in place on Iran, and this week the UNSC could impose more in the hope that squeezing the Iranian economy will persuade the country's leaders to agree to restrictions on its nuclear programme. But the UNSC has been looking indecisive recently, with Russia and China exploiting the veto system to block efforts to curb Bashar al-Assad's murders in Syria. Will Russia agree to sanctions on Iran?
The UNSC also debates Afghanistan this week – the mandate for the UN mission there runs out on Friday. Tensions are running high following the massacre carried out by a US soldier, who killed 16 civilians in the province of Kandahar, nine of them children. The Afghan government has complained bitterly that the US is not cooperating in investigating the killings, and the Afghan people are increasingly hostile to the presence of Nato troops. In America, senior politicians have expressed doubts that the basic mission is “doable”.
Green light for the Greeks
To the surprise of many, Greece has satisfied the requirements imposed by the European Central Bank for its debt repayment. This enables Athens to receive the first instalment of its second bailout agreement this week, narrowly avoiding defaulting on its debt. But Greece's economic outlook is still bleak, with unemployment stagnant at 21% and the total debt standing at 171.5% of GDP. The eurozone crisis is far from over: will Greece stick to the stringent financial targets it has been set?
UK to drop 50p tax rate?
George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is expected to abolish the 50p top rate of income tax in his annual Budget later this week. The Tories say that cutting the top rate of tax (introduced by Labour) will boost enterprise and restore the slumped economy – and in any case, the rate raises far less revenue than it was supposed to. But tax cuts for the rich risk offending voters, at a time when ordinary people are seeing shrinking public services and falling real incomes: a poll for the Sunday Times found that given the choice of various tax cuts, only 3% chose abolition of the 50p rate: