Menu Close

Forecast Podcast: Iran nuclear talks deadline, George Floyd death anniversary, Syrian president election, Mexico City protests, Belarus crackdown

Protesters hold a banner remembering the 43 missing student activists from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College.

Listen to the full podcast episode here:


U.S. and European negotiators are rushing to conclude negotiations with Iran to revive the 2015 agreement that curbed its uranium enrichment by a Friday deadline. Tuesday marks one year since George Floyd was killed by now-former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. A decade after the Syrian civil war began, President Bashar al-Assad looks certain to tighten his grip on power in Wednesday’s presidential election.  Loved ones of the 43 students who went missing in Mexico nearly seven years ago will press for more answers in a Mexico City protest. And an interview with Factal editor Alex Moore on the Belarus opposition crackdown.

These stories and more are available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Ahmed Namatalla, Imana Gunawan, Sophie Perryer, Jeff Landset, and Alex Moore.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.


This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is May 20th.

In this week’s forecast we’ll look at the Iran nuclear talks deadline, the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, Syria’s presidential election, protests in Mexico City and Iguala, and an opposition crackdown in Belarus. 

You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Iran nuclear talks deadline

Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla

JIMMY: On Friday, U.S. and European negotiators are facing a deadline to conclude negotiations with Iran. They’re looking to revive the 2015 agreement that curbed Iran’s uranium enrichment, but was abandoned by former President Trump.

Iran, however, continues to escalate its uranium enrichment activities and suspended most of its cooperation with the UN’s nuclear watchdog in February. 

They’re hoping to pressure the United States into lifting economic sanctions and withholding surveillance tapes of its facilities. 

And Iran is threatening to erase those tapes if a deal to lift sanctions isn’t reached.

The country’s economy has been crippled by sanctions on hundreds of entities, including its central bank and state-owned oil company. That, along with the impact of coronavirus, has been fueling domestic discontent against Iran’s authoritarian government.

The EU’s top negotiator Enrique Mora recently said all sides were moving closer to an agreement. He said negotiators will reconvene next week to continue working on it.

Mora also said Iran is in negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency to extend the May 21 deadline. 

A potential deal would not only boost Iran’s economy, but present a domestic challenge to the Biden administration. Biden is already facing criticism from rival Republicans for adopting what they allege is a softer stance toward one of four nations the United States classifies as a state sponsor of terrorism.

George Floyd death anniversary

Information compiled by Imana Gunawan

JIMMY: Tuesday marks one year since George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Floyd, who was Black, died after being arrested outside a corner store. A now widely-seen bystander video of the incident shows Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.

In the year since, the United States — and even some other parts of the world — have seen large protests, civil unrest, and a reckoning on police violence and racism.

In April, a jury in Hennepin County, Minn., found Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter. He now faces up to 30 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced June 25th. 

Three other former officers charged in Floyd’s death are set to go on trial next March.

Following Chauvin’s murder conviction, the Justice Department opened a probe into possible patterns of discrimination and excessive force among the Minneapolis Police Department.

That’s in addition to the DOJ’s ongoing criminal investigation into Floyd’s murder and whether federal civil rights laws were violated. 

Meanwhile in Congress, lawmakers say talks on police reform are unlikely to meet President Biden’s May 25 deadline for a deal. 

Negotiators say they remain at odds over whether to end qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.

Syrian presidential election

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: On Wednesday, Syria will hold a presidential election that the opposition — and the international community — says is nothing more than a farce

The election comes as the country’s civil war enters its eleventh year and President Bashar al-Assad looks to tighten his grip on power.

Now, it’s not that al-Assad isn’t facing any opposition; he’s just not facing very much of it.

That’s because Syria’s constitutional court rejected 48 potential candidates and only accepted two to appear on the ballot: one a former deputy cabinet minister, the other a leader of an authorized opposition party.

Assad’s almost certain victory will return him to power for a fourth seven-year term and will likely prolong the civil war, as his administration is not willing to engage in meaningful negotiations to end the conflict. 

Since the election has been universally condemned by Western nations and international organizations as a sham, the results won’t be viewed as legitimate. 

The UN has stressed that it is not involved in the poll and continues to call for a “negotiated political solution”, while the US State Department said the vote will be neither free nor fair.   

Parents of missing students protest in Iguala and Mexico City

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: On Wednesday, loved ones of the 43 students who went missing in Mexico nearly seven years ago will press for more answers as they protest in Mexico City.

Relatives of the missing students have periodically gone on searches for the remains and announced they would resume the search this month and hold demonstrations in Iguala and Mexico City.

The 43 student activists from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College went missing Sept. 26, 2014 while traveling to Mexico City. 

And while we know the buses they had commandeered were stopped by local police in Iguala, the full details of what happened next are unknown.

However, it is clear the students and the police clashed which led to the deaths of six people. 

According to a government report, police took many of the surviving students into custody and handed them over to the local cartel who then killed them. 

Many people disagree with that finding, however. Some say that the Mexican Army and federal police were involved. And, in November, a soldier linked to the disappearance was arrested. 

The disappearance was a flashpoint for Mexico and two of its government’s main issues: cartels and corruption. 

But while the country was shocked by what happened, not much has changed since then. 

Still, in the years following the crime, the parents and loved ones of the missing students have been vocal about wanting to know what happened and they’ve continued to pressure the government, hoping to change the culture.

Belarus opposition crackdown

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is a look at the recent crackdown on opposition in the Eastern European country of Belarus. For a better understanding of it, I recently spoke with Factal editor Alex Moore.

JIMMY: Hi Alex!

ALEX: Hey Jimmy!

JIMMY: Hey, let’s just jump right into this. What’s the latest in Belarus? 

ALEX: So Belarus’s embattled strong man, Alexander Lukashenko, his crackdown against opposition to his rule continued this past week with authorities raiding, which is one of the top independent news outlets in Belarus. Their website has since been blocked, although the outlet has continued to post on telegram and VK and other social media outlets. So they’ve posted updates there, but the website is still blocked. 

JIMMY: What justification did the government give for the raids? 

ALEX: So they said that the raids were over large scale tax evasion, which is a rationale they’ve used in the past. A couple months ago, they also arrested a few more independent journalists who were covering the protest movement and hit them with the same charge. 

JIMMY: It was just the officers or did I hear correctly that they raided the homes too?

ALEX: Yeah, they also raided the home of the editor Marina Zolotova. And there were also reports of other homes or other journalists being raided as well. But they spent a long time in the offices. They spent, I think eight or so hours there in Minsk searching the office. 

JIMMY: The tax evasion explains the offices but what was the reasoning for blocking access to their website? 

ALEX: Yeah, so the prosecutor general’s office claimed that they were violating media laws by publishing content on behalf of a foundation that helps victims of political repression called BYSOL. So again, largely related to their coverage of the protest movement in Belarus against Lukashenko’s rule. 

JIMMY: So fair to say the office raids, detentions, and blocking the website are all essentially related to the election protest?

ALEX: Part of the broader crackdown, consolidating Lukashenko’s power after last August’s disputed presidential election, which of course led to the most widespread protests against his rule since he took office back in ‘94. The opposition candidate who ran in the election, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, she fled the country subsequently. And she, yesterday actually, was very active on Twitter — as she usually is — imploring the international community to condemn the suppression of free media. And yeah, the crackdown appears designed to create kind of a self-chilling effect of those covering the protests as Lukashenko kind of moves to meet with Russia’s president Putin. They’re meeting for the third time this year later this month, trying to further integrate their two economies, And specifically for Belarus, that involves the carrot of very cheap Russian oil. 

JIMMY: Well, this certainly doesn’t feel like a situation that’s going to just quietly go away.

ALEX: No, not at all. 

JIMMY: Well, thanks for the update. We’ll be keeping an eye on it. 

ALEX: No problem, Jimmy. Thanks for having me.

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Ahmed Namatalla, Imana Gunawan, Sophie Perryer, and Jeff Landset. Our interview featured editor Alex Moore and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Top image: Protesters hold a banner remembering the 43 missing student activists from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in 2019. Source: Wikimedia