THE WORLDPOST
02/18/2014 11:29 am ET Updated Feb 18, 2014

Iran Talks, Venezuelan Protests, Olympic Hockey: The World This Week

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The WorldPost presents a roundup of world events to watch in the coming week.

1. Iran Nuclear talks restart

On Tuesday negotiators from the U.N. Security Council's permanent member nations and Germany, the countries that make up the P5 +1, are set to meet with delegates from Iran in Vienna to begin talks toward a permanent agreement on the Iranian nuclear program. Both sides have postured politically ahead of the talks, with U.S. President Barack Obama saying he’d take a hard line on sanctions, and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stating the talks will “lead nowhere.”

Back in November, the partiesreached an interim agreement that lasts 6 months, but a permanent deal remained on the horizon. Iran has long viewed nuclear enrichment as an inalienable right, and closely tying it to the regime's nationalist rhetoric. More importantly, despite Iran's pleas that it doesn’t want to build a bomb, it's thought to be Iran's ultimate goal to buffer against external threat.

The U.S. and other Western nations, have sought to stem nuclear development by implementing the right balance of coercive diplomacy — mixing promises of economic sanctions relief, and threats of plans to deploy full-on "Star Wars" lasers to the Persian Gulf. Such a balance proves difficult, and this is to say nothing of the decades of mistrust between Iran and the West casting a shadow over any negotiations.

2. Showdown in Venezuela

Joining the lengthy list of countries with massive ongoing protests, Venezuela is seeing a wave of mass demonstrations. The government of Nicolas Maduro is less than a year old, but with a faltering economy and an inability to provide basic goods to the socialist state, the tide of public opinion is seemingly shifting against him. The president has responded with repressive tactics, including expelling three U.S. diplomats on accusations of stirring unrest.

On Tuesday, a showdown looms in the capital of Caracas as opposition leader Leopold Lopez announced he will lead an anti-government demonstration that may result in more violent clashes between protesters and police.

3. North Korean crimes against humanity

On Monday the U.N.’s Commission on Human Rights in North Korea presented its report after more than a year of collecting testimonials. The finished document is the most comprehensive account of atrocities perpetuated by the rulers of the "Hermit Kingdom" ever assembled and focuses largely on the regime's immense and horrific prison camp system. In the report, one former inmate described his job burning the bodies of fellow captives who had starved to death, before using their remains as fertilizer. Yet another described witnessing a mother having to drown her own newborn child after it was presumed to have a Chinese father.

Account after account of torture and violation of human rights fills the report, leading the chairman of the U.N. commission to compare North Korea to Nazi Germany and to state his sorrow that in his lifetime he would have to “bring revelations of a similar kind." The commission has stated its desire to see Kim Jong Un tried at the International Criminal Court, and sent Kim a personal letter with the findings of its report. The entire document is available here , or alternatively, an excellent memoir of a former inmate who escaped the unimaginable horrors of the camps gives a first-person account.

4. Uganda set to sign an anti-gay bill

Uganda’s long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni stated last week he would imminently sign an anti-gay bill proposed by parliament that would mean a life sentence in jail for anyone convicted of being homosexual. The announcement sparked outrage and condemnation by activists and governments, with U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice calling the proposed law “a huge step backward for Uganda and the world.”

So far Museveni seems unfazed by Western warnings. In what might be a sign of the times, many parts of Africa have grown more interdependent with China, Uganda’s biggest trading partner, meaning the ability for the U.S. to influence human rights through soft power and the threat of economic repercussions has diminished.

5. North America’s leaders meet in Mexico

The "Three Amigos" summit takes place this week, with Obama sitting down with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Mexico to talk about areas of mutual interest, namely oil and trade. The controversial Keystone XL pipeline will likely be a key issue discussed during the summit, with Canada’s government pushing for the U.S. to approve the massive pipeline that would ship crude from the oil sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico for refinement. There's also a good chance of a symbolic beer bet on the Olympics.

6. The Sochi Olympics come to a close

Sunday’s closing ceremonies will bring an end to the 2014 Winter Games, with the many anticipated events still to come this week. Hockey is set to dominate the focus, with the neighbors U.S. and Canada headed for a gold medal match on Thursday in women's hockey and the men’s tournament entering single elimination rounds.

Right now the strongest men’s squads look to be the gritty American team and the talent-stacked Canadians, who could meet in the semi-finals on Friday. That game would be a highly anticipated rematch of the 2010 Olympic final when Canada triumphed. A Canadian loss this week would result in four years of shame, darkness and soul searching.

On the other side of the bracket, Russia, is still hurting from a loss to the U.S. over the weekend that also drew the biggest protests of the Olympics so far and cries of conspiracy after an overtime goal was disallowed. Russia went on to lose in a shootout as the U.S.'s T.J. Oshie scored four times to win it for the Americans, after which his Wikipedia page was instantly updated to reflect the heroic feat.

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