The world this week
James Mattis spent his last day in office as America’s defence secretary. Mr Mattis decided to step down after Donald Trump unilaterally announced the withdrawal of American troops from Syria. (Mr Trump also said he would downsize America’s deployment to Afghanistan, but he appears to have changed his mind.) Mr Mattis had wanted to stay until February, but Mr Trump gave him a week to clear his desk.
Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria was felt across the Middle East. Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s dictator, welcomed it, as did his Russian and Iranian backers. America’s Kurdish allies, feeling betrayed, asked Mr Assad to protect them from a looming offensive by Turkey. And Arab countries that loathe Mr Assad quickly tried to make up with him.
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, called for an election to be held on April 9th, seven months earlier than originally scheduled. Many see this as an attempt by Mr Netanyahu to head off possible corruption charges.
Elizabeth Warren became the first heavy-hitter to enter the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2020. The senator from Massachusetts favours higher taxes, universal health care and 40% of seats on company boards reserved for workers.
Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain and apologist for military rule, took office as Brazil’s president. Addressing congress, he proposed a “national pact” to overcome “the yoke of corruption, criminality” and “economic irresponsibility”. In a more combative speech to a crowd of 100,000, he said he would free Brazil from “socialism, inverted values, the bloated state and political correctness”.