What We're Watching: Another Egyptian Uprising?

What We're Watching: Another Egyptian Uprising?

American Boots on Saudi Soil – Last Friday, President Donald Trump announced the deployment of additional US troops to Saudi Arabia in response to an attack on Saudi oil facilities that Washington and Riyadh blame on Iran. The Pentagon says Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates asked for the troops as a deterrent to more Iranian attacks on their critical infrastructure. We wonder about the wisdom of using American soldiers solely as a kind of "tripwire." How will the US respond if Iran or the Houthis launch an attack that (deliberately or inadvertently) kills US troops? Also, we're old enough to remember that Osama bin Laden's first call for jihad, way back in 1996, was about casting out the "infidel" American troops who arrived, and stayed, in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War.


Venezuela's Fracturing Opposition – Things aren't getting any easier for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been trying to dislodge strongman president Nicolas Maduro for almost a year. Talks between Guaido's people and Maduro's broke down earlier this summer, and a group of smaller opposition parties has now accepted an invitation from Maduro to hash things out without Guaido. It's the first big crack to appear in the Venezuelan opposition since Guaido declared himself Venezuela's rightful leader in January, with support from most of the world's democracies. We're watching to see what Guaido does next, but with his coalition splintering, apathy on the streets, and little to show for his efforts since a failed coup attempt in April, is he now a spent force?

Protests in Egypt – Hundreds of people were arrested over the weekend in a rash of unexpected protests against dictator president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The demonstrations, which are extremely risky in Egypt's police state, seem to have been touched off by colorfully phrased allegations of corruption made by a former regime crony who now lives in Spain. Since deposing democratically elected president Mohamad Morsi in 2013, el-Sisi has cracked down ruthlessly on dissent, while trying to push through modest economic reforms. Observers of this weekend's unrest noted that most of the protesters were in their 20s, meaning they would have been too young to take part in the Arab Spring demonstrations of 2011-2012. We are watching to see if the protests continue next weekend. El-Sisi's troops have made a point of blocking access to Tahrir Square, main stage of the 2011 revolution.

What We're Ignoring

Havana Syndrome – Remember those bizarre reports that started surfacing in 2017 that Cuba was using some kind of mysterious new "sonic weapon" against US diplomats in Havana? President Trump even went so far as to kick some Cuban diplomats out of the US in response to the alleged attacks, which were blamed for hearing problems and even brain damage. There was never any clear evidence of sonic attacks, and there have been occasional attempts by scientists to advance an alternate theory. Last year, a "rare jungle cricket" was suggested as the real culprit. Now mosquitos are partly to blame, according to Canadian scientists who say the symptoms may have been caused by a nerve toxin in the fumigation spray that Cuba was using to kill the critters during the Zika virus crisis in 2016. We are ignoring this story because we can't keep up with the various theories anymore.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

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Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

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Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

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