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.

As digital technology reshapes the workplace, a move toward skills-based training and employment will unlock opportunities for companies and job seekers alike. While automation and AI are already taking on many routine tasks, demand for people with technology skills is rising fast around the globe. Getting the right people into the right jobs within the right organizations is one of the biggest challenges facing the world of work. So how can it be overcome? To read some recent skills-related stories, visit Microsoft On the Issues.

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

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Iran has vowed to avenge Sunday's attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. Tehran blames Israel, which — as in the past — has neither confirmed nor denied it was responsible. And all this happens just days after indirect talks on US plans to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna. What the Iranians do now will determine the immediate future of those negotiations, a Biden administration priority.

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The end of "forever" in Afghanistan: The Biden administration says it'll withdraw all remaining US troops in Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that prompted Washington to invade the country in the first place. It's unclear how the withdrawal will affect American plans to steer intra-Afghan peace talks in the right direction under the terms of a peace agreement reached by the Trump administration and the Taliban in May 2020. Trump promised to pull out next month as long as the former al-Qaida hosts kept their end of the bargain by not launching deadly attacks (spoiler alert: they have not). Biden's move honors his campaign pledge to end a "forever war" that has claimed more than 2,300 American lives and cost the US Treasury almost $1 trillion since 2001. However, critics fear that a hasty departure could leave the Afghans helpless to prevent the Taliban from returning to power, rendering the entire mission not only expensive, but ultimately pointless.

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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750 million: While struggling with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world right now, India has approved Russia's Sputnik V COVID vaccine. Moscow has a deal in place to produce 750 million doses of the shot in India.

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In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

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