What We’re Watching: Blowbacks in the Gulf and South Africa

"Sabotage" in the Gulf – On Sunday, four commercial ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were hit by a "sabotage attack" off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. So far, no one has claimed responsibility, but Tehran is in the spotlight. Iran recently threatened to close the nearby Strait of Hormuz – a critical waterway for global oil shipments – in retaliation against tighter US sanctions. Whether this attack was carried out by Iran, or by someone trying to implicate Iran, rising tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic mean this is worth keeping an eye on.

Ramaphosa on offense – Celebrating victory in last week's national election, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa made a bold promise to tackle corruption within his party, the governing African National Congress (ANC), "whether some people like it or not." By "some people" he's pointing directly at former President Jacob Zuma and those still loyal to him within the ANC. This shows us that Ramaphosa believes his win gives him an opportunity to consolidate authority within a divided party and to sideline the discredited Zuma faction once and for all. We'll be watching to see how Zuma (directly or indirectly) responds.

What We're Ignoring: Mike in Sochi, Burgers in Traffic

Mike Pompeo in Sochi – The US secretary of state arrives in Sochi today for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Top on the agenda are likely to be Venezuela, where Moscow and Washington back rival contestants for power, as well as Iran, where Moscow still supports the nuclear deal which the US left last year. We are, however, ignoring the secretary of state's visit, because we – and, presumably, Mr Putin – have learned that unless Trump himself is involved, its hard to be certain just what, if anything, Pompeo can really achieve.

A Whopper of a Bad Solution – The traffic in Mexico City is notoriously awful, but not as awful as Burger King's new idea for how to ease the angst. The flame broiling US burger chain has launched a new app that enables people to order Whoppers that are delivered directly to their cars by motorcycle. We are ignoring La Traffic Whopper because indigestion is no solution for congestion. DING! (credit to Gabe for that gem.)

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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