What We're Watching: Turkey targets Iraqi Kurds, virus back in NZ, Irish government deal

What We're Watching: Turkey targets Iraqi Kurds, virus back in NZ, Irish government deal

Iraqi Kurds, beware of "Claw Eagle:" Turkish special forces have crossed into northern Iraq as part of a new offensive — dubbed "Operation Claw Eagle" by Ankara — to fight Kurdish militants there. The latest move follows Turkish airstrikes against Kurdistan People's Party forces earlier this week in response to attacks by Kurdish militants on army bases and police stations in southern Turkey. The Turkish military has battled rebel Kurds in northern Iraq for decades, but this time signs of Iranian air support suggest close cooperation between Ankara and Tehran, which is also keen to keep a lid on the ambitions of ethnic Kurds inside Iran.


New Zealand loses its zero status: Barely a week after declaring itself COVID-free, New Zealand has ordered the military to oversee border quarantine facilities after two people with coronavirus were prematurely released into the country after arriving from the UK. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has been praised for her deft and compassionate handling of the epidemic, acknowledged the "unacceptable failure" and appointed the armed forces to audit and enforce the country's strict quarantine policy for people arriving from abroad. Dozens of countries around the world still have travel restrictions in place, but as they begin cautiously reopening their borders to tourism and commerce, the challenges of detecting and containing coronavirus outbreaks will be immense.

From rivals to (government) partners: In the latest example of established parties striking strange alliances in order to keep anti-establishment parties from taking power, Ireland's two main political parties, the rival center-right Fianna Fail and the center-left Fine Gael, have reached a deal to form a coalition government for the first time ever. The move, after months of political impasse, is designed to keep left-wing Sinn Fein, traditionally ostracized over its former ties to IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland, out of government. Sinn Fein achieved its best-ever results in the February election, coming in second overall, but fell short of a majority to form a government. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael — which have taken turns in power since Irish independence in 1905 — will rotate the position of Taoiseach (prime minister) for the next four years.

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?

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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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