What We're Watching: Yemen breakthrough, Turkey vs Russia, arresting Zuma?

What We're Watching: Yemen breakthrough, Turkey vs Russia, arresting Zuma?

Yemen's mercy flight – After 18 months of painstaking negotiations, a United Nations plane carrying sick Yemenis in need of urgent medical care took off from Sanaa, the country's rebel-held capital, headed for Jordan. The seven people onboard the UN's "mercy flight" require treatment for life-threatening conditions, while an additional 23 people are expected to take similar flights to seek medical care in Egypt and Jordan later this week. Sanaa airport has been closed to commercial flights since 2016, when heavy fighting began between the Saudi-backed coalition and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Violence has eased in recent months as the two sides pursue back-channel talks to resolve a five-year conflict that's pushed much of the population to the brink of starvation. But a fresh outburst of fighting in recent days reminds us how elusive a workable peace in Yemen remains.


Turkey's search for friends – President Erdogan of Turkey once claimed a foreign policy of "zero problems with neighbors." He now appears to have zero friends. Consider: Turkey's relations with its longstanding allies – the US and the European Union – have been strained in recent years. Europe and Turkey are at odds over refugee policies, human rights, and oil drilling in the Mediterranean. The US, meanwhile, has threatened sanctions over Ankara's purchase of Russian missiles. As Turkey's relations with its NATO allies have soured, Erdogan has tried to cultivate closer ties with regional heavyweight Vladimir Putin. But rifts between Turkey and Russia have recently been opening too. In Syria, Turkey has exchanged deadly strikes with the Russian-backed forces of Bashar al-Assad, earning a warning from Moscow. In Libya, Turkey has sent troops to support the UN-backed government, which is currently at war with a warlord backed by…Russia.

Arrest warrant for Jacob Zuma – For months, South Africa's disgraced former president Jacob Zuma has tried to avoid showing up at his own corruption trial. First his legal team filed a flurry of appeals. When those were struck down, the 77-year old Zuma cited his deteriorating health as a reason not to face graft charges related to a $2.5 billion arms deal in the late 1990s. The court has now had enough – on Tuesday it issued an arrest warrant that takes effect if Zuma isn't present when the trial resumes on May 6. Lawyers for Zuma, who resigned the presidency in 2018 with more than 700 corruption charges against him, have accused the court of lacking "compassion." Zuma is reported to be in Cuba at the moment for medical treatment. There is no word on when he is set to return to South Africa.

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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