What We're Watching: Yemen’s Fractured Alliances and An Ominous Russian Explosion

A coalition cracking in Yemen - On Saturday, UAE-backed southern separatists took over the presidential palace in Aden, the country's second-largest city. On Sunday, they were bombed by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis and Emiratis entered the Yemen fray together back in March 2015 to push back against the Iran-aligned Houthis and contain Tehran's expanding influence in the region. But the two countries quickly developed different long-term goals and cultivated very different allies on the ground. The Saudis support the internationally-recognized Yemeni government, while the Emiratis backed separatists that would like to see the country split in two. This weekend's fighting, just weeks after the UAE's drawdown from Yemen, is not the first standoff between Saudi-backed and UAE-backed forces in Yemen, but if it continues, it could be the most destructive. Not what you want to hear about a conflict that the UN has already christened the "world's worst humanitarian disaster."

An ominous explosion in Russia - Last week, an explosion at a missile test site off Russia's northern coast caused radiation in a nearby city to spike to 200 times normal levels. Seven people died in the blast, including five Russian nuclear scientists. Russia has changed the official story several times, but Western spooks think something went wrong while Moscow was testing a new nuclear-powered cruise missile. We're watching this for two reasons. First, because it's a glimpse of the dangers inherent in the new arms race that's developing between the US and Russia. Second, because the poor communication is not a great look for a government that's already under pressure from some of the biggest protests in Moscow in years.

What We're Ignoring:

China's new cryptocurrency - China is apparently "close" to launching its own cryptocurrency. Beijing has been looking into launching a digital renminbi for years, but appears to have intensified its efforts following Facebook's recent decision to back a new cryptocurrency project called Libra. Sounds interesting in theory. Beijing is worried that Libra could undermine its control over its financial system and its long-term effort to promote the renminbi as an alternative to the US dollar. But convincing 1.4 billion people to trade their cash for a digital substitute that authorities can easily track may be a tall order, even for China.

Are the US and China headed for a new Cold War over technology? Judging by what we heard a few days ago at the Munich Security Conference, a major trans-Atlantic gathering for world leaders and wonks, you'd certainly think so. US, European, and Chinese officials at the event all weighed in with strong words on the US campaign against Chinese 5G giant Huawei and much more. Here are the main insights we gleaned from the proceedings:

More

Bloomberg takes the stage – Tomorrow's Democratic debate will be the first to feature media tycoon Mike Bloomberg, who in recent weeks has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars behind an ad campaign designed to position himself as a viable, moderate candidate who can beat Trump. As his support in national polls has climbed to nearly 20 percent, Bloomberg – who largely sat out the earlier rounds of Democratic campaigning – has come under attack for sexist comments in the past as well as his support, as NYC mayor, for "stop and frisk" policing tactics that disproportionately targeted people of color. Bloomberg will immediately be at war not only with the moderates whom he wants to displace – Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden – but especially with the front running left-progressive Bernie Sanders. It will likely be quite ugly and we're certainly tuning in.

More

150: As the Chinese government continues to expand travel restrictions, hoping that reducing human contact will stop the virus from spreading further, at least 150 million people are now facing government restrictions dictating how often they can leave their homes. That's more than 10 percent of the country's total population who are currently on lockdown. Some 760 million are under partial, locally enforced restrictions.

More

While attending the Munich Security Conference, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was asked to respond to the news of the first coronavirus death outside of Asia. The victim, a Chinese tourist who arrived in France in January, was among 11 confirmed cases in that country. "I think everybody in the world needs to be concerned," Kerry told GZERO.

More