The OPEC+ conference scheduled for today to discuss oil production cuts was postponed until Thursday as disagreements between Riyadh and Moscow persist. G20 oil ministers will meet Friday to discuss bolstering energy prices decimated by COVID-19-induced plunging demand and the ongoing Saudi-Russian price war that began last month.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the de facto autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria (Rojava) is suspending military conscription for three months and exempting residents from paying water and electricity bills during May and June. This comes on the heels of Turkey announcing Sunday that it would minimize its troop movements in Syria to contain the virus.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved Monday President Hassan Rouhani's proposal to withdraw €1 billion from the country's sovereign wealth fund to "supply the requirements of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education," subsidize "domestic production by... knowledge-based companies," and "deliver the necessary assistance to the Unemployment Insurance Fund."
In a Monday call with French President Emmanuel Macron, Rouhani insisted that INSTEX, the bartering mechanism established by Britain, France, and Germany to export humanitarian goods to Iran without violating US sanctions, include all goods, not just medical and food products. Germany's foreign ministry announced last Tuesday the first transaction conducted through INSTEX, which involved the exportation of medical supplies.
The Blue and White party halted coalition talks with Likud Monday, accusing Likud of asking to revisit agreements concerning the Judicial Appointments Committee. In a statement, Blue and White said, "We will not allow any change in the functioning of the judiciary nor damage to democracy." The breakdown in negotiations comes after Channel 12 reported Likud compromised on its demand to have a veto on judicial appointments in exchange for Blue and White ceding ground on annexing parts of the West Bank. But, Blue and White only agreed to support the annexation of parts of the West Bank as long as the US consents and it can be accomplished without jeopardizing Israel's strategic interests or peace deals, conditions effectively precluding any annexations. Accordingly, the pro-settler Yamina party characterized Netanyahu's reported coalition agreement on annexation as a complete surrender.
The Knesset Arrangements Committee on Monday approved Amir Peretz's two-member faction of the Labor Party breaking its joint list with Meretz to merge with Blue and White.
Palestinian Authority National Economy Minister Khaled al-Osaily on Sunday banned the entry of Israeli goods and used items into local markets, purportedly to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Unknown assassins on Saturday killed Hezbollah commander Ali Mohammed Younes, whom Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency described as engaged in in anti-espionage activity. He was shot and stabbed next to his car near the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh.
Houthi shelling killed five women and a child Sunday in the female section of Taiz's central prison. Yemen's third-largest city has witnessed the worst urban fighting in the conflict between the internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels, as a war of attrition has continued almost uninterrupted since the Houthis' 2015 southern offensive swept into Taiz. The UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, tweeted: "I condemn the heinous attack on #Taiz's central prison which killed and injured several women and children. Civilians and civilian objects including prisons must be protected as per international humanitarian law."
Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) has long enjoyed air supremacy in its conflict with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), thanks to UAE-supplied drones. However, a recent influx of Turkish equipment and advisors to GNA-aligned forces is leveling the playing field and enabled them on Sunday to hit an LNA cargo plane in Tarhouna, an LNA-controlled town south of Tripoli used as a forward base.
Mahmoud Jibril, chairman of the executive board of the National Transitional Council during the 2011 Libyan Civil War, died from COVID-19 in Egypt on Sunday.
According to the Iraqi military, at least three rockets fell near a Halliburton facility in Basra province, marking the first attempted attack on an American oil company since last summer. Halliburton serves as an oil service provider in the ENI-operated Zubair oil field. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which caused no casualties or significant damage.
United Arab Emirates
The UAE's central bank said Sunday it will increase from $27 billion to $70 billion its stimulus package to increase bank liquidity. Meanwhile, UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum stated the country plans to waive residency visa fines for the rest of the year and reinforce its stockpile of strategic goods, but did not specify which goods. During Dubai's two-week lockdown, public buses will be free and taxi fares halved for those permitted to leave their homes to get food and medicine.
As the COVID-19 death toll in Saudi Arabia reached 38 Monday, the government imposed a 24-hour curfew and lockdown on the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran, and Hofuf and throughout the governorates of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif, and Khobar. Residents of these areas may only leave their homes to seek essentials, such as food and medical care, in their own neighborhoods between the hours of 6 AM and 3 PM.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum