Late Thursday, the OPEC+ countries agreed to cut oil production by about 10 million bpd in May and June, with Saudi Arabia and Russia each reducing output to 8.5 million bpd while each of the remaining members will cut supply by 23 percent. Although the OPEC+ club requests other major oil producers cut production by up to 5 million bpd, OPEC+ will cut production further if the other major oil producers are not responsive.
48 Republican congressmen, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, sent a letter to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Wednesday warning that if the kingdom does not stop flooding the market with oil it "will jeopardize the joint efforts between our nations to collaborate economically and militarily" and would impel the congressmen to "encourage any reciprocal responses that the U.S. government deems appropriate." Then on Thursday, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), to signal his displeasure with Riyadh's oil policy, introduced a bill that would remove all US troops from Saudi Arabia 30 days after its enactment.
President Barham Salih nominated Intelligence Director Mustafa al-Kazemi as the new prime minister-designate Thursday after Adnan al-Zurfi announced that he lacked the parliamentary support to form a government. Al-Kazemi is the third prime minister-designate since anti-corruption protestors forced Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to resign last November. The first candidate, Mohammed Allawi, faced widespread opposition when he sought an independent and technocratic cabinet in contravention of the muhasasa system, whereby ministries are apportioned according to ethno-religious quotas, the Kurds usually getting the finance ministry, Sunnis the defense ministry, and Shi'ites the interior ministry. The pro-Tehran parties then blocked al-Zurfi's attempt to form a government because he was seen as too pro-American.
Istanbul Public Prosecutor Edip Sahiner appealed the February 18 acquittal of philanthropist Osman Kavala and 15 other defendants charged with "attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey" for their purported role in organizing the 2013 Gezi Park protests, which started as demonstrations against a development project in the park, but evolved into broader protests against the Erdogan government's authoritarian policies. Kavala was rearrested one day after his acquittal for alleged involvement in the failed 2016 coup attempt.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government will send legislation to parliament early next week that will ban layoffs for three months and authorize Erdogan to extend it to six. The law applies to anyone who has been laid off or put on unpaid leave since March 15 and is ineligible for unemployment benefits.
Hamas security forces arrested a group of Palestinians charged with "treason" for a Zoom virtual conference with Israeli activists last Monday in which they discussed their daily lives, COVID-19, and the effects of Israel's partial blockade of Gaza. Hamas has arrested Rami Aman, founder of the Gaza Youth Committee which arranged the conference, several times for contacts with Israelis, including a conference call in March 2019 and organizing a bicycle marathon along both sides of the Gaza border wall to protest the partial blockade.
Damascus rejected the conclusions of an Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) report released Wednesday that accused the Syrian air force of conducting three sarin and chlorine gas attacks against the village of Ltamenah in March 2017. The Syria foreign ministry claims that the OPCW report relies "on sources prepared and fabricated by the Nusra Front terrorists and 'White Helmets' terrorist group on the instructions of their operators in the United States of America and Turkey." The White Helmets, officially called Syria Civil Defense, is a volunteer corps of first responders, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, that the Assad regime often maligns as terrorists or puppets of foreign actors. EU Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said that the EU will consider imposing additional sanctions on Syria in light of the report.
A day after the Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi declared a two-week ceasefire to ease Yemeni preparations for treating COVID-19 patients, the Houthi rebels dismissed the ceasefire as a ploy to improve the kingdom's image and claimed that Saudi military operations in the country were ongoing. Hadi's government committed itself to the coalition ceasefire on Thursday while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged "the Houthis to respond in kind to the coalition's initiative."
United Arab Emirates
With the COVID-19 pandemic predicted to reduce Dubai's GDP by between 5 and 6 percent this year, the emirate's department of finance directed all government agencies to cut capital spending by at least half, reduce administrative and general expenses by at least 20 percent, freeze new hiring until further notice, delay until further notice all construction projects that have not started, and reject cost increases for construction projects in progress.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum