Judging from statements by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iraqi Prime Minister-designate and Intelligence Director Mustafa al-Kazemi has won enough support to form a government. Iraqi President Barham Salih nominated al-Kazemi last Thursday after two previous candidates failed to build majority coalitions. Months of deadly protests against government corruption and the poor standard of living in southern Iraq forced Prime Minster Adil Abdul-Mahdi to resign last November, but stay on as acting prime minister until parliament selects a successor. Sunni and Kurdish parties opposed President Salih's first nominee to replace Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Mohammad Allawi, because his proposed technocratic cabinet would have reduced Sunni and Kurdish representation in the government. Then, the pro-Tehran parties blocked Adnan al-Zurfi's attempt to form a government, perceiving him as too pro-American. On Sunday, however, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi welcomed "the consensus reached among Iraqi political groups... resulting in the designation of [al-Kazemi] as the new prime minister of Iraq." Then, in a Monday press statement, Mike Pompeo said, "We welcome that Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish political leaders seem to have arrived at a consensus on government formation."
President Reuven Rivlin agreed Monday to extend Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz's mandate to form a government by two days after both Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested it. Gantz and Netanyahu issued a joint statement Monday night citing "significant progress in talks to form an emergency unity government" and plans to meet again tomorrow morning. Orly Levy-Abekasis, who was elected as part of the Labor–Gesher–Meretz list, announced on Sunday that she would only support Netanyahu for prime minister, raising the number of MKs on record as supporting Netanyahu as prime minister to 59 out of 120. Meanwhile, rogue Telem MKs Yoaz Hendel and Tzvi Hauser have reportedly promised to support Netanyahu in any dispute with Blue and White over legal issues if he forms a unity government with Gantz. Likud's demand for a veto over judicial appointments has been one of the remaining obstacles in forming a unity government.
The Government of National Accord (GNA) on Monday captured three towns from Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), thanks to Turkish air support. Surman and Sabratha are about 37 miles west of Tripoli while al-Ajaylat is 56 miles. This defeat represents the LNA's greatest setback since General Haftar, in April 2019, ordered his forces to seize Tripoli, the GNA's headquarters.
The OPEC+ countries agreed Sunday to cut oil production by 9.7 million bpd, about a tenth of global supply, starting in May. Initially conditioning the deal on Mexico cutting its output by 400,000 bdp, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador persuaded the OPEC+ countries to accept a 100,000 bpd cut.
Four banking sources believe that Saudi Arabia will follow Qatar and Abu Dhabi in selling new international bonds, facing a revenue crunch precipitated by lower oil prices combined with the OPEC+ deal to cut output. Last month, Riyadh already raised its debt ceiling from 30 percent of GDP to 50 percent.
The Revolutionary Guard (IRGC)-run Tasnim news agency reported Ali Shirazi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the IRGC–Qods Force, took extreme umbrage at a fourth-grade textbook mentioning UNICEF. Shirazi said, "Under the cover of topics such as human rights advocacy, promoting children's and women's rights, and supporting gender equality, America aims at turning the Islamic lifestyle into a western way of life... UNICEF seeks to achieve the same aims in Iran."
The Interior Ministry's Friday declaration of a 48-hour curfew across 31 cities only three hours before its start prompted a wave of panic buying health authorities claimed could spread COVID-19. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu took responsibility for the mayhem and on Saturday offered to resign. He tweeted: "May my country, which I never wished to hurt, and our President, to whom I will be faithful all my life, forgive me." President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not accept the resignation of Soylu, who has served in his post since 2016 and is seen as a potential successor to Erdogan.
United Arab Emirates
The UAE is threatening to slap punitive work visa quotas on nations refusing to repatriate citizens who lost their job during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another option, according to an official from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, is "ceasing labor agreements between the ministry and authorities in the non-cooperative countries."
Ignoring the unilateral two-week ceasefire declared on April 9 by the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition supporting it, the Houthis shot two missiles at Marib over the weekend. The first fell Saturday near the house of a tribal sheikh while the Saudis shot down the second. Yemeni government forces also thwarted a Houthi attack on a military site in Marib's Sirwah district. The Saudi-led coalition has so far documented 241 Houthi breaches of the ceasefire.
Egypt reopened the Rafah crossing after three weeks, enabling stranded Palestinians to return to Gaza, in accordance with an agreement with Hamas that gave the latter time to create facilities to quarantine the returnees.
After confirming 10 more COVID-19 cases in Khartoum, Sudan will impose, starting Saturday, a three-week lockdown on its capital.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum