Salim Sfeir, Bank of Beirut CEO and the chairman of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, published an editorial in The Daily Star fervently opposing the government's plan to ameliorate its financial crisis by raising $62.4 billion through a levy on large bank deposits. Lebanon's 152% debt-to-GDP ratio is one of the highest in the world and Sfeir advised the government to raise money by selling or mortgaging state assets rather than through a bank deposit confiscation that will frighten off foreign investors.
The Trump administration is preparing a COVID-19 aid package for Yemen, but remains unsure how to deliver it after the President last week terminated World Health Organization (WHO) funding. During the last fiscal year, ending on September 30, 2019, the U.S. funneled $27 million in health and nutrition assistance to Yemen through the WHO. Demand for the aid is increasing as April witnessed a spike in violence, resulting in more than 500 military fatalities, and torrential rains displacing 10,000 in the last ten days.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that a Monday night Israeli missile strike near Palmyra killed 9 pro-regime fighters including several Hezbollah members. Syrian state TV confirmed the attack and said that air defenses downed several Israeli missiles.
Perhaps communicating Moscow's displeasure with the Assad regime's continued threats to expel all Turkish forces from the country notwithstanding a March 5 Idlib ceasefire negotiated by Turkey and Russia, former Russian ambassador to Syria Aleksandr Aksenenok complained in an article that "Damascus is not particularly interested in displaying a far-sighted and flexible approach, continuing to look to a military solution with the support of its allies and unconditional financial and economic aid."
United Arab Emirates
The Bureau International des Expositions' (BIE) executive committee unanimously voted to propose postponing the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai from October 20, 2020 to October 1, 2021. Changing the date requires a two-thirds majority from the BIE's member states and remote voting on the proposal will occur between April 24 and May 29. Forecasts predicted Expo 2020 Dubai boosting U.A.E. tourism by 3 million visitors.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) accused the Government of National Accord (GNA) of cutting electricity to the Libyan National Army (LNA)-controlled Tripoli suburb of Tarhouna in retaliation for the LNA cutting off the gas supply to the GNA-run Khoms and Misrata power stations. UNSMIL decried the worsening violence around Tripoli in recent days and called for a truce to enable people to prepare for Ramadan. In a symbolic action, Tripoli's Public Prosecutor's Office issued an arrest warrant for LNA-aligned Shweirif mayor Hussein Ali Al-Qadhafi for alleged involvement in cutting off water supplies to the capital.
The Lod District Court removed the gag order on the name of the Israeli citizen arrested on March 16 for working as an Iranian agent, revealing him to be former senior Balad party activist Ayman Haj Yahya. Iranian intelligence officials tasked him with collecting information about strategic Israeli sites, sowing discord in Israeli society, recruiting additional agents among Israel's Arab population, and committing terrorist attacks.
The PA Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs condemned Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's approval Tuesday of a Defense Ministry plan to expropriate Waqf-owned land adjacent to Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs for the installation of an elevator and ramp that would make the site accessible to the disabled. Also known as the Ibrahimi Mosque, the site is divided into Jewish and Muslim sections.
Despite Amnesty International recording global confirmed executions dropping for the fourth consecutive year in 2019, Saudi Arabia bucked the trend, breaking its record by executing 184 people, over half of whom were foreign nationals. The report highlighted the "increased use of the death penalty as a political weapon against dissidents from the Shia Muslim minority."
On Monday, President Trump entertained the possibility of banning Saudi oil imports to raise energy prices while Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross calling for tariffs on Saudi oil. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) on Tuesday tweeted: "With the world experiencing a supply glut, why would the United States accept more oil? We have no business letting Saudi tankers unload on our shores. We are energy independent, we should act accordingly." Although a recently inked OPEC+ deal involves the parties collectively cutting output by 9.7 million bpd, starting on May 1, some OPEC+ members advocated on a Tuesday conference call that the group immediately restrain output. However, the absence of the Persian Gulf countries and Russia on the call suggests that it will have little affect.
Spanish police arrested Tuesday British rapper turned ISIS militant Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, who moved to Raqqa in July 2013 and became one of the most wanted ISIS members. His father, Adel Abdel Bary, was earlier convicted for participating in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum