Turkey's central bank reported Wednesday that its current account deficit in March widened to $4.923 billion in March from $1.154 billion in February. Already burning through approximately $35 billion in foreign reserves this year to support the lira, making the value of the central bank's remaining gross foreign assets perilously close to its liabilities, Ankara is engaging in negotiations with Japan and the UK on setting up currency swap lines. However, a Japanese official said that it currently did not plan to set up a currency swap line with Turkey, but the G7 and IMF could intervene in the event of a currency crisis.
US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook Wednesday night published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal insisting the UN Security Council pass a resolution to extend the 13-year-old UN arms embargo on Iran that will expire in October according to the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). He wrote, "Iranian weapons already put American and allied troops in the region under threat and endanger Israel. Letting the arms embargo expire would make it considerably easier for Iran to ship weapons to its allies in Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and Shiite militias in Iraq." If a member of the Security Council vetoes a resolution extending the embargo, Hook argued that Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the JCPOA in international law, empowers the US to trigger snapback sanctions unilaterally in response to Tehran's violations of the JCPOA's terms. The Chinese UN mission Thursday rejected both extending the arms embargo and America's right to trigger snapback sanctions, tweeting: "US failed to meet its obligations under Resolution 2231 by withdrawing from #JCPOA. It has no right to extend an arms embargo on Iran, let alone to trigger snapback. Maintaining JCPOA is the only right way moving forward."
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz accepted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request, relayed through the media, to delay swearing in the new government from Thursday to Sunday after senior Likud MKs protested receiving peripheral ministerial portfolios or none at all. Gantz simultaneously withdrew his resignation as Knesset speaker to prevent Netanyahu from calling new elections. Likud MKs Avi Dichter and Tzachi Hanegbi vowed to boycott Thursday's swearing-in ceremony after Netanyahu did not offer them ministries. Rafi Peretz Thursday split with the Yamina party, which is heading to the opposition, to become Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage.
The government authorized the reopening of all schools next Sunday in localities with low rates of COVID-19 infection.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority issued a statement Thursday reiterating its commitment to maintain the riyal peg to the dollar and that foreign exchange reserves could cover 43 months of imports.
The US Defense Department awarded Boeing a $1.97 billion contract to modernize SLAM ER cruise missiles for Saudi Arabia and deliver 650 of them and a $650 million contract to deliver 467 new Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles, more than 400 of which are destined for Saudi Arabia.
Gamal Gumaa, a spokesman for the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group that grew out of the Janjaweed militias that fought in the Darfur War, told Middle East Eye that a renegade faction of the army killed nine RSF members in Tuesday and Wednesday's violence in the South Kordofan province. The clashes reportedly originated from a cattle dispute between the Arab Bagara tribe and African Nuba. According to Gumaa, the soldiers were Sudan Liberation Movement/North Sector (SPLM-N) rebels integrated into the army. While the RSF traditionally supported Arab hegemony in Sudan, the SPLM fought for an inclusive government, including representatives of the country's African population.
Finance Minster Ibrahim Elbadawi announced on Thursday that Sudan will offset a reduction in fuel subsidies with the poor receiving 500 Sudanese pounds ($9.09) a month, starting in the second half of 2020, and an increase in public servant pensions. 65 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and such grants depend on international aid.
In a Thursday interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg appeared to endorse supporting the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord against the Libyan National Army, saying, "In Libya there is an arms embargo that needs to be respected by all sides... However, this doesn't mean to put on the same level the forces led by [Khalifa] Haftar and the government of Fayez al-Sarraj, the only one recognized by the UN... For this reason, NATO is ready to give its support to the government of Tripoli."
Jordan's Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that, since only the king can ratify treaties, parliament cannot abrogate the National Electric Power Company's 15-year agreement, signed in 2016, to purchase $10 billion worth of natural gas from Israel's Noble Energy.
The NGO Save the Children reports that at least 380 Yemenis have succumbed to COVID-19 in the last week and that an outbreak could be disastrous since in the entire country there are only 500 ventilators and four labs that can test for the virus.
After registering a record for new COVID-19 cases in the country on Thursday, the government ordered every one leaving his house to wear a facemask, with violators facing up to a $55,000 fine.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum