Remember those protests in Basra? They haven’t received as much attention as they did when they erupted weeks ago, but they’re still going on, and they show no signs of abating. Four protesters have died since Thursday – one just south of Basra in the city of Umm Qasr, Iraq’s main port for importing food. (The port has been shut down, but oil exports reportedly are unaffected.) On Thursday, protesters burned several government buildings, forcing the Iraqi parliament to call an emergency session on Saturday. Among the latest additions to their list of grievances is the government’s failure to provide basic services. Social media reports indicate an uptick in water-borne illness, with as many as 6,000 people afflicted with cholera.
The governor of Hadhramaut, an oil-producing province in southern Yemen, has threatened to lower production by 100,000 barrels per day. Now, this may not seem like such a large amount, but it starts to seem a lot bigger in the context of the declines to come – from Iran sanctions, from the degradation of Venezuela, and possibly from hiccups in U.S. production if companies can’t import the specialty steel they need to construct pipelines.
Turkey has allocated more money to Syria – despite its economic problems at home. The government in Ankara plans to provide funds for training programs for young Syrians in areas it currently controls. It also said it would compensate the families of rebels who have died fighting for Turkey in Afrin. These are bald attempts to generate goodwill among the people Turkey now finds itself governing. It’s not the behavior of a country that intends to leave anytime soon.
China is becoming more active in the competition for the Horn of Africa. Its sights are set on Ethiopia. Beijing is improving trade ties with the landlocked nation and has even expressed a willingness to forgive Ethiopian debt. Ethiopia’s prime minister recently said China had agreed to restructure a loan on more favorable terms with Ethiopia on a railway project. On Friday, China’s customs administration said it would begin to allow Ethiopian soybean imports into China, ostensibly to replace U.S. soybeans that will decrease as a result of the trade war. But given Ethiopia’s recent drought, it’s unclear how much it will be able to produce.
China is quashing signs of unrest. In Hubei province, thousands of protesters turned out to oppose the construction of a power plant, claiming that exposure to high levels of electromagnetic radiation could cause permanent health damage. Police responded with force, reportedly beating and arresting hundreds of protesters. Protests over local concerns (especially related to environmental and land use issues) are not uncommon in China, but we’re always on the watch for incidents that could incite broader unrest. Meanwhile, in Henan province, police raided four Protestant churches. It’s not clear what the proximate cause of the raid was, but it is clear that Beijing is cracking down on religious institutions, regardless of faith, that could mobilize the masses against it.
- U.S. President Donald Trump said he intends to pick a trade fight with Japan, according to a columnist at The Wall Street Journal.
- The mayor of Naples said he was considering launching a municipal cryptocurrency.
- Iran, Turkey and Russia are holding talks Friday, during which they will discuss the conflict in Idlib, where Russian and Syrian warplanes continue to conduct airstrikes.
- In yet another example of EU discord, Poland says Germany is using double standards in its coal production by exempting a number of German coal power plants from emission standards, claiming they instead fall under the country’s strategic energy reserves.
- Trump has reportedly agreed on a new military and diplomatic effort that will keep the U.S. in Syria indefinitely.
- China is offering counterterrorism assistance to Burkina Faso, three months after the West African state became the latest country to dump Taiwan to re-establish relations with Beijing.
- Afghan troops will be trained by Chinese troops on Chinese soil.