What We're Watching: UAE-Saudi rivalry, South Sudan turns ten, Malaysian PM under pressure

Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan talks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 22, 2018.

Gulf grows between UAE and Saudi Arabia: Global oil prices surged this week to a six-year high after talks between the world's biggest oil-producing countries broke down. So what happened exactly? Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, usually close allies, are at loggerheads over how to boost OPEC oil production in the wake of the pandemic-induced economic crisis: the Saudis, along with the Russians, have proposed extending curbs on oil output levels for another eight months — a proposal vehemently rejected by the Emiratis. Abu Dhabi, for its part, has invested a lot to boost its output capacity, and now that global demand is up again it wants to renegotiate its production quotas within the OPEC framework. Riyadh, on the other hand, wants to cut supply levels so that prices remain high. It's a rare public spat between the two countries, whose leaders — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed — enjoy a close personal bond, though a rivalry has been deepening in recent years as both try to establish their kingdoms as the top economic hub — and regional power — in the Gulf region.


South Sudan's bitter anniversary: July 9 marks 10 years since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, becoming the world's youngest nation. At the time, hopes were high that the turmoil of Africa's longest civil war between Sudan's mostly-Muslim north and the Christian/animist south, would dissipate. But a decade later, many South Sudanese are still waiting for the good times to begin. Politically, the country is mired in instability as former rebel leaders who head the transitional government hold competing visions for the country's future. Meanwhile, inter-communal fighting between different ethnic groups has soared, showing the fragility of the nascent peace accord. Episodes of violence combined with drought and other extreme weather events have fueled a humanitarian disaster: the UN says that 2 out of 3 children in South Sudan are in desperate need of humanitarian support, while millions of people displaced by war remain stuck in refugee camps, with limited access to food, water and basic medical care in one of the UN's top 10 projected global hunger hotspots for this year. What's more, parts of the decade-old peace agreement have still not been implemented. Elections are supposed to be held in 2023 but many are calling for President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar, a former rebel leader, to step down because they have failed to effectively govern and provide basic services.

Malaysian PM under pressure: Malaysia's biggest political party has withdrawn its support for the fragile coalition government led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. The United Malays National Organisation — which dominated the country's famously complicated politics until its shock election defeat three years ago — wants Muhyiddin to step down over his handling of the pandemic. (Malaysia is the third worst hit country in Southeast Asia). Yassin had declared a draconian state of emergency in January, which closed parliament for months, allowing the PM to govern by decree and diminishing UMNO's influence over policy. Without UMNO's votes, Muhyiddin now heads a minority coalition in parliament, which means he could be ousted without holding new elections through a no-confidence vote. Still that's unlikely because the only other politician capable of cobbling together a coalition is Muhyiddin's rival and anti-UMNO opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who's spent many years — including a few in jail — waiting to become Malaysia's prime minister. Meanwhile, the PM has agreed to partially suspend the state of emergency so lawmakers can return to parliament for a few days to discuss the country's political crisis.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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