DPG West Asia Review

DPG West Asia Review

Date: May 19, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and falling oil prices are wreaking havoc in West Asia. The OPEC agreement signed in April and the additional oil output cut announced by Saudi Arabia earlier in May is likely to widen the fiscal deficits of GCC countries. The Gulf economies will also witness a recession in non-oil economic activity.

Iran-United States relations are deteriorating further with the US threatening to trigger reimposition of all UN sanctions on Iran which are due to expire in October later this year. However China has stood by Iran and voiced serious concerns against extending an arms embargo. The US and Iran are also involved in heated exchanges over the latter’s fuel shipments to Venezuela.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel on May 13, 2020. One of the important issues on his agenda was warning Israel about the “risks” of doing business with China. Pompeo also spoke about President Trump’s Vision for Peace plan to settle the Israel-Palestine conflict.

After a year long political deadlock, Benjamin Netanyahu finally presented his unity government on May 14, 2020 to the Israeli parliament. However, Netanyahu continues to face a trial for corruption which is due to begin shortly.

China’s Ambassador to Israel, Du Wei was found dead in his residence in Herzliya on May 17, 2020. The initial investigation by the Israeli police has found no evidence of foul play.

On May 13, 2020 Indian expatriates from Gulf countries have registered a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission asking the Union Government to increase the number of repatriation flights for stranded Indians. The Government of India has already repatriated thousands of Indians stranded abroad, especially from the Gulf, as part of the Vande Bharat Mission. 

India has permitted 835 health professionals to travel to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The first batch of doctors and nurses departed Kerala on May 13, 2020.

The coronavirus has reached war-torn Yemen; the number of people dying of COVID-19 symptoms has dramatically spiked in the past week.