Weekly Snapshot
2-8 December 2018

1.  Qatar to leave OPEC

Qatar has announced that as of January 1st, 2019, they will officially be leaving the OPEC agreement. Officially, they are citing that this move is to have an increased focus on natural gas production, however, many people speculate this exit has deeper reasonings. Qatar has been at odds with Saudi Arabia for years, especially after the Saudi boycott of Qatar in June 2017 for alleged terrorist activities. With Qatar being a minority oil producer, the effect will not be felt right away, but if this sentiment of the gripping claw of Saudi Arabia is multi-lateral amongst several countries in OPEC, this could lead to a more volatile oil market.

OPEC or Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was originally founded in 1960 by five countries; Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. It was later joined by several others, including in 1961 by Qatar. With Saudi Arabia being one of, if not the biggest oil producers in OPEC, they have great power over the oil world. In 2016, they took 1.8 billion barrels off the market due to sliding oil prices, virtually manipulating the price of oil. This, along with a Saudi-Russian axis, has several OPEC partners worried (as Russia is not a member of OPEC). This withdrawal will be an interesting mark in the history of OPEC and could spell the beginning of an end to a long tradition in the oil market.

2. Iranian missile test

December 1st, Iran tested a medium-range ballistic missile. This was the first test of its kind in over a year. This ballistic missile had the capabilities to hit parts of Europe and the entirety of the middle east. This action goes directly against the UN Security Council resolution that was passed, saying Iran should not pursue “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” In response, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign minister said “Iran’s missile program is defensive in nature… There is no Security Council resolution prohibiting the missile program and missile tests by Iran”.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has already condemned these actions, and the United States is looking into actions to stop the growing hostilities in Iran. This is another example showing the Iranians had no intention of stopping their missile development programs after the 2015 nuclear agreement. The Trump administration has been adamite that the Iranian regime will not stop until they have a fully functional nuclear missile, and that is simply something the United States and the world can not have.

3. US embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Closes

The US embassy in Kinshasa DRC has been closed since the beginning of December. Currently, all non-essential employees and their families are being ordered to return stateside due to the increased risk of violence. This comes after Al-Shabaab militants snuck into the country from Somalia. This could be a sign that Al-Shabaab is looking to grow outside the borders of Somalia. The spreading of terrorist cells is often a hard thing to track, especially in a region that has limited military and intelligence support.

Al-Shabaab is a Salafi jihadist organization that has a Wahhabist ideology. They have aligned themselves largely with Al-Qaeda. Despite having several leadership rifts over the years that weakened their number in the past, it appears that Al-Shabaab is increasing in strength. With their fighters crossing borders and threatening the US embassy, Al-Shabaab is back and could cause serious damage to the stability of the region.