Saturday, May 21, 2016

With oil prices stubbornly low, Saudi Arabia’s future looks fraught
Persistently low oil prices appear to be taking a heavy toll on Saudi Arabia, spurring rare labor unrest as the kingdom’s rulers pursue radical changes to stabilize the economy.
Companies in the oil-exporting country have been forced to shed tens of thousands of employees in recent months. The government, in turn, has imposed painful austerity measures on citizens, ripening conditions for Arab Spring-like turbulence, analysts say.
Late last month, construction workers torched buses during demonstrations in the holy city of Mecca because they had not been paid in months.
Adding to unease has been the meteoric rise of King Salman’s 30-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman. He has taken charge of economic reform, but rival royals and religious elites appear rankled by his attempts to consolidate power.
“The conditions that produced the Arab Spring five years ago haven’t gone away, and they seem to be even more of a concern in Saudi now,” said Bruce Riedel, a former foreign policy adviser to President Obama and a senior analyst at the Brookings Institution. Saudi Arabia — with its generous oil-financed welfare system — managed to avoid significant unrest while the 2011 uprisings took hold in Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Saudi Arabia said to consider paying contractors with IOUs 
Chicago Tribune

U.S. strikes top Taliban leader in Pakistan 


The U.S. military has conducted an air strike against Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the Pentagon said on Saturday.
In a statement, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that the attack on Mansour took place on Saturday “in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive military operation, said that President Obama had authorized the operation, in which several drone aircraft had launched a strike on a vehicle in a remote area near Ahmad Wal, a town in western Pakistan. The strike took place around 6 a.m. Eastern time.
  Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour is seen in this undated handout photograph by the Taliban. (Source: Reuters)
The official said that Mansour, who emerged as the Taliban leader in 2015, was “likely killed.” Mansour’s leadership was cemented when the news broke that Mullah Mohammad Omar, the movement’s iconic longtime leader, had died in 2013.

Mexico to extradite drug boss Guzman to U.S., won't face death penalty
Mexico approved the extradition of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the United States on Friday after receiving guarantees he would not face the death penalty, and the kinkgpin's lawyers vowed to block the move.

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