World roundup: October 5 2022
Stories from Ethiopia, Russia, Venezuela, and elsewhere
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
OPEC+ member states held their monthly confab on Wednesday and, as expected, agreed to cut global oil production. What was not at all expected was the size of said cut. The Gang agreed to trim production by a whopping 2 million barrels per day starting in November, far higher than the 100,000 bpd cut they made last month and really far higher than the 50,000 or so bpd cut that had been rumored earlier this week. The Biden admininstration characterized the decision as “shortsighted” and accused the bloc of “aligning with Russia,” which is a weird thing to say about a group that actually includes Russia. There are undoubtedly geopolitical forces at play here (and regular political ones; see Mohammed bin Salman’s preference for Republicans over Democrats in the US) but The Gang will cite a softening oil market, with prices down substantially from the highs they hit a few months ago, as well as fears of a looming global recession as the rationale for such a large cut.
There are questions about the practical effect of this announcement, given that OPEC+ pretty regularly falls short of its production caps (to the tune of around 3.6 million bpd in August) due to factors like US sanctions and lack of production capacity and/or decaying oil infrastructure in several member states. There will be some real cuts to production but 2 million bpd is a figure that’s more theoretical than real. That may help explain why global oil prices rose somewhat on Wednesday but did not spike as high as you might expect after such a dramatic announcement.
Al-Monitor’s Sultan al-Kanj reports that the Syrian military is mobilizing, with Russian and Iranian support, for what appears to be a major offensive against Islamic State elements operating in the Syrian desert. It’s apparently pulling resources away from northern Syria for this operation, assessing that the rebels there aren’t as serious a threat. IS has managed to remain active since the loss of its Syrian-Iraqi “caliphate” by operating in sparsely populated desert areas and undertaking strictly hit-and-run type attacks. Whatever it’s planning now likely won’t do much to eliminate the rest of the group, as there’s simply too much desert to cover.
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