December 3 – Middle East / International Organizations:
QATAR / OPEC
Qatar announces it will leave the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) effective January 2, 2019 after 57 years as a member. The OPEC cartel, whose mission is to coordinate and unify the oil production and stabilize oil markets, was founded in 1960 and will have now 14 country-members. Qatar states the reason for the departure is to focus on gas production (Qatar is the world’s second largest exporter of liquefied natural gas); however, it is also seen that its decision is in response to the ongoing boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia (OPEC’s de facto leader), United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt.
Qatar crisis explained
December 13 – Middle East: YEMEN
The warring parties in Yemen agree to a United Nations-brokered ceasefire in the country’s main port city of Hudaydah during talks in Sweden. The Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government alliance agreed to withdraw their forces from Hudaydah, a lifeline for most of the country. These forces will be replaced by local forces, while the UN would monitor the Red Sea port, and would help distribute aid to civilians. However, a truce for the rest of the country, including the capital Sanaa, controlled by the Houthis has yet to be agreed. The brutal four-year-war has killed about 6,660 civilians and injured 10,560. More than 22.2 million of Yemenis, or 75 percent of the country’s population, are in need of humanitarian aid.
December 14 – North America / Middle East:
UNITED STATES/ SAUDI ARABIA / YEMEN
The United States Senate votes to withdraw US military aid for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and blames the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed senators on intelligence surrounding the killing. The Senators send a message that they value the strategic relation with Saudi Arabia, but they disapprove of Crown Prince’s leadership and humanitarian disaster caused by the war in Yemen. However, the Trump Administration says it will veto the bill, emphasizing the importance of the economic ties with Saudi Arabia.
Senators speaking about evidence of Khashoggi’s killing
Khashoggi murder: What’s next for Mohammed bin Salman?
December 22 – East Asia: INDONESIA
A ten-foot high tsunami caused by an eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano in Sunda Strait between Indonesia’s Java and Sumatra islands kills at least 430 people, injures 1,500, and displaces 22,000 from these coastal regions. Many are still missing. The volcanic eruption caused an undersea landslide and partial collapse of the Anak Krakatau into the ocean. Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because it sits on Pacific Ring of Fire, a 25,000-mile-arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where about 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur. It also has 127 active volcanoes. One of the most catastrophic tsunami in recent years happened in Indonesia in 2004 prompted by an undersea earthquake. It killed more than 227,000 people and caused some $10 billion in property damage. Indonesian government has been criticized for failing to update the country’s tsunami detection and warning systems.
For maps of the Ring of Fire and Indonesia’s volcanoes