Political instability continues to plague Libya as the country is mired in its sixth year of conflict following the 2011 Arab Spring. In July, two of Libya’s most prominent leaders, representing competing factions, Fayez Sarraj, the head of Libya’s UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) and Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, ...

China, for some time, has performed a delicate balancing act in the Middle East. As a major importer of oil from two archrivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Beijing has managed to pursue its economic ambitions despite divisive regional politics. However, after Qatar was ostracized by its Gulf neighbors earlier this ...

Saudi-China bilateral relations took a notable upswing this March after Saudi King Salman and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed landmark economic deals worth approximately $65 billion. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with Gary Grappo, former U.S. Ambassador to Oman, about Saudi Arabia’s and China’s economic strategies as well as ...

As a major importer of oil from both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and with expanding economic interests in the Middle East, China has a stake in maintaining stability in the volatile region. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Simon Henderson, Director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program ...

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States has officially triggered a wave of significant policy changes in Washington, initially on issues of trade, foreign policy, energy, and the environment. At the same time, President Trump’s well-known isolationist foreign policy and protectionist trade agendas have ...

Saudi Arabia’s decision at the informal gathering of OPEC countries in Algeria on September 28th to reverse course and agree to participate in a production cut took markets by surprise. It immediately had its intended effect. The announcement made it risky for investors to short the market by selling oil ...

Since oil prices plummeted in the last quarter of 2014, oil-producing countries have struggled to adapt to the new low-price environment. From reforms to slashed budgets, producers have found ways to cope and yet, for years, they failed to reach an agreement to reduce production, which could boost flagging oil ...

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) came to a surprise agreement at informal talks this September to reduce global oil production by between 200,000 and 750,000 barrels. However, final negotiations will not be held until the official OPEC meeting in November and many wonder if regional rivals, Saudi Arabia ...

OPEC members have finally reached an agreement to curb the global oil supply by cutting their overall production from 33.75 million barrels per day (mb/d) to the range of 32.5-33 mb/d. The main challenge will be the agreement’s implementation and how the supply will actually be reduced. The details of ...

How steady are the hands on the steering wheel of Saudi Arabia?  That question prompts an immediate follow-on: Whose hands are we talking about?  There seem to be too many. Notionally, the kingdom is being directed by King Salman, but he is 80 years old and suffering from the physical and ...

Nigeria remains one of Africa’s largest oil producers, but for the past six months, it has been surpassed by the continent’s other major producer, Angola. Insecurity in the Niger Delta is largely to blame. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Director of the CSIS Africa Program Jennifer Cooke about ...

Angolans head to the polls in less than a year’s time with the result a foregone conclusion. Angola’s People Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) – the party that has ruled the country since the country’s independence in 1975 – and its leader, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, will ...

Africa’s long-time, largest oil producer is wavering. For six months in a row (March-August), Nigeria landed in the number two spot of the continent’s largest producers of crude, falling behind Angola, according to OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) data. Oil production levels provide insight into the stability – ...

Various assumptions have emerged in attempts to explain the resurgence of armed militancy in the Niger Delta since February. Some explanations seek to connect the renewed militancy to the failure of former President Goodluck Jonathan, a native of the Niger Delta, to secure a second four-year term (2015-2019) as President ...

Mexico has made historic progress in the two and a half short years since it amended its constitution to allow private investment in its energy sector. During the worst oil price crash in decades, Mexico has managed to hold three bid rounds, welcome 16 new private oil companies into its ...

Even before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, there has been a silk road in place between the Far East and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region for some time. Any visitor to Dubai will note the prominence of Chinese products in the markets. For the past ...

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposed “Silk Road” initiative – also called “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) – has promised to resurrect the ancient Eurasian trading route by investing in connectivity and infrastructure projects on a massive scale across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Offering some $1 trillion in total ...

The sixteen months since Salman bin Abdul Aziz became king of Saudi Arabia have been stressful times as the Kingdom has faced economic and strategic challenges as well as strains in its critical partnership with the United States. Plummeting oil prices have forced the Kingdom to postpone construction projects, reorganize ...

In an exclusive interview with The Cipher Brief, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Kurdistan Regional Government Representative to the United States, discussed the current security and economic situations in the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq as well as the push for Kurdish independence. Abdul Rahman explained that it is “remarkable how ...

Terrorism is spreading westward from the Middle East and East Africa to countries like Tunisia, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire. In Libya, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) infiltrated the north and established a stronghold in the city Sirte. The U.S. is actively engaged in the ...

Since 2014, Algeria has been facing a major economic threat to its stability, as the 98 percent of its export revenue coming from hydrocarbons has fallen by more than 50 percent to date. Coupled with a significant fall in export volume of oil and gas since 2008, the future of ...

With the recent decline in oil prices, many predicted that Algeria would come under a real threat of instability. Indeed, if one were to believe the opinion of such self-appointed "experts," Algeria would be teetering on the verge of collapse. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Hard facts paint ...

Deterioration of democracy, humanitarian issues, and an economic crisis in Venezuela have the potential to cause an implosion that destabilizes the greater region.  As The Cipher Brief’s Erica Evans reported last week, the government is running out of money and resources; food, water, and basic necessities are scarce; and while ...

Venezuela is facing the most serious political and economic crisis of any country in Latin America. The situation is extremely volatile. Riots have intensified over the last months, and the worst of it is likely yet to come. According to Datanálisis, President Nicolás Maduro’s approval rating has plummeted to 26.8 ...

The Venezuelan economy was forecast to contract six percent in 2016; following a 5.7 percent contraction in 2015, the latest period for which official government data is available. Inflation is expected to reach 720 percent this year, rivaling Zimbabwe in the 1990’s and Bolivia in 1985. Unemployment is at six ...

Ripple effects have been felt across the Kingdom as the Saudi royal family transitions to a new generation of leaders. According to former U.S. Ambassador to Oman, Gary Grappo, the new economic plan introduced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, while ambitious, “will help the country diversify greater and ...

For almost a century, Kool-Aid experts on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia saw little more than gloom and doom, imminent collapse of the ruling family, social backwardness and economic failure.  Generations of such “watchers” lusted for disaster, even if what occurred was nothing more that “wear-and-tear,” as the conservative monarchy ...

On April 17, the thirteen members of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and five other major producers met in Doha to negotiate a long-awaited production freeze agreement. After five hours of fierce debate, the delegates walked home empty-handed, puncturing hopes that the global price cartel might finally take steps ...

The international oil market has been in a state of chaos over the past two years, as prices dropped more than 75 percent. Last month, delegates from the 13 OPEC member nations and five other major producers met to discuss a production freeze agreement that might shore up global prices. ...

In November 2014, the thirteen members of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) shocked oil markets by announcing that, in order to “restore market equilibrium,” they would not reduce production to counteract swiftly falling prices. Today, a year and a half later, prices remain less than half their 2014 ...

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit on Thursday comes at a pivotal time as conflicts roil the region, and the United States faces an increasingly fractious relationship with its Gulf allies. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, President Barack Obama will meet with leaders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and ...

Egypt’s latest cabinet reshuffle, which Cairo announced last Wednesday, caught many observers both within and outside Egypt by surprise.  But given that four of the ten new ministers hold portfolios that are critical to economic development and investment, the reshuffle likely reflects President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s implicit recognition that Egypt’s ...

The cabinet reshuffle implemented by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi last week aims to reinvigorate Egypt’s floundering economy, explains Dr. Amr Adly of the Carnegie Middle East Center. According to Adly, the individuals appointed by Sisi are “high-profile business people” that maintain “dense connections with business circles in Egypt as ...

Confronted with instability in neighboring Libya, a civil war to its south in Sudan, and an ISIS affiliate taking root in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt’s deteriorating security environment has pushed the country’s economy to the brink. Yesterday’s hijacking of an EgyptAir flight, which comes six months after the downing of ...

Egypt’s economy remains in a dire state primarily due to the fall in global oil prices, which has led to a decline in foreign direct investment in Egypt.  Meanwhile, the region’s unstable security environment has devastated Egypt’s tourism industry, explains Dr. Yeganeh Morakabati and Dr. John Fletcher of Bournemouth University. ...

In an interview with The Cipher Brief last month, former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell said that one of the things he would tell the next president is that “the health of a nation’s economy is the single most important determinant in its ability to protect itself, the single most ...

The accurate forecast of Winter Storm Jonas along the U.S. East Coast showcased the ability of meteorologists to anticipate how several powerful and independent dynamics would interact over a few days. Two separate low pressure systems—one gliding across the Midwest, the other forming in the Gulf Stream--had to converge at ...

For the second time this month, massive clouds of black smoke from burning oil billowed above Libya. The first time, in early January, the Islamic State (ISIS) attacked two major oil storage facilities. Out of the seven tanks targeted, one collapsed entirely. Damage to the others rendered them unusable. Together, ...

While considerable attention has been devoted to combating the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, Libya has often been referred to as the next frontier in the battle against the terrorist group. Plagued by unrest since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya’s lawless environment has paved ...

On the ground in Libya, Mohamed Eljarh, a fellow with the Atlantic Council, said there is significant uncertainty surrounding the UN-brokered accord, which aims to reconcile Libya’s two competing governments. Furthermore, Eljarh told The Cipher Brief that ISIS is now attacking the country’s oil infrastructure and that Libya’s armed groups ...

The attacks carried out by Islamic State (ISIS) on the Ras Lanuf and Sidra oil export terminals this year have demonstrated definitively that the jihadist organization has no intention of exploiting Libyan oil resources for commercial gain. In fact, this was never an option. While ISIS was able to profit ...

The Islamic State, popularly known as ISIS, is in many ways an innovative economic actor. But its method of bringing oil to market has been anything but cutting-edge. ISIS took advantage of a black market that had been sharpened long ago, when Saddam Hussein’s regime looked for ways to skirt ...

Retired Brigadier General Russell Howard discussed ISIS’s involvement in antiquities trafficking with The Cipher Brief, explaining that ISIS taxes artifacts that are smuggled in territory it controls and even directly sells artifacts to antiquities traders on the black market. According to Howard, as the U.S. continues to target ISIS’s oil ...

The Islamic State (ISIS) and the threat from terrorism has dominated the news for the past 18 months. ISIS emerged from the chaos in Iraq and the Syrian civil war to seize control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria, declare itself a “caliphate,” and become the richest terrorist group ...

Labeled as the richest terrorist group in the world, the Islamic State (ISIS) continues to amass substantial funds to bankroll its military, economic, recruitment, and propaganda campaigns. The key sources of ISIS income are grounded in illicit networks, as ISIS utilizes the black market to generate significant revenue streams. ISIS ...

At the November 2015 meeting of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, China’s “open door” and “going out” policy, first declared in the late 1970s, was reaffirmed. Since its introduction and implementation, the policy has had a significant impact for China and the world. Today, China has become ...

Chinese and Western interests in Africa—in other words, what these countries want from Africa rather than what they can do for Africa—are surprisingly similar.  They all want access to African raw materials, the political support in international fora of as many as possible of Africa’s 54 countries, and the ability ...

As Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University SAIS, Deborah Bräutigam has written extensively about the Chinese-African relationship.   Bräutigam tells The Cipher Brief why she thinks China’s involvement in Africa has had a positive economic impact. The Cipher Brief: We want to begin by setting the ...

One concern about the increased Chinese business presence in Africa is that it is forcing opportunities away from U.S. businesses.  Stephen Hayes, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, explained to The Cipher Brief that there are opportunities for both, but that U.S. businesses have a lot to ...

The global oil industry is going through a lesson in Economics 101:  When supply increases, prices go down.  Crude oil prices are currently hovering around $45 per barrel, a 65 percent reduction from a summer 2014 peak at over $100 per barrel.  A surplus in crude oil supply has kept ...