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The Region – IRAN – IRAQ – THE GULF -TURKIYE

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★ IRAN

Iran’s Global Arms Trafficking Is Increasing

Recent events indicate the Iranian regime has stepped up its weapons developments and its arms trafficking in conflicts in several regions. Accused by western powers of being a global arms supplier, Iran denies selling ballistic missiles to Russia for use in the Ukraine conflict. Despite these denials, Iran has reportedly enhanced its military cooperation with Russia and has recently unveiled new air defense systems, signaling an expansion of its arms industry. 

The U.S. also expresses concerns over Iran’s weapon shipments to the Sudanese army amidst ongoing conflict, emphasizing the need for a focus on restoring civilian rule and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. 

Additionally, The ballistic missile development efforts of Iran are advancing within the confines of the underground Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Chamran Air Base, situated near Jam. Analyzing terrain features showcased in their propaganda videos has exposed the existence of operational silos for the Qiam-1 missile and provided insights into the base’s internal layout.

Finally, against the backdrop of U.S.-led airstrikes against the Houthis, the U.S. Department of Justice has charged four individuals linked to a vessel intercepted by the U.S. Navy, which was found carrying Iranian weapons destined for the Houthis in Yemen. This operation, conducted on January 10, also tragically resulted in the deaths of two American soldiers from the Navy’s elite forces. The seized ship, crewed by the four accused, was carrying Iranian-made missile components en route to the Somali coast. 

This incident underscores the Houthi’s ongoing efforts to acquire more sophisticated weaponry from Iran, as American and Western intelligence reports have highlighted the Houthis’ intentions to escalate attacks, including targeting cargo ships. The discovery has raised concerns over the Houthis’ plans to attack Western forces in the region, though the impact of recent U.S. military actions in Yemen on these plans remains uncertain.

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★ SYRIA

Iranian-Affiliated Groups Target American Bases Daily

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirms ACLS’s report on simultaneous attacks on U.S. bases in Syria on February 20, 2024. Iranian-affiliated groups have escalated attacks since the year began, with 54 strikes, notably on the Al-Omar and Conoco oilfields. On February 26, explosions in Deir ez-Zor signal another attack on the Conoco gas plant by Iranian-backed groups, with no casualties reported. February 25 saw similar attacks on the Conoco plant. On February 24, missiles hit the Al-Omar oil field during American training. The Syrian Observatory reports explosions near Al-Omar oil field on February 22, coinciding with American aircraft patrols near Iranian positions. The Iranian-sponsored attacks are supposedly in retaliation to Israeli actions in Gaza since October 7. Recent explosions south of Deir ez-Zor injured over 10, including non-Syrians, at pro-Iranian sites. This surge in hostilities follows a year with 67 attacks in 2023, including a deadly drone strike on January 28 that killed three Americans and injured 25.

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★ THE GULF

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Sector Breakthrough

Saudi Aramco’s discovery of new gas reserves in the Jafoura field marks a pivotal development, with the new reservoir of 15 trillion cubic feet of gas and two billion barrels of condensate elevating the field’s reserves to 229 trillion cubic feet of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensate. The discovery positions Saudi Arabia as a potential leader in the global natural gas market, underscoring the Kingdom’s strategic shift towards energy diversification and gas exportation. Recognized as the Middle East’s largest shale gas field, Jafoura is central to Saudi Arabia’s plan to transition to lower emissions and cleaner fuel. Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to launching 20 gigawatts of renewable energy projects by 2024, targeting 50% electricity from renewables by 2030, highlights its broader environmental strategy. These developments are expected to bolster Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification and enhance its long-term energy revenue.

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★ TURKIYE

Erdoğan Eyes Victory in Key Municipal Elections

On February 26, 2024, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mobilized the AK Party’s election team in Ankara, aiming for victory in the March 31 municipal elections. Despite previous losses in key cities, Erdoğan hopes to regain urban strongholds by criticizing the opposition’s self-serving motives. The Turkish political scene has intensified, especially in Istanbul, where Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of the CHP is facing off against AK Party’s Murat Kurum.  The Turkish opposition’s support is fragmenting, with former allies like the Good Party and the People’s Democratic Party presenting their own candidates alongside the CHP. As a result, there is a de facto opposition/AKP alliance against Imamoglu that will endanger his re-election. Political analyst Murat Yetkin frames the situation as not only a test for Imamoglu but a reflection of broader political dynamics in Turkey, where the outcome could reshape the political landscape, highlighting the internal opposition’s role as much as voter sentiment.

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