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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 27, 2023

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Executive Summary

After the Iranian foreign minister made public threats against the United States at the United Nations, the U.S. responded with a ‘self-defense’ strike on an Iranian militia warehouse in Syria. In retaliation, Iranian-backed militias launched missile attacks on U.S. bases in Syria, acting upon their earlier threats. Meanwhile, China, signaling an opposite position to American interests and challenging U.S. influence in the region, announced plans to enhance coordination on multilateral platforms with Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s absence from the Israel-Hamas conflict is raising questions about its role in regional stability. However, it seems obvious that the kingdom has decided to continue focusing on its economic strategy development. Jared Kushner’s presence in Saudi Arabia during the most recent investment conference speaks volumes about how the government of Saudi Arabia is strategically maneuvering and balancing all relations.

Russia’s talks with Hamas yielded no success but rather angered the Israeli government. This wrong move from Putin was strongly rejected by Israelis. More importantly, the results of this invitation backfired because of its failure to achieve any solid results in the release of the hostages. It was not explained why both the Iranians and Hamas were present during that visit in Moscow, but it is yet another proof that Putin may have had a direct role in the October 7, 2023, horrific acts in Israel. 

For in-depth analysis, stay tuned for our Region Weekly Deep Dives coming this Monday. ACLS wishes everyone a safe and peaceful weekend.

Top 5 Headlines: 

  • Turkiye Invites Arab Leaders for Palestine Support March in Istanbul.
  • U.S. Satellites Reveal Roman Ruins in Syria, Iraq, Turkiye
  • Iraqi Media Refers to General Linked to Fallujah as “Iraq’s Butcher” Sent to Assist Israel
  • Kushner Spotlights Riyadh Investment Conference
  • Iran’s Defiant Response to U.S. Airstrike in Syria

USA

  1. U.S. House Backs Israel, Sanctions on Iran and Hamas. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution with a vote of 412-10, standing with Israel in its defense against Hamas and other terrorists. Representatives McCaul and Meeks introduced the resolution, emphasizing the need for the U.S. to support Israel in its battle against Hamas. Some Democratic members, including “Squad” members, voted against it, while Rep. Massie was the sole Republican opposing it due to concerns about sanctions and military commitments. The resolution reaffirms Israel’s right to self-defense, calls for condemning Hamas, and urges sanctions against Iran (JNS).
  2. US Imposes Sanctions on Hamas and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Members. The United States has announced a second round of sanctions on Iran and Hamas in response to the October 7th attack on Israeli settlements. The sanctions target a Hamas official in Iran and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as well as associated entities and individuals involved in supporting these organizations. These measures aim to block assets, transactions, and financial support for designated entities and individuals, reinforcing U.S. policies against terrorism (Al Nahar).
  3. U.S. Spy Satellites Uncover Hundreds of Roman Ruins in MENA. Declassified images from U.S. CORONA and HEXAGON spy satellite programs have led to the identification of 396 ancient Roman forts and sites across Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. The data challenges previous theories about these structures, highlighting their role in trade and military transport. Leveraging this information, Iraq announced a significant find—a 2,700-year-old, 18-tonne winged Assyrian sculpture, adding to the country’s rich historical tapestry (Stars and Stripes, Iraqi News). 
  4. U.S. Speeds Up Defense System Deployment in MENA. The United States is accelerating the deployment of air defense and missile defense systems in seven countries, including Iraq, as tensions rise due to heightened attacks on US forces and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. The Pentagon has dispatched the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to Saudi Arabia and Patriot air defense missile system battalions to Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE. These deployments come in response to recent attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, with 24 US soldiers sustaining minor injuries in drone and rocket attacks. The attacks have been the first of their kind in over a year. With regional tensions escalating, the US is taking precautions against groups supported by Iran. There are approximately 900 US soldiers in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq (Iraqi News). 

IRAN

  1.  Iran Warns U.S. Over Israel-Hamas Conflict. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian cautioned the United Nations that ongoing Israeli actions against Hamas could lead to repercussions for U.S. troops in the Middle East. He also expressed Iran’s willingness to aid in the release of civilian hostages and presented Hamas as “freedom-fighters,” not terrorists. Amir-Abdollahian called for Palestinian self-determination and an independent state with Al-Quds as its capital (Iran International). 
  2. Saudi Arabia’s Absence in Israel-Hamas Conflict Questioned. Major General Hossein Salami, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), praised the Hamas-led Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, stating that it inflicted an unforgettable and stunning defeat on Israel. He emphasized that this operation had significant repercussions, affecting the US, the UK, and Israel. Salami also criticized the US for its role in supporting Israel and its attempts to improve its image (Tasnim Agency). 
  3. Iran Warns U.S. of Consequences If Gaza Conflict Persists at UN.  Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian cautioned the United Nations that if Israel’s military actions against Hamas in Gaza continue, the United States will face repercussions. Amirabdollahian expressed concern over the ongoing conflict and the loss of civilian lives, urging the world to work towards the release of Palestinian prisoners and humanitarian efforts, with Iran, Qatar, and Turkiye ready to participate (Reuters).
  4. Iranian Army Launches Large-Scale Ground Maneuvers in Central Iran. The ground forces of the Iranian army have commenced extensive maneuvers in central Iran, scheduled to last for two days. The exercises involve various units, including armored, infantry, mobile attack, missile reaction forces, helicopters, drones, engineering units, and support units. The goal is to enhance combat readiness, strengthen deterrence against potential threats, and provide training for young cadres while supporting the Palestinian cause (Sharq Awsat).
  5. China and Iran to Enhance Coordination on Multilateral Platforms. Chinese Premier Li Qiang announced increased coordination with Iran on international platforms like the United Nations, SCO, and BRICS during a meeting with Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber. This meeting, three months after Iran’s full membership in SCO, aims to address regional tensions, including the recent Israel-Gaza conflict (South China Morning Post). China Opposes External Interference in Iran’s Affairs, Premier Affirms. Chinese Premier Li Qiang, in a meeting with Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, reiterated China’s strong support for Iran’s national sovereignty and opposition to external interference in Iran’s internal matters during the 22nd Meeting of the SCO Member States’ Council of Heads of Government (Xinhua). 
  6. Iran Continues to Mock Its Allies in Iraq: “We Will ‘Liberate’ Jerusalem Together!. Deputy Chairman of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Ibrahim Azizi, praised Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani for his “courageous” speech at the Cairo conference. During a meeting between Iranian and Iraqi officials, they discussed strengthening historical relations and emphasized the importance of the security agreement between the two nations. Azizi also expressed Iran’s commitment to the liberation of Jerusalem, involving the Revolutionary Guard and Popular Mobilization Forces (Iraq News Network).

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IRAQ

  1. Muqtada al-Sadr Calls for Closure of US Embassy in Iraq Over Gaza Conflict Support. Muqtada al-Sadr has called for the closure of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad in protest of what he sees as unwavering U.S. support for Israel during the Gaza conflict. He emphasized the need to protect diplomatic missions in Iraq from disruptive militias and hinted at further actions if the government and parliament do not respond. Tensions over U.S. support for Israel have led to attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria by pro-Iranian militias (Rudaw). US Embassy in Kuwait Reduces Activity because of similiar Threats. The US embassy in Kuwait has scaled back its activities at American military bases due to threats from Iraqi armed factions, particularly the “True Promise” brigades, who have threatened to target American military bases in Kuwait in response to Israeli actions in Gaza. The embassy has urged its citizens to remain vigilant (Iraqi News). 
  2. Islamic Resistance Claims Responsibility for Targeting US Base in Iraq. Islamic Resistance in Iraq” announced it targeted the American “Ain al-Assad” base in western Iraq with a drone, claiming responsibility for the attack. This comes after escalating tensions and multiple recent attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, attributed to pro-Iranian militias. The Pentagon has accused “militias supported by Iran” of carrying out these attacks, while maintaining troops in the region to counter the resurgence of ISIS (Russia Arabic).
  3. Iraqi Security Forces Capture Seven ISIS Fighters in Multiple Operations. Iraq’s security forces, in collaboration with the Directorate of Military Intelligence, captured seven ISIS fighters in ambush operations spanning across Baghdad, Anbar, Nineveh, and Salahaddin provinces. This follows the recent apprehension of nine individuals with suspected ties to the Islamic State in various locations. ISIS maintains a dispersed presence, often hiding in marshlands and remote areas, especially in disputed Kurdish territories like Kirkuk (Bas News). 
  4. Iraqi Media Refers to General Linked to Fallujah as “Iraq’s Butcher” Sent to Assist Israel. Iraqi media has raised concerns as General James Glenn, often associated with the Fallujah operations, is being deployed to support Israel. His reputation in Iraq has led to him being labeled as “Iraq’s Butcher.” Additionally, the U.S. plans to send advanced air defense systems and military advisors skilled in street warfare to aid in strategizing for an anticipated ground assault on Gaza. The involvement of military  (advisors drawing from the Battle of Fallujah in 2004 has sparked controversy due to the use of white phosphorus, resulting in severe casualties in Fallujah (Mustaqila). 
  5. Karbala Tribal Conference Focuses on Combating Drugs and Enforcing State Control. A tribal conference convened in Karbala, led by the commander of Karbala operations and the governorate police, with the aim of promoting national values and supporting law enforcement. Discussions centered on confining weapons to the state, the role of tribal sheikhs, and addressing random shootings. Additionally, the conference emphasized the importance of combating the drug scourge in society, highlighting its significance in parallel with counter-terrorism efforts. The event saw the participation of high-ranking officials, including commanders, intelligence, counter-terrorism, and tribal leaders from the governorate (Mustaqila). 
  6. Iraqi Protesters Halt Oil Exports to Jordan in Solidarity with Gaza. Iraqi demonstrators, primarily from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), staged a protest at the main border crossing with Jordan, preventing oil tanker trucks from exporting Iraqi oil to Jordan. The protesters, outraged by Israeli attacks on Gaza, refused to allow oil shipments to countries with peace agreements with Israel. While approximately 70 trucks carrying crude oil previously passed through the border daily, the protesters permitted the passage of people and other goods into Jordan. This action was part of their solidarity campaign with Gaza during the ongoing conflict (Iraqi News). 

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THE GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Saudi Arabia’s Enigmatic Absence from the Israel-Hamas Conflict. While the world saw progress in hostage releases by Qatar and Egypt, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s focus appeared elsewhere as he engaged in discussions about hosting the Esports World Cup with Cristiano Ronaldo. This article questions his diplomatic involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict (Foreign Policy). 
  2. Jared Kushner Highlights Future Investment Initiative Conference in Riyadh. The seventh edition of the “Future Investment Initiative” (FII7) conference in Riyadh concluded with more than 6,000 participants from over 90 countries. The event covered various topics, including investment, technology, aerospace, biotechnology, and more. Speakers discussed the potential of artificial intelligence, with global investments in AI expected to reach $200 billion by 2025. The conference also addressed carbon markets and the governance of environmental and social risks, with total investments announced at the event reaching approximately $17.9 billion in various sectors. Jared Kushner was among the notable attendees (Sharq Awsat). 
  3. Gaza Conflict Raises Concerns of Yemen Peace Deal. Saudi officials fear that the Houthi support for Hamas in the Gaza conflict may jeopardize the Yemen peace agreement. Saudi Arabia’s strategic alignment with the United States against the Hamas alliance could lead to renewed conflict with the Houthis. The recent Houthi missile launch raised concerns about the peace agreement’s viability. Yemeni factions also have reservations about the proposed agreement, and there are doubts about the Houthis’ willingness to end the war while they continue attacks (Al Arab). 
  4. UAE and Saudi Markets Gain $167 Billion in Q3. During the third quarter of this year, the UAE and Saudi financial markets led Arab stock exchanges, generating approximately $167 billion in market gains, as reported by the Arab Monetary Fund. Saudi Arabia’s financial market saw gains of about $134.1 billion, while the UAE markets, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, gained approximately $32.5 billion. Other Arab markets also experienced gains, contributing to a positive overall performance in the region (Sky News Arabia).
  5. Qatar to Reassess Hamas Ties Following U.S. Talks, Israeli Hostage Crisis in Focus. Qatar is considering a review of its relationship with Hamas, following discussions with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. The move comes as Washington pressures Qatar to change its stance on the Gaza conflict. The potential reassessment raises questions about the future of Hamas leaders in Qatar and could impact ongoing negotiations, including peace talks and prisoner exchanges (i24, Al Nahar, Euro News).

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EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Turkish Media Observes Growing Tensions Near Egyptian-Israeli Border. Recent events along the Egyptian-Israeli border have raised concerns as a missile struck a building in Taba, near Israel. Six individuals were injured in the incident, which is currently under investigation. The escalation in Gaza appears to have spilled over into this region. Both Egyptian and Israeli authorities have responded, with Egypt reserving the right to react once the missile’s origin is determined. Tensions in the area have escalated recently, with previous incidents drawing attention to the volatile situation near the border (TRT Arabic). Egyptian security forces are conducting preliminary investigations, and Egypt reserves the right to respond once the perpetrator is identified, according to a sovereign source. The incident is linked to the ongoing escalation in Gaza and is under serious investigation to determine the circumstances.
  2. Egypt Initiates Talks on Establishing a German Industrial Zone. Egypt is negotiating the establishment of a German industrial zone within the Suez Canal Economic Zone after discussions during the Joint Egyptian-German Economic Committee’s sixth session in Berlin. Trade exchange between Egypt and Germany grew by 7% in 2022, reaching 5.5 billion euros, with 1,444 German companies investing 2.2 billion euros in various Egyptian industries (Al Arabiya).
  3. US Firmly Backs Morocco on Sahara Issue for Regional Stability. US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, reaffirmed American support for international consultations to resolve the Sahara issue, emphasizing that Rabat is the key to regional stability. The US maintains its recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, aligning with the Trump-era stance. This support comes during changes in the Sahel and Sahara region’s political landscape and Washington’s aim to counter terrorism and secure regional stability. Analysts suggest Morocco’s role in regional security partnerships makes it essential for stability (MEO). 
  4. Morocco’s External Debt Surpasses $42 Billion, Shows 11.3% Increase in 2022. Morocco’s total public external debt reached 423.601 billion dirhams at the end of 2022, making up 31.8% of the GDP, marking an 11.3% increase compared to 2021. The majority of this debt is owed to official lenders (bilateral and multilateral), accounting for 75.2% of the total volume. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development remained the largest lender, followed by the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank. Multilateral debt increased by approximately 35.1 billion dirhams compared to the previous year. Bilateral debt concentrated on European Union countries, Japan, and Arab nations, with France ranking first among bilateral lenders (Al Maghreb 24). 
  5. Tunisia to Criminalize Normalization with Israel, Including Life Sentence. Tunisia’s parliament is set to discuss a draft law that criminalizes any ties with Israel, with potential life imprisonment as a penalty. The law covers actions such as trade, communication, cooperation in various activities, and bans participation in international forums taking place in Israeli territories. While commercial relationships with countries that have normalized relations with Israel will remain unaffected, the draft has raised concerns about potential misuse to suppress political opposition in Tunisia (New Arab). 
  6. Sudan Forms Civil Front Led by Hamdok to Stop the War and Restore Democracy. Sudanese political and civil forces, meeting in Addis Ababa, have established a “Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces” led by former Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok. This alliance, consisting of various representatives, aims to unite forces demanding the restoration of a democratic civil transition in Sudan. They have outlined political, economic, humanitarian, and media papers to pave the way for ending the war. Hamdok urged unity among civil and democratic forces to address the humanitarian crisis and achieve comprehensive peace. The meetings marked an unprecedented consensus towards stopping the war and restoring democracy (Sharq Awsat).

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ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Moscow Hosts Controversial Talks with Hamas and Iran, Ignites Israeli Ire. In a meeting hosted by Moscow, a Hamas delegation and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict and potential prisoner releases. The talks resulted in Hamas expressing readiness to release civilian prisoners, albeit delayed due to Gaza’s volatile situation. They claimed that around 50 hostages were killed in Israeli airstrikes. Israel vehemently condemned the meeting, urging Russia to expel the Hamas officials, thereby highlighting Russia’s complex role in Middle East geopolitics (i24, Al Monitor, Israel Hayom). 
  2. EU and Spain Advocate for Israel-Palestine Peace Talks, Omit Hamas. Spain and the EU propose separate but aligned international peace conferences to address the Israel-Palestine conflict, both supporting a two-state solution. While Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez calls for recognizing Palestine and humanitarian aid to Gaza, the EU explicitly excludes Hamas from any talks. Both proposals aim for regional stability due to the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crises (MEMO, Anadolu Agency).
  3. Palestinian Agony Echoed at UN as Calls for Ceasefire Clash with Israel’s Stance on Hamas. In yesterday’s UN meeting, the Palestinian ambassador had urgently called for an immediate ceasefire, spotlighting the devastating impact on Palestinian civilians. “Is this the war some of you are defending? These are crimes. This is barbarism,” he stated. He also pointed out that 70% of those killed in Gaza were children and women, asking, “Is this the war some of you are defending?” Israel’s representative had opposed the call, insisting that eradicating Hamas was the only option. The session had revealed stark divisions, with Arab nations supporting a ceasefire, while Israel argued it would let Hamas rearm. The meeting had accentuated the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people (AP). 
  4. Israel Prepares for Prolonged Gaza Ground War; Humanitarian Crisis Deepens. Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant indicated that a long, grueling ground war in Gaza is imminent, aimed at dismantling Hamas’ extensive tunnel network. The announcement came three weeks after Hamas initiated attacks, leading to ongoing airstrikes in Gaza. The Palestinian death toll has surpassed 7,300, with essential supplies running critically low. The situation has escalated regional tensions and worsened the humanitarian crisis (AP). 

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SYRIA

  1. Iran’s Defiant Response to U.S. Airstrike in Syria. In a bold act of defiance, Iranian-backed militias targeted the U.S. military base in the Al-Omar field in northeastern Syria on October 27, 2023. This attack was a direct response to a U.S. airstrike that targeted a single pro-Iranian militia warehouse in eastern Syria. The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that their initial strike was a self-defense measure against ongoing attacks by Iranian-backed groups in both Syria and Iraq. However, Iran’s retaliatory move involved a missile bombardment comprising 10 missiles, causing casualties among the “International Coalition” forces led by the United States (Aleppo Today, Syria TV, SOHR).
  2. Last Opposition Forces Defy Odds, Inflict Losses on Assad’s Army. Despite their low numbers, the last of the opposition forces, including Al-Fatah Al-Mubin and the National Liberation Front, continue to challenge Assad’s regime. On October 27, 2023, these factions carried out successful operations in Latakia and Aleppo, killing and wounding several regime forces. Their resilience highlights the regime’s vulnerabilities, even as the death toll in the “Putin-Erdogan” area has risen to 538 this year, including 340 regime forces (SOHR). 
  3. Russia Declines Involvement as U.S.-Iran Tensions Escalate in Syria. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that Russia has no intention of getting involved in the escalating conflict between the U.S. and Iran in Syria. The comments come after U.S. airstrikes targeted Iranian militias in eastern Syria. Peskov emphasized that the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict is exacerbating regional tensions (Syria TV, Enab Baladi). 
  4. Syrian Refugees Face Brutal Treatment by Turkish Border Guards. Syrian refugees attempting to cross into Europe via Turkiye are enduring physical and psychological abuse by Turkish border guards. The mistreatment includes beatings and humiliation, causing long-lasting psychological trauma. The violations contravene international laws and have escalated fears among the refugee community in Turkiye (Enab Baladi)
  5. Suwayda Residents Persist in Anti-Assad Protests for Ninth Consecutive Week. For the ninth week in a row, people in Suwayda continue to protest against the Assad regime, demanding political change and the release of detainees. The demonstrations have garnered support from other cities and even led to the launch of an official page representing the spiritual leadership of the Druze Muslim Unitarian sect. Meanwhile, local authorities face backlash for attempting to condition essential services like water supply on public displays of loyalty to Assad (Zaman Wasl).

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TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye Invites Arab Leaders for Palestine Support March in Istanbul. Turkiye has reportedly sent invitations to leaders of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, for a march in Istanbul in support of Palestine. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to participate. The invitation included Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, but it’s unclear whether they have approved participation. The march aims to draw attention to Israeli actions and support the Palestinian cause. The event is organized by the Justice and Development Party in Istanbul and will include various figures from media, sports, art, business, and Palestinian representatives (Khaleej Online).

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LEBANON

  1. Smoke Lingers After Nightly Attacks on Southern Towns by Israeli Forces. Following a series of attacks by Israeli forces on various southern towns, smoke continues to rise from the affected areas. The Israeli army used light shells and incendiary phosphorus bombs, exploiting high temperatures and strong winds to ignite fires. Fire brigades have since extinguished the flames. The situation remains tense, with reconnaissance flights disturbing the calm in the eastern sector (Al Nahar).
  2. Iranian Warning: Lebanese Fighters “On Trigger” as Israel Expands in Gaza. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian stated that Lebanese and Palestinian fighters loyal to Tehran are “ready to act” in anticipation of a possible Israeli ground operation in Gaza. Speaking from the UN, Abdollahian emphasized that their actions would be “more powerful and deeper” than before and would be decided independently, not at Iran’s request. He warned that if the situation in Gaza and the West Bank continues to deteriorate, “anything will be possible (Janoubia).

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