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U.S. & Iran Held Secret Talks Over Red Sea Attacks

TOP HEADLINES:

  • US and Iran Held Secret Talks in Oman Over Red Sea Attacks
  • Biden Renews $10 Billion Sanctions Waiver for Iran
  • Nasrallah Encourages US Protestors to Keep Pressuring Biden
  • UAE Suspends Gas Deal with Israel as a Warning over Gaza
  • Turkish Delegation to Iraq Will Discuss Resumption of Kurdistan’s Oil Exports

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★ IRAN

  1. US and Iran Held Secret Talks in Oman Over Red Sea Attacks

The Financial Times revealed that the United States and Iran engaged in secret discussions this year regarding Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. Aimed at urging Tehran to use its influence over the Houthis to halt the militant group’s assaults, these indirect negotiations also touched upon Iran’s expanding nuclear program. The talks, held in Oman in January and led by US White House official Brett McGurk and Iran’s deputy foreign minister, marked the first engagement between the two sides in ten months.

  1. Biden Renews $10 Billion Sanctions Waiver for Iran

President Joe Biden faces criticism for renewing a sanctions waiver allowing Iraq to pay Iran billions for electricity at a time when concerns are mounting over Iran’s aggressive actions in the Middle East and beyond. The waiver, a continuation from past administrations, lets Iraq use hard currencies through third-country accounts. Though Iran is able to use the funds only for non-sanctionable goods, critics note that since Tehran’s funds are fungible, the $10B frees up Iranian regime resources for use in other areas, including potentially funding terrorism or other sanctionable activities. 

  1. Iran’s Defense Minister Says Tehran’s Arms Exports Increased Fourfold in Past Two Years

Iran’s Defense Minister Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani announced a significant increase in arms exports, increasing four to five times over the past two years. Following the expiration of a UN Security Council arms embargo in October 2020, Iran’s arms industry, has seen notable growth, especially in missile and drone technology. Despite Tehran’s denials, evidence shows Iran has provided drones to Russia, raising concerns that Tehran could provide long-range missiles to Moscow for use in the Ukraine war. These Iranian arms exports have led EU countries to warn they are ready to sanction Tehran for its expanding military support to Russia.

  1. High-Ranking Iranian Judiciary Official Resigns Over Sons’ Corruption Scandal

Mohammad Mosaddeq, the First Deputy of the Iranian Judiciary, has resigned following the involvement of his two sons in financial corruption cases. They are currently on trial for establishing a network for influence peddling and money laundering in significant economic cases. Mosaddeq resigned supposedly to preclude any suspicion of undue influence in the legal proceedings. The case underscores public concerns about corruption within the ranks of Iran’s judicial and political systems.

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. IDF Says it Will Displace Gazans to “Humanitarian Islands” Ahead of Rafah Operation; Biden Admin Signals Conditional Support

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced plans to relocate a significant portion of the 1.4 million displaced Gazans from Rafah to “humanitarian islands” ahead of a ground operation. The IDF said this strategy aims to protect civilians and coordinate with international actors and reflects Israel’s efforts to mitigate humanitarian concerns while targeting Hamas strongholds. The move precedes potential ground operations in Rafah, a city on the Egypt border and a key Hamas base. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasized Israel’s determination to eliminate Hamas threats and ensure aid reaches Gaza’s civilians, not Hamas. The Biden administration, prioritizing the protection of civilians, has indicated possible support for a precise IDF operation that would focus on targeting high-value Hamas objectives in Rafah while taking concrete measures to mitigate humanitarian concerns and minimize civilian casualties.

  1. US, Qatar, UAE, and European Countries Say There’s No Alternative to Land Routes for Gaza Aid Delivery

In a joint statement released on Thursday, Qatar, the UAE, the United States, the UK, Cyprus, and the European Union stressed the indispensability of land routes for delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza. Following a ministerial meeting that included high-ranking officials from these nations, the statement emphasized the necessity of using Egypt, Jordan, and Israeli entry points for large-scale aid delivery. Additionally, the opening of Israel’s Ashdod port for humanitarian aid was highlighted as a welcome complement to the maritime corridor under consideration, alongside discussions on establishing a joint fund to support the corridor for sustained aid to Gaza.

  1. US to Impose Sanctions on Jewish Outposts for Settler Violence

The Biden administration plans to sanction two Jewish settlements in the West Bank for their involvement in violence against Palestinians. This move aims to address settler violence by freezing US assets, denying visas, and blocking access to the US financial system. The sanctions follow President Biden’s executive order targeting actions that undermine peace in the West Bank, despite Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s assertion that the majority of Israeli settlers are law-abiding.

  1. Haniyeh Signals Openness to Truce if Israel Abandons “Obstinacy”

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas’s political bureau, asserts that a multi-phase truce agreement in Gaza is feasible if Israel relinquishes its “obstinacy.” Haniyeh’s statement, as reported by the Arab World News Agency, calls for concrete actions from the US administration to halt what he describes as a genocidal war and starvation policies against Gazans. Despite parallel negotiations and resistance efforts, previous mediation by the US, Qatar, and Egypt since January has yet to yield an agreement. A temporary ceasefire facilitated by Egyptian and Qatari mediation in November saw the exchange of detainees between Hamas and Israel.

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★ LEBANON

  1. French Intelligence Chief Makes Surprise Visit to Beirut for Talks

Nicolas Lerner, the head of France’s external intelligence, made a surprise visit to Lebanon to discuss security cooperation and address concerns over regional stability and terrorism resurgence, especially the simmering war between Israel and Hizballah on Lebanon’s southern border. This visit marks Lerner’s first trip to Lebanon since his appointment in December. His meetings with Lebanese security officials aimed to reinforce France’s commitment to Lebanon’s security, explore ways to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, and manage the implications of the Syrian refugee crisis. 

  1. Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Says International Community is Focusing on Hizballah Withdrawal from Border Zone

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, revealed that recent international envoys to Beirut emphasized the withdrawal of Hezbollah from the border area, not the implementation of international resolutions. These talks have been affected by Hezbollah’s insistence that the Gaza conflict stop before there is serious discussion of Lebanese issues, including the constitutional dilemma of presidential vacancy. Lebanon has lodged a complaint with the UN Security Council over Israel’s airstrikes inside Lebanon, and Lebanese leaders hope to use upcoming UN meetings as a platform for airing Beirut’s grievances against Israel and for urging international support for resolving the Lebanese presidential impasse.

  1. Nasrallah Encourages US Protestors to Keep Pressuring Biden

In his speech at the Ramadan Quranic evening in Beirut, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General, Hassan Nasrallah, said the “resistance” will continue to defy the challenges imposed by the presence of “great devils” in occupied Palestine, regardless of how long the conflict lasts. Nasrallah said that US President Joe Biden only cares about the upcoming US presidential election, and the Hizballah leader urged activists in the US to continue their protests against Biden’s support for Israel. Nasrallah asserted that such domestic US pressure is the best hope for compelling Biden to force Israel to stop its operations in Gaza.

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★ JORDAN

  1. Jordanian Army Blocks Large-Scale Drug Smuggling Attempt from Syria

The Jordanian Armed Forces successfully thwarted an attempt to infiltrate and smuggle large quantities of drugs from Syria into Jordan. Coordinated efforts between the Jordanian Border Guards, security agencies, and the Anti-Narcotics Department detected smugglers crossing the border illegally on Wednesday, March 13. The military deployed rapid response patrols and engaged the smugglers with direct fire, causing injuries and forcing their retreat into Syria. A subsequent search revealed significant drug quantities. This incident follows a day after Jordan foiled a drug smuggling attempt at the “Jaber” border crossing, seizing 237,000 Captagon pills.

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★ YEMEN

  1. Houthis Claim to Test Hypersonic Missile, Signaling Advanced Weaponry Ambitions

A military source close to the Houthi militia in Yemen disclosed to Russia’s Novosti agency that the Houthis have conducted a test of a hypersonic missile powered by solid fuel and capable of speeds of around Mach 8 (approximately 10,000 km/h). The source said the Houthis plan to deploy the missile for attacks on ships in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Gulf of Aden, as well as targeting locations in Israel. The hypersonic missile’s high speed and maneuverability make it difficult to intercept with current defense systems. This development follows Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi’s announcement of continued technical advancements that will position the Houthis for strategic military capabilities.

  1. US Military Destroys Drones and Missile in Houthi-Controlled Yemen

The US military announced early Thursday the successful destruction of four drones and an anti-air missile in areas under Houthi control in Yemen. US Central Command said the operation was a response to the Houthis’ launch of a ballistic missile aimed at ships in the Gulf of Aden, which fortunately did not result in any damage to vessels.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iran-Backed Iraqi Militants Claim Drone Attack on Israeli Air Base

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq announced they targeted the Israeli Palmachim Air Base with drones on March 14, 2024. This operation is part of their continued efforts to escalate actions during Ramadan, in solidarity with Gaza and in response to what they refer to as Israeli aggression against Palestinian civilians. The group vows to intensify their direct attacks against what they call the occupying forces, marking a new phase in their resistance strategy.

  1. US Ambassador Says US-Iraq Relationship Needs to Expand Beyond Security

US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski emphasized the importance of expanding the US-Iraq relationship beyond mere security ties, advocating for enhanced economic, cultural, educational, and people-to-people relations to build a modern, stable, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq connected to the world. Against the backdrop of ongoing talks concerning the international coalition’s role and the American military presence in Iraq, Romanowski said Baghdad has an opportunity to reflect on its long-term strategic relationship with the US. She also noted the US’s significant contributions to Iraq’s defense capabilities, including over $3.5 billion since 2012 for security forces, F-16 aircraft, M-1 Abrams tanks, and professional training.

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★ GULF REGION

  1. UAE Suspends Major Gas Deal with Israel as a Warning over Gaza

In a significant rebuke linked to Israel’s ongoing military actions in Gaza, the UAE has suspended a $2 billion acquisition deal for a stake in an Israeli gas company. The move is meant to be a warning from Abu Dhabi that the Abraham Accords do not provide Israel carte blanche for actions threatening regional stability. It also reportedly reflects Emirati concerns over the Gaza war’s impact on Middle East security and economic activities. The deal involved the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and British Petroleum (BP) acquiring a 50% stake in Israeli energy company NewMed. Following the announcement of the deal’s postponement, NewMed’s shares dropped by 7% on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, impacting the broader Israeli oil and gas index.

  1. Saudi-Iran Relations One Year After Reconciliation

A year following the Saudi-Iranian reconciliation agreement brokered by China, which ended seven years of indirect confrontations, the news outlet Al Khaleej Online assesses that bilateral relations have remained stable despite the ongoing war in Gaza. This reconciliation has directly influenced regional issues, particularly the Yemeni conflict, where there has been a significant reduction in intra-Yemeni hostilities. Despite concerns that the war in Gaza and the involvement of Iran’s proxies might strain these renewed ties, the agreement between Riyadh and Tehran has so far positively affected other regional files, including Syria, and maintained a balance of deterrence, Al Khaleej judges.

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★ EGYPT

  1. Egyptian Mediators Seek Breakthrough in Sudan Crisis

Egypt aims to facilitate a meeting between Sudanese Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Rapid Support Forces leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, “Hemedti,” in order to end the conflict between the two Sudanese sides. Former Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, leading the “Progress” initiative for civil democratic forces, discussed this during his Cairo visit with Egyptian officials. While previous mediation attempts by the “IGAD” have not yielded results, Egypt’s proactive engagement now raises hopes for a direct dialogue between the warring parties, who began their civil war almost a year ago.

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★ SYRIA 

  1. Right Groups Says Iran Recruited Afghan Children for Combat in Syria

Iran has been implicated in the recruitment of Afghan children to fight in Syria as part of the Iran-backed “Fatimiyoun Brigade,” according to a report by the Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA). This practice, which has been ongoing for years, coerces migrants, particularly Afghan children, into military service with promises of financial rewards and legal residency. The report highlights the systematic exploitation of vulnerable populations, particularly Afghan migrants and children, by Iranian military and paramilitary forces, leading to an alarming rise in casualties among these child soldiers.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Turkish Foreign Ministry Says “Global Pressure” is Forcing the US to Pressure Israel over Humanitarian Concerns in Gaza

The Turkish Foreign Ministry suggested that global pressure is what has led the United States to take its recent steps to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In recent talks with US officials, Turkish officials emphasized establishing a ceasefire and initiating a two-state solution. Both countries agree on the importance of protecting civilians and ensuring continuous humanitarian aid delivery, but Turkiye’s position is that land-based aid delivery cannot be replaced by costly, less effective methods such as the US plan to build a new pier. Turkiye continues to support Gaza with ongoing aid deliveries, including 3,000 tons recently sent, but claims that Israeli authorities are hindering aid delivery.

  1. Turkish Delegation to Iraq Will Discuss Resumption of Kurdistan’s Oil Exports

A high-level Turkish delegation, including the Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs and the Head of the National Intelligence Agency, is visiting Baghdad for discussions with Iraqi officials. A source revealed to Kurdistan24 that the agenda includes talks on resuming oil exports from the Kurdistan Region through Turkey’s Ceyhan port, securing the shared border to hinder PKK movements, and preparations for the Turkish President’s visit to Baghdad.

  1. Turkey and Germany Sign MoU to Enhance Trade Relations

The Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association of Turkey (MÜSİAD) and the German Association for Small and Medium-sized Businesses (BVMW) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to foster trade relations and cooperation. Announced at the “SME Future Day 2024” event in Berlin, with Turkish Trade Minister Ömer Bolat highlighting the event, this agreement marks a new chapter in the forty-year economic and industrial partnership between Turkey and Germany. Minister Bolat emphasized the close ties in energy, tourism, technology, education, and defense, noting significant mutual investments and the potential for future collaborative ventures.

  1. New Bayraktar Drone Hits Target with Supersonic Missile in Groundbreaking Test

Turkey’s Bayraktar AKINCI, a combat unmanned aerial vehicle, achieved a milestone by successfully conducting a test fire with the UAV-122, a supersonic missile developed by Roketsan. Highlighting the UAV-122 missile’s attributes, such as high precision, adaptability for low/high altitude, and exceptional maneuverability, Bayraktar considers the test a significant advance in Turkish aviation, as Turkiye focuses on developing its indigenous technology capabilities in defense.

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📌 Incase you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX March 13, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX March 12, 2024

🌍 The Region March 4, 2024

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