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US, EU Look to Ramp Up Pressure on Tehran

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • US, EU Prepare Expanded Sanctions Against Iran After Israel Attack
  • Putin Applauds Iran’s “Tact and Rationality” in its Retaliation Against Israel
  • Biden Urges Iraqi PM to Cease Support for Iran-Backed Militias in Iraq
  • US House Passes Anti-Assad Counternarcotics Bill by 410-13 Margin
  • IDF Kills Senior Hezbollah Commanders in Precision Strikes

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Blinken to Gantz:  Don’t Escalate Conflict with Iran

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized to Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz that the US prioritizes Israel’s defense but aims to prevent conflict escalation. Blinken also stressed to American Jewish leaders that a major Israel-Iran conflict isn’t in US interests. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin took a similar stance in talks with Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant.

  1. UN Security Council Deadlocks on Palestinian Authority’s Full UN Membership Bid

The UN Security Council committee failed to reach consensus on the Palestinian Authority’s bid for full UN membership. Despite the deadlock, the Palestinian Authority is expected to press for a vote soon. Full membership would acknowledge Palestinian statehood, an upgrade from their current status as a non-member observer state, a position held since 2012. Approval requires a Security Council endorsement followed by a General Assembly vote, where the U.S. holds potential veto power. The U.S. maintains that Palestinian statehood should result from direct negotiations, not UN interventions.

  1. UN Launches $2.8 Billion Aid Appeal for Gaza and West Bank

The United Nations has announced a $2.8 billion funding appeal to assist three million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank through 2024. This “flash appeal” aims primarily to support Gaza, which will receive 90% of the funds. The initial request was reduced from $4 billion due to challenges in delivering aid effectively. This humanitarian effort follows the substantial needs arising from the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

  1. S&P Maintains Israel’s Credit Rating Despite Wartime Conditions

Despite looming economic risks and regional tensions, S&P is unlikely to downgrade Israel’s credit rating. Recent discussions between Israeli economic leaders and S&P representatives fostered optimism, in contrast with Moody’s recent downgrade and Fitch’s negative outlook. While Israel’s current budget deficit raises concerns, S&P remains watchful and will issue its next report on May 10. Any escalation of conflict with Iran could prompt a downgrade, while de-escalation might yield a positive review.

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★ IRAN

  1. Putin Applauds Iran’s “Tact and Rationality” in its Retaliation Against Israel

Russian President Vladimir Putin commended Iran’s “tact and rationality” in retaliating against Israel on April 14. In an exchange with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, Putin criticized U.S. and Western actions while saying Iran plays a pivotal role in regional stability. Raisi said Iran’s actions have been defensive but Tehran is ready to counter any further provocations. He also thanked Russia for countering Western agendas.

  1. US, EU Prepare Expanded Sanctions Against Iran After Israel Attack

The US and EU plan expanded sanctions on Iran over its recent attack on Israel. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced forthcoming sanctions on Iran’s missile and drone programs. The EU, in an emergency meeting, discussed sanctioning Iran’s support for proxies and its elite paramilitary, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but EU member states remain wary of designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

  1. Iran’s President Raisi Warns Israel of Unrestricted Retaliation

President Raisi cautioned Israel, stating Iran’s next response to Israeli attacks won’t be limited. Speaking at Iran’s Army Day, he praised the army’s faith and patriotism and said Iran’s armed forces are a pillar of regional stability.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Biden Urges Iraqi PM to Cease Support for Iran-Backed Militias in Iraq

In meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani, President Biden urged his Iraqi counterpart to reduce Iranian influence in Iraq, including by ceasing Iraqi government support for Iran-backed militias. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan extensively discussed this issue during meetings with the Iraqi delegation on Tuesday. Additionally, the US government denied visas to two Iraqi ministers due to alleged allegiance to Iranian-supported militias.

  1. Iraqi Prime Minister Denies Knowledge of Missile Launches from Iraqi Territory in Iranian Attack on Israel

In a media interview during his visit to the United States, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani denied reports that missiles were launched from Iraqi territory during Iran’s recent attack on Israel. Sudani made the claim despite US and Israeli official reports saying that Iran-backed Iraqi militants had taken part in the Iranian missile attack over the weekend. Al-Sudani stressed Iraq’s commitment to neutrality and urged de-escalation in the region. He condemned Israeli attacks on Iran’s consulate in Damascus and advocated for diplomatic solutions to regional conflicts. 

  1. Iraq Pursues Arms Deal with General Dynamics

Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Sudani met with General Dynamics to discuss an arms deal during his official visit to the US. Talks in Washington DC focused on tank sales and establishing a workshop for tank development. The move underscores Iraq’s push to enhance its military capabilities.

  1. US-Iraq Security Partnership Confirmed; Coalition Troop Exit Evaluation Set for July

Iraq and the US will assess military and ISIS threats in July to decide whether to set a timeline for the Global Counter-ISIS coalition’s departure from Iraq. President Biden and PM al-Sudani affirmed commitment to Iraq’s stability and implied that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for the time being. Both leaders stressed the importance of Iraqi forces in curbing any ISIS resurgence. Biden pledged support to bolster Iraqi defense capabilities. Initial talks to review the coalition’s military mission have suggested no immediate withdrawal plan.

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★ SYRIA

  1. US House Passes “Captagon 2” Bill by 410-13 Margin

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the “Combatting Illicit Trafficking in Captagon Act” (Captagon 2), granting expanded powers to punish the Syrian regime and its illicit financing partners involved in trading the narcotic Captagon. Sponsored by Republican Congressman French Hill, the bill targets those profiting from the illegal drug trade, primarily Iran’s funding of Hamas and Hezbollah. The legislation aims to impose direct sanctions on individuals and networks associated with Captagon trafficking in Syria, linked to Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

  1. FBI Accuses Syrians and Lebanese of Arms Exports to Iraq and Sudan

The FBI has filed charges against a Syrian and a Lebanese citizen for conspiring to export arms and ammunition from the United States to Sudan and Iraq, alongside money laundering activities. The accused, Mohammad Deery and Samer Ria, directors of Iraq-based Black Shield Weapons, allegedly exported munitions without proper licenses, violating arms export control laws. The US Justice Department accused them of money laundering to fund illicit procurement. Both fugitives operate among Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Sudan, and Libya, according to federal investigators.

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★ LEBANON

  1. IDF Kills Senior Hezbollah Commanders in Precision Strikes

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed the targeted killings of two high-ranking Hezbollah commanders in Lebanon. Ismail Yusef Baz, a senior commander responsible for coordinating rocket and anti-tank missile attacks from Lebanon’s coast, was one of those assassinated. Additionally, Muhammad Hossein Matzafa Shouri, who led Hezbollah’s rocket and missile unit in southern Lebanon, was also eliminated. These actions are part of Israel’s broader response to recent hostilities, including a failed large-scale aerial assault by Iran.

  1. Israeli Defense Minister Calls for Diplomatic Agreement with Lebanon Instead of War

During a visit to Israel’s northern border, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasized the possibility of resolving tensions with Lebanon through diplomatic agreements, while also preparing for all potential outcomes. Gallant discussed operational strategies with senior military officials aimed at mitigating Hezbollah’s presence near the border. His visit included meeting injured soldiers at Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, affirming his commitment to ensuring the safe return of northern citizens to their homes through either military actions or negotiations.

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★ JORDAN

  1. Jordan in Danger as Israel-Iran Tensions Escalate

Jordan faces potential entanglement in escalating Israel-Iran tensions following an unprecedented Iranian attack on Israel. Jordan has been the target of sharp Iranian regime criticism after Jordanian forces intercepted Iranian missiles and drones over Jordanian territory during Iran’s large-scale attack on Israel last week. Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, emphasized the kingdom’s commitment to regional stability and condemned any attempts to drag Jordan into the conflict. Jordan has summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest comments perceived as interference in its internal affairs.

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★ YEMEN

  1. EU Naval Commander Calls for More Warships for Red Sea Security Mission

The EU naval mission in the Red Sea remains unaffected despite Iran’s first direct attack on Israel. However, Admiral Vasileios Gribaris said the mission requires additional warships to protect commercial vessels across vast waters. Since February, the mission has safeguarded ships from Houthi attacks, destroying drones and intercepting ballistic missiles. Gribaris requested a doubling of the current fleet.

  1. Iranian Navy Says it Will Escort Ships in the Red Sea

Iran’s Navy announced its ships will provide naval escort for commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Commander Shahram Irani said, “Our escort extends from the Gulf of Aden to the Suez Canal, prepared to safeguard other nations’ vessels.” Meanwhile, Iranian Brigadier General Kiomarth Heidari warned that Israel would regret any attacks on Iranian territory. As Israel weighs responses to recent Iranian actions, including a ship seizure, analysts speculate that Israel could respond using cyber or targeted strikes. US officials anticipate Israeli action as soon as this weekend but are urging Israeli restraint to avoid further regional escalation.

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★ GULF REGION

  1. Qatar Responds to Steny Hoyer’s Hamas Warning

Qatar’s embassy in the United States took the rare step of issuing an official response to American Congressman Steny Hoyer’s call for Doha to pressure Hamas or else face consequences in the US-Qatar relationship. Hoyer urged Qatar to use its influence to advance hostage release and ceasefire talks and said that if Qatar fails to act, the United States could reassess its relationship with Doha. The Qatari Embassy said in response that Qatar solely mediates and does not control Hamas or Israel, and expressed surprise at Hoyer’s ultimatum.

  1. Pakistan Says Saudis Will Invest Billions in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, revealed that Saudi Arabia has pledged multibillion-dollar investments in Pakistan after a visit by the Saudi Foreign Minister to Islamabad. The Saudi delegation, led by Prince Faisal bin Farhan, met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and other high-ranking officials. Meanwhile, Sharif’s office announced an upcoming visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Pakistan, following a cabinet meeting.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Russia’s Africa Corps Will Deploy to Eastern Libya

Ahead of the anticipated deployment of Russia’s Africa Corps in eastern Libya, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the head of Russian intelligence, Sergei Naryshkin, discussed counter-terrorism cooperation in Libya. The meeting focused on preventing extremist groups from exploiting the political deadlock in Libya to regain activity. This coordination reflects broader concerns about maintaining regional stability and curbing the influence of extremist factions in North Africa, where Egypt and Russia share aligned interests against terrorism and regional instability.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Erdogan’s Historic Visit to Iraq: Water and Energy at the Forefront

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s upcoming visit to Iraq on April 22 aims to address key bilateral issues, including the flow of water, natural gas, and oil to Turkey. This visit is set to explore new avenues of cooperation beyond energy, including trade, investments, and security enhancements. Erdogan declared water management as the primary agenda item for his visit. Speaking to journalists in Ankara, Erdogan highlighted the Iraqi government’s requests regarding water resources and committed to seeking resolutions. Following discussions in Baghdad, Erdogan plans to visit Erbil to bolster bilateral relations and address crucial resource issues.

  1. Erdogan Reiterates Turkey’s Ban on Military Sales to Israel

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey has neither sold nor allowed the sale of military equipment to Israel. This clarification came during a speech following a cabinet meeting in Ankara, where he addressed what he said were unfair accusations regarding Turkey’s supposed export of aviation fuel to Israel. Erdogan also highlighted Turkey’s role as the leading provider of aid to Gaza, mentioning the dispatch of a charitable ship carrying 3,774 tons of supplies. He warned of new tensions unless the injustices in Gaza cease and criticized nations that support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

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📌 Incase you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  April 16 , 2024
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