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White House Relations with Israel Continue to Unravel

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Biden Calls Netanyahu Derogatory Terms
  • Iran’s FM Calls for End of Israel, Demands Disarmament of Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal
  • India Signs Landmark Port Deal with Iran Despite U.S. Sanctions
  • Houthi Official Meets Khamenei, Calls Him “Our Leader”
  • Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham Attacks Civilians in Idlib with Live Weapons

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Biden Reportedly Insults Netanyahu as Blinken Rebukes Israel

Relations between the US and Israel are increasingly strained, with reports of President Biden privately calling Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu an “assle” and a “bad fucg guy” due to disagreements over Gaza. The US has delayed weapons and aid shipments and retracted intelligence support on Hamas. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a strong public rebuke, urging Israeli forces to “get out of Gaza,” citing “a horrible loss of life of innocent civilians” and criticizing Israel’s tactics for failing to neutralize Hamas and potentially creating a power vacuum. Blinken emphasized the imperative for Israeli forces to withdraw from Gaza, citing a “horrible loss of life of innocent civilians.” He criticized Israel’s tactics, warning of a potential power vacuum in the Palestinian territory and highlighting the failure to neutralize Hamas. Blinken’s statements also addressed the withholding of high payload bombs to Israel, stressing the necessity for clear plans to protect civilians and establish post-conflict stability.

  1. Israel Proposes Secret PA Role at Rafah Crossing

Israel proposed involving Palestinian Authority (PA) representatives in operating the Rafah crossing unofficially, Axios reported. This is the first discussion of PA involvement in Gaza since the October 7 Hamas attack. The proposal followed Israeli control of the crossing, prompting Egypt to halt aid transport. Shin Bet’s Ronen Bar conveyed Israel’s wish to reopen Rafah without Hamas. Israel’s suggestion to use PA personnel as a local aid committee angered PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who demanded the release of withheld tax revenues. Talks continue without a definitive rejection from the PA.

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★ IRAN

  1. Iran’s FM Calls for End of Israel, Demands Disarmament of Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian declared that West Asia’s peace, stability, and security require ending Israel’s occupation of Palestine and disarming its nuclear arsenal, emphasizing Iran’s aggressive stance against Israel. Speaking at the ‘Iranian-Arab Dialogues for Cooperation and Interaction’ in Tehran, he labeled Israel a terrorist state and called for its elimination, highlighting Iran’s hostile intentions.

  1. Israeli Strike Exposes Iran’s Defense Weakness, Asserts Israel’s Military Dominance

Israel’s April strike on Iran’s sophisticated radar system in Isfahan underscored the Islamic Republic’s defense inadequacies against Israel’s military might. Brigadier General (ret.) Amir Avivi highlighted that the attack, which swiftly destroyed Iran’s air defense, demonstrated Israel’s capability to strike at will. Avivi, founder of the Israeli Defense and Security Forum, emphasized Israel’s strength, stating, “In 10 minutes we can destroy all your air defense.” This incident reinforced Iran’s vulnerability and Israel’s superior military power.

  1. Iran’s Technological Advancements Raise U.S. Sanction Violation Concerns

Iran’s unveiling of the 4,000 horsepower “MP610” locomotive diesel engine and significant exports of knowledge-based products have raised concerns about potential violations of U.S. sanctions. Developed by MAPNA Holding Group, the engine signifies Iran’s industrial progress. Meanwhile, Iran exported 3.6 million tons of products valued at $2.506 billion in the last Iranian year and imported $5.141 billion worth of goods, mainly from China, UAE, Turkiye, Germany, and India. These advancements and trade activities highlight Iran’s ability to circumvent sanctions, prompting scrutiny over their alignment with current U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s industrial and military sectors.

  1. India Signs Landmark Port Deal with Iran Despite U.S. Sanctions

Iran is strengthening strategic relations with India, viewing it as a reliable partner, according to Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian. In a meeting with Indian Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal, held in Tehran, Amirabdollahian emphasized long-term cooperation and multilateral engagements within frameworks like BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.The two countries signed a landmark 10-year deal to develop Iran’s Chabahar Port, with India committing $370 million for port equipment and infrastructure. This agreement is expected to enhance trade and regional connectivity, benefiting India, Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. However, the deal comes in the context of ongoing U.S. sanctions on Iran, which have previously stalled similar agreements. India’s involvement in this project may face scrutiny and potential repercussions from the U.S., impacting its trade and diplomatic relations.

  1. Australia Imposes Sanctions on Iranian Officials as Iran Blasts France

In response to “Tehran’s destabilizing behavior,” the Australian government on Tuesday imposed sanctions on five individuals and three entities in Iran, including Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani and Quds Force Commander Ismail Qaani. The sanctions also targeted the Revolutionary Guard’s naval force and companies involved in Iran’s missile and drone programs. The Australian Foreign Ministry accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guard of posing “a threat to international security and the people of Iran.” The ministry emphasized Australia’s commitment to countering Tehran’s “destructive activities” and upholding international laws, having already sanctioned 90 individuals and 100 entities linked to Iran. In a related development, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani criticized France for interfering in Iranian judicial decisions, accusing it of a dual approach to human rights and providing sanctuary to anti-Iranian terrorists. Kanaani’s comments came in response to French remarks about the imprisonment of French citizens in Iran. He condemned France’s position as unprofessional and based on false information, reaffirming the independence of Iran’s judiciary. Kanaani warned that such statements harm diplomatic relations and Iranian public opinion, advising the French Foreign Ministry to avoid undiplomatic language.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iraqi Factions Announce Drone Attack on Israeli Target

Iraqi armed factions supported by Iran announced that they had targeted Umm al-Rashrash in Israel using two new “Arfad” drones. The Iraqi Islamic Resistance shared a video on its Telegram channel showing the drones being launched towards a military target. The group claimed the attack on a vital target in Eilat was in response to what it described as massacres committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians, including children, women, and the elderly. This marks the first use of the Al-Arfad drones in such an operation.

  1. Why Are Chinese Companies Delving into Exploration in Iraq?

Iraq aims to boost oil reserves beyond 160 billion barrels by launching projects to increase production, attracting significant investments in exploration. Chinese companies have emerged as key players, winning new investments to explore oil and gas fields in Iraq’s latest licensing round, which includes 29 projects. This round, launched by the Ministry of Oil, aims to increase local production. Notably, no major American oil companies participated. Chinese companies like CNOOC Iraq, Zhenhua, Anton, and Sinopec secured key investments. Analysts highlight China’s strategic interest in securing energy supplies and its competitive edge in the international economic landscape.

  1. Tigris Water Level Rises, First Result of Erdogan’s Baghdad Meeting

Iraqi MP Thaer al-Jubouri announced that the recent flood waves in the Tigris River are the first outcomes of Turkish President Erdogan’s meeting in Baghdad. Al-Jubouri stated that Ankara has increased water releases into the Tigris, raising river levels and prompting higher discharges from the Mosul Dam. This action follows agreements made during Erdogan’s visit, aimed at enhancing water cooperation. Al-Jubouri emphasized that such water quotas are governed by international laws, not agreements. He noted that Iraq’s water situation has improved, with recent floods boosting dam storage, though there is still significant capacity available.

  1. At Interpol’s Request, Iraqi Kurdistan Arrests “Scorpion”

Security authorities in Iraq’s Kurdistan region have arrested Barzan Majeed, known as “Scorpion,” one of Europe’s most wanted human smugglers. Majeed was apprehended in Sulaymaniyah after a request from Interpol and an exchange of intelligence information. He has been handed over to the regional Department of Justice. The UK’s National Crime Agency, which announced the arrest, had been seeking Majeed since 2022 after his in absentia conviction in Belgium for human smuggling. Majeed attempted to smuggle 100 migrants to Britain using boats and trucks. Despite its relative prosperity, high unemployment and corruption drive many Kurds to undertake dangerous migration journeys.

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★ YEMEN

  1. Houthi Official Meets Khamenei, Calls Him “Our Leader”

A video of a Houthi official meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has gone viral on social media. The clip, taken at the 35th International Book Fair in Tehran, shows the official greeting Khamenei as “our leader” and conveying regards from Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi. He expressed Yemen’s admiration for Khamenei, to which Khamenei responded with his own appreciation for the Yemeni people. The video has sparked controversy online, with some Yemenis rejecting the official’s statements. One commenter said, “I am Yemeni and I hate you,” reflecting widespread dissent among Yemenis.

  1. Houthi Forces Announce Readiness for Unprecedented Escalation Against US

Houthi forces have announced plans for a significant escalation against the US and Israel if the assault on Gaza continues. Brigadier General Yahya Saree, spokesman for the Houthi forces, stated that the escalation will be part of the fifth and sixth phases of their operations. Saree emphasized that Gaza is a “red line” and that their operations have no boundaries. He warned of unexpected strikes if the aggression persists and mentioned upcoming revelations about ships violating the ban on reaching occupied Palestinian ports. Saree also noted the vulnerability of American ships in the Red Sea, asserting the battle has only just begun.

  1. US Military: We Destroyed a Drone and Missile Launched by Houthis

The US military announced the destruction of a drone and a ballistic missile launched by the Houthis from Yemen on Tuesday. The US Central Command stated that at 3:41 pm (Sanaa time), they successfully destroyed a Houthi drone. Later, the USS Mason intercepted and destroyed a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile aimed at the Red Sea. No casualties or damage were reported. These actions were taken to protect freedom of navigation and ensure the safety of international waters for American, coalition, and commercial vessels. Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi had recently threatened expanded operations in response to Israeli attacks on Rafah.

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★ SYRIA

  1. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham Attacks Civilians in Idlib with Live Weapons

On Tuesday, May 14, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) security forces attacked protesters in Idlib, beating them with sticks and firing live bullets, causing multiple injuries. The protesters were demanding the release of detainees held by HTS. Videos on social media showed HTS dismantling a sit-in tent amid chaos. Activists condemned the excessive force used by HTS. The protests, spurred by families of detainees, pressured HTS to allow “requests for mercy” to review detainee cases. However, many families received notifications of executions that had occurred months earlier, without information on the bodies’ whereabouts. This crackdown has intensified tensions in Idlib.

  1. France Reconsiders Punitive Measures Against Bashar al-Assad

The French National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor has challenged the validity of an arrest warrant against Bashar al-Assad, citing his immunity as a head of state. This move suggests that France may cancel punitive measures previously taken against Assad, despite his alleged involvement in chemical weapons attacks and crimes against humanity. The French judiciary had previously issued arrest warrants against Assad and three senior officials of his regime.

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LEBANON

  1. Nasrallah Defies Europe, Calls for “Opening the Sea” to Syrian Refugees

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah urged Lebanese authorities to “open the sea” to Syrian refugees, pressuring the EU and the US to facilitate their return and provide aid. Nasrallah’s defiant statement emphasized using the sea route to Europe, despite current restrictions. On Tuesday, Lebanon resumed repatriating Syrian refugees after a year and a half. This is not a voluntary return, and those who returned face grave danger, with reports of immediate arrests by Assad’s regime. The Lebanese government’s actions put returning refugees at significant risk, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

  1. Hezbollah Downs Israeli Spy Balloon, Escalation Continues in Southern Lebanon

The southern front remains tense as Hezbollah and the Israeli army continue their exchanges of fire, with no signs of de-escalation. Hezbollah announced the downing of an Israeli spy balloon over Admit colony, destroying its launch base, control mechanism, and management crew. The balloon fell between Rmeish and Ain Ebel, and the Lebanese army secured the site. Additionally, Hezbollah bombed buildings in the Avivim settlement and conducted a raid in Yaroun. The Israeli army responded with airstrikes and artillery shelling across southern Lebanon, resulting in significant destruction and casualties. Hezbollah announced the martyrdom of Hussein Abbas Issa, known as “Gharib,” born in 1968 from Mays al-Jabal in southern Lebanon. He was killed during clashes with the Israeli forces in the south.

  1. Lebanon’s War Toll Revealed: 398 Dead, $1.7 Billion in Losses, 90,000 Displaced in Conflict with Israel

Researcher Muhammad Shams al-Din from the International Information Foundation reported to Janoubia that the ongoing conflict with Israel since October 8, 2023, has claimed 398 lives and displaced 90,500 people from 45 southern villages. The war has caused direct damages estimated at $350 million, with the total economic impact reaching $1.7 billion. Shams al-Din highlighted the severe disruption to economic activities and the extensive destruction of homes, noting that the current situation is more prolonged and devastating than the July 2006 war.

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★ GULF REGION

  1. Hamas Office to Remain Open in Doha Despite Stalled Gaza Truce Talks

At the Qatar Economic Forum, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani announced that the Hamas office in Doha will remain open despite stalled Gaza truce talks, citing the necessity of a unified Palestinian government and warning of rising extremism without a post-war rescue plan for Gaza. The forum, attended by international leaders, including Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, also saw the launch of the “Al-Fanar” AI project, with a $2.47 billion investment to enhance Arabic language programs and support digital transformation. Discussions highlighted the Gaza war, regional risks, and significant investments in technology and AI across Gulf countries. This is part of Qatar’s broader digital strategy under its National Vision 2030, which includes a $2.47 billion investment in technology and AI. Qatar hosted the Web Summit 2024, fostering innovation and tech growth. Other Gulf nations like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman are also making significant strides in digital transformation, focusing on areas such as government services, education, health, and economic diversification.

Additionally, a British trade delegation of 450 business leaders, the largest in a decade, is visiting Saudi Arabia for a joint summit in Riyadh on Tuesday. The summit aims to enhance economic ties between the two countries amid ongoing trade agreement negotiations between the UK and Gulf states. The British government stated that executives from major companies like HSBC and British Airways will attend. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden emphasized the UK’s support for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic diversification plan. The summit will focus on sectors like artificial intelligence, financial services, and higher education, leveraging UK expertise to foster mutual investment and cooperation.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Obstacles Between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on Ras Jamila Project

Negotiations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the Ras Jamila project face significant obstacles, including poor planning, fluctuations in the Egyptian pound, and fallout from the Gaza conflict. Egypt aims to secure Saudi investment to address dollar shortages crucial for debt repayment and imports. Despite discussions at the Davos Desert Forum, no resolution was reached, though proposals include land swaps and debt arrangements. Economic experts stress the urgency of overcoming these challenges to attract investments and stabilize Egypt’s financial footing, as part of a broader strategy that includes using local currency for trade with Saudi Arabia, Turkiye, China, and the UAE.

  1. Egypt Considers Diplomatic Downgrade with Israel

Egypt is considering downgrading its diplomatic ties with Israel, including recalling its ambassador, according to the Wall Street Journal. This follows Egypt’s decision to join South Africa in filing a case at The Hague’s International Court of Justice and its refusal to cooperate with Israel on reopening the Rafah border crossing. Egypt also threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel and halted humanitarian aid trucks from entering Gaza. Despite these tensions, Egypt aims to continue facilitating aid to Palestinians and pursuing a ceasefire, while Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials discuss the Rafah crossing’s future.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Turkey Joins South Africa in Genocide Case Against Israel

Turkiye has officially joined South Africa in filing a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan announced the move during a press conference with Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Ankara, citing Israel’s systematic killing of Palestinians and displacement of millions as acts of genocide. South Africa initially brought the case, urging the court to halt Israel’s military actions in Gaza. The court had previously issued interim measures against Israel but stopped short of demanding an end to the conflict.

  1. Hamas Planned Secret Base in Turkiye, Documents Reveal

Secret documents discovered by the Israeli army in Gaza claim Hamas planned to establish a base in Turkiye and cells elsewhere to coordinate attacks on Israeli targets, including those in NATO countries. Targets included Mossad officers and influential Israeli citizens, with activities like sabotaging naval vessels and kidnappings. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that over 1,000 Hamas members are receiving treatment in Turkiye and reiterated that he does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization. (Turkish officials later said Erdogan meant 1,000 Gazans, not 1,000 Hamas members.) Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan confirmed that relocating Hamas leaders to Turkiye is not currently planned.

  1. Turkiye Faces Economic Headwinds: Surging Inflation and Strategic Financial Maneuvers

Turkiye’s economy is confronting unprecedented inflation rates and significant economic hurdles, posing challenges for President Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Due to the ongoing turbulence, Bank of America (BofA) has revised upward its target prices for major Turkish banks, signaling confidence in their growth prospects. BofA’s latest assessments endorse buying recommendations for Akbank and Garanti BBVA, with revised target prices standing at 90 TL for Akbank (formerly 66 TL) and 136 TL for Garanti BBVA (previously 99 TL). Additionally, Yapı Kredi’s target price surged to 47 TL from 36 TL. While Halkbank saw a target price increase to 12.7 TL, its performance recommendation remains cautious. Despite potential short-term profitability challenges due to tightening measures, BofA’s report underscores a favorable long-term investment outlook. Following the release of the report, the banking index on Borsa Istanbul (BIST) experienced a 2% uptick.

  1. Turkiye Sends Syrian Mercenaries to Niger: Strategic Maneuvers and Fatwas

The Turkish government is reportedly sending Syrian mercenaries to Niger to safeguard its interests in the region, particularly in resource-rich areas. While initial speculation suggested Turkiye aimed to counter Russian influence, recent reports indicate Syrian mercenaries are cooperating with Russian forces in Niger. The deployment of mercenaries, facilitated by Turkish intelligence, has raised concerns, prompting opposition religious scholars to issue a fatwa prohibiting such activities.

  1. Israel Returns Some Diplomats to Turkiye As Tensions Continue

Israel has partially reinstated its diplomats in Ankara and Istanbul, despite strained relations following Turkiye’s stance on the Gaza conflict. The return is temporary, with diplomats rotating periodically. Turkiye’s decision to sever commercial ties with Israel further escalated tensions, prompting sharp exchanges between officials. Despite claims of easing restrictions, Turkiye insists on maintaining trade cessation until Gaza receives unrestricted humanitarian aid.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 13, 2024

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