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Iranian Public Suspects Supreme Leader’s Son Had Hand in Raisi’s Death

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Iran to Hold Presidential Election on June 28
  • US Ambassador: Israel-Saudi Normalization Requires Gaza Truce
  • Iraq’s Water Crisis: Turkish Agreements Fail to Deliver
  • Water-Starved Egypt Warns Ethiopia over Nile Dam Height
  • Türkiye Says Raisi’s Helicopter Sent no Signals Before Crash

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★ IRAN

  1. Iranians Point Fingers at Supreme Leader’s Son After Raisi’s Death

Iranians are speculating on social media, implicating Mojtaba Khamenei, the Supreme Leader’s son. Mojtaba is considered a leading candidate to succeed his father. Many believe Raisi was a potential rival, and his death was orchestrated rather than accidental. Although there is no evidence to support this claim, the lack of trust in Iran’s institutions fuels these rumors.

  1. Was Raisi Removed from Supreme Leader Succession List?

Ebrahim Raisi was removed from the list of potential successors to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei six months ago, according to Reuters, citing two sources. The Assembly of Experts made this decision due to Raisi’s declining popularity, mismanagement, and the poor economic situation. Despite pressure from influential clerics to reinstate him, the decision remained. 

  1. Iranian Regime Begins Mourning for President Raisi 

Iran has started a five-day funeral procession for President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Crowds gathered in Tabriz, the city nearest the crash site, where the procession began. Raisi’s body will be moved to Qom, then to Tehran, where a public holiday has been declared for the ceremony. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei will lead the religious rites in Tehran before Raisi is buried in Mashhad. 

  1. Iran to Hold Presidential Election on June 28

First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber has assumed leadership as directed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A council comprising the Parliament speaker, Judiciary chief, and Mokhber decided on the election date. Candidate registration is from May 30 to June 3, with the campaign period running from June 12-27.

  1. New Leader Appointed to Iran’s Succession Body

Born in 1931, Movahedi Kermani is 93 years old, but looks relatively fit compared to other aging and ailing members of the Assembly has been elected chairman of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body responsible for selecting the next supreme leader. The 93-year-old cleric replaces Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who is over 100 years old. Movahedi Kermani received 55 votes from the 83 members present. Movahedi Kermani, a conservative figure with a long political history, is now tasked with guiding the Assembly through this significant period.

  1. Anger Over US Condolences for Raisi’s Death

The Biden administration’s condolences for President Ebrahim Raisi’s death sparked backlash from US lawmakers and Iranian-American activists. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller expressed “official condolences” after Raisi died in a helicopter crash. Critics, like Senator Tom Cotton, condemned the gesture, labeling Raisi the “Butcher of Tehran” for his role in mass executions. Activist Masih Alinejad called it a “slap” to victims of the regime. The controversy extends to the UN and NATO, whose condolences were also criticized

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israel Adopts Limited Rafah Operation; US Will Not Object

Israel has decided against a major offensive in Rafah, Gaza, opting for a more limited operation after discussions with the US, according to Washington Post analyst David Ignatius. This new plan aims to reduce civilian casualties. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s recent meetings with Saudi and Israeli officials hinted at a gradual end to combat and a focus on post-war governance.

  1. Gallant Condemns ICC’s Warrant Request for Israeli Leaders

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant criticized the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants against him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside three Hamas leaders, calling it a “despicable” comparison. Gallant defended Israel’s right to self-defense and its efforts to facilitate humanitarian aid while fighting Hamas. He rejected ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan’s accusations of war crimes against Israeli leaders and condemned the comparison between Hamas and Israel. Gallant emphasized that Israel does not recognize the ICC’s authority and criticized the attempt to undermine Israel’s defense and efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.

  1. Biden Criticizes ICC for Equating Israel and Hamas

At an American Jewish Heritage Month event, US President Joe Biden condemned the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek arrest warrants for Israeli leaders. Biden criticized the ICC for equating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant with Hamas leaders, reaffirming the US’s support for Israel in defeating Hamas. He emphasized that there is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the ICC’s actions, suggesting they undermine peace efforts. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called the ICC’s decision a disgrace and a new form of anti-Semitism.

  1. Herzog: Normalization with Saudi Arabia a ‘Game-Changer’

Israeli President Isaac Herzog stated that normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia is a real possibility and would be transformative for the region. Speaking in Jerusalem, Herzog highlighted a recent meeting with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who indicated the potential for such a move. Herzog described this as a historic victory against forces opposing peace. Sullivan’s discussions in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman focused on a bilateral strategic agreement and progress on the Palestinian issue. Riyadh is considering the timing of this announcement, potentially linking it to progress towards Palestinian statehood.

  1. US Ambassador: Israel-Saudi Normalization Requires Gaza Truce

The US Ambassador to Israel stated on Tuesday that formalizing Israel-Saudi relations under a trilateral agreement involving Washington requires calming the conflict in Gaza and discussing the future of Palestinian governance. Ambassador Jack Lew emphasized the need for a period of calm in Gaza and a dialogue on Palestinian governance. He expressed that this strategic benefit justifies the risk of such discussions. A Saudi source confirmed that normalization won’t occur without genuine guarantees for a two-state solution. Reports also indicate that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan proposed a deal involving regional security cooperation and significant investments in Gaza.

  1. France Backs ICC Action Against Israel, Diverges from Western Allies

Unlike its Western allies, France expressed support for the ICC’s independence after its prosecutor sought arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Gallant, and three Hamas leaders. The French Foreign Ministry stated Paris supports the ICC and fights against impunity, condemning Hamas’s October 7 attacks. The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber will decide on the warrants. France criticized Israel for civilian casualties in Gaza and inadequate humanitarian aid. This stance contrasts with that of the UK, Italy, and the US.

  1. Israeli Officials Seize Associated Press Equipment and Halt Gaza Live Feed

Israeli officials seized The Associated Press’s camera and broadcasting equipment in Sderot, accusing it of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera. The AP condemned the action, stating it complied with Israel’s military censorship rules. The Communications Ministry claimed AP’s broadcasts violated security regulations and had warned the AP previously. This move follows the government’s decision to close Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel. Opposition leader Yair Lapid criticized the seizure, highlighting the AP’s prestigious record. Israel has long accused Al Jazeera of bias and incitement.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Baghdad High Court Rejects Kurdistan Region’s Election Requests

Today, Iraq’s High Judicial Council responded to a petition by the Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, against the High Commission for Election Affairs. The court annulled the state order and declared Article Two of the registration system unconstitutional. This follows a postponed session on Sunday to address key issues in the Kurdistan Parliament, which will now proceed without the Commission’s judges. On May 7, 2024, the Supreme Committee issued a state order regarding the entity registration system, stating it was not approved for Kurdistan Elections No. 7 of 2024.

  1. Impasse over Parliament Speaker Vacancy Exposes Sunni Divisions

Iraq’s political scene is deeply divided, particularly among Sunni forces, over the election of the Speaker of Parliament. Muhammad al-Halbousi’s unopposed bid for the position has caused dissatisfaction among other Sunni leaders. Delays in electing a new speaker threatens the legislative process, with critical laws potentially stalled. Analysts warn that personal and partisan interests are overshadowing national concerns, violating the Constitution and legal norms. The crisis has also led to threats of exposing corruption among prominent leaders, highlighting internal conflicts and the struggle for power, further destabilizing Iraq’s political landscape.

  1. Iraq’s Water Crisis: Turkish Agreements Fail to Deliver

Iraq’s water crisis persists as Turkiye fails to amend its policies, depriving Iraq of its rightful water share. Despite recent agreements between Baghdad and Ankara, these remain ineffective. The Parliamentary Water and Marshlands Committee urges Iraq to leverage the Arab Summit’s decisions in Manama to secure its water rights. Turkiye continues to withhold fair water distribution, exacerbating Iraq’s drought crisis. The Arab Summit emphasized the importance of water security for Iraq and other nations, urging solidarity and action against unilateral measures that threaten water interests.

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★ YEMEN

  1. Houthis Claim Downing of Fifth American Drone in Yemen

Sanaa forces spokesperson, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, announced Tuesday that their air defenses shot down another American drone, an MQ9, over Al Bayda Governorate in central Yemen. This marks the fifth such aircraft downed since January. The latest incident follows similar occurrences in Ma’rib, Saada, and Hodeidah Governorates. Sanaa’s military media recently aired footage of these events. General Saree emphasized Yemen’s ongoing efforts to bolster its air defenses, aiming to neutralize the air force of the Saudi-Emirati and now American-British coalitions, in response to Yemen’s support for Gaza.

  1. New Repressive Agency Formed by Houthi Militias in Sanaa

Local media report that the Houthi militia has established a new intelligence agency, the “Police Security and Intelligence Service,” led by Ali Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, son of the militia’s founder. This agency aims to suppress growing popular dissent and has already begun operations, including maintaining secret prisons and detaining individuals. The Houthi militia has intensified efforts to combat what it labels as disruptive cells and opposition, reflecting increased societal rejection. Families of new abductees have reported unexpected transfers to unknown locations, further indicating the agency’s formation.

  1. US Envoy Lenderking Begins Gulf Tour to Discuss Yemen Peace

US Special Envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, is embarking on a Gulf tour this week to discuss peace in Yemen and halt Houthi naval attacks in the Red Sea. The tour will include visits to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman, where Lenderking will meet with regional officials to address steps needed to calm the situation and support the Yemeni people. The US State Department emphasized the threat posed by ongoing Houthi attacks to humanitarian aid and progress towards a lasting resolution.

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★ THE GULF

  1. US and Saudi Arabia Near Final Bilateral Defense Pact

The United States and Saudi Arabia are close to finalizing a bilateral defense agreement, according to the White House. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby stated that significant progress has been made, with the deal nearly complete. The agreement would include formal US guarantees to defend Saudi Arabia and provide access to advanced US weaponry, in exchange for Saudi Arabia halting Chinese arms purchases and limiting Beijing’s investments. Discussions include the potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, though any deal must ensure that US weapons sold in the region do not undermine Israel’s military edge.

  1. Kuwait and US Sign Military and Defense Agreements

On Tuesday, Kuwait and the United States signed several military and defense agreements during the Joint Military Committee meeting. The Kuwaiti side was led by Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Pilot Bandar Al-Muzain, and the American side by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Daniel Shapiro. These agreements aim to strengthen bilateral relations, enhance military cooperation, and expand joint coordination. Workshops were held to discuss defense cooperation and related issues. The signing ceremony included Kuwaiti Ambassador Sheikha Al-Zein Al-Sabah, US Ambassador Karen Sasahara, and senior military officials from both countries.

  1. Qatar Says Premature to Discuss Extraditing Ismail Haniyeh to ICC

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Dr. Majid Al-Ansari, stated that it is premature to discuss extraditing Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Al-Ansari emphasized that Qatar is not part of the ICC system but complies with its obligations, condemning civilian targeting and upholding justice. He reaffirmed Qatar’s mediation efforts and urged the international community to end the conflict. Al-Ansari highlighted ongoing ceasefire talks and Qatar’s commitment to alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, condemning the escalation in Rafah as contributing to violence.

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★ SYRIA

  1. Assad Regime Says Asma al-Assad Has Leukemia

The Syrian Presidency announced on Tuesday that Asma al-Assad has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Following clinical symptoms and extensive medical tests, it was confirmed that she will undergo specialized treatment requiring isolation and social distancing. This development comes five years after she declared her recovery from breast cancer. In 2019, Asma al-Assad had announced her victory over the disease, expressing gratitude and resilience throughout her treatment journey.

  1. France Begins First War Crimes Trial of Syrian Officials

France has commenced its first war crimes trial against Syrian regime officials. The Paris Criminal Court is trying Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud in absentia for their roles in the deaths of French Syrians Mazzen and Patrick Dabbagh. The Dabbaghs were arrested in Damascus in 2013 and allegedly tortured to death. This trial marks the first time French courts will address crimes by the Syrian authorities. Lawyer Clemence Bectarte called it “the culmination of a long legal battle.”

  1. Syrians Face Rising Fuel Costs Due to Theft and Price Hikes

Media linked to the Assad regime report that supply directorates have seized 700 million pounds worth of stolen diesel and gasoline from gas stations in Damascus, Homs, and Hama. Economist Ziad Ghosn highlights that Syrians are paying double for fuel due to systemic theft and arbitrary price increases. He criticizes the government’s opaque pricing mechanisms, which include high customs duties and additional premiums. Ghosn argues this approach fuels inflation and burdens citizens, who pay inflated prices now and will bear the cost of national debt repayment in the future. This marks the fifth petroleum price hike in 2024 by the regime.

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LEBANON

  1. Israeli Airstrike Kills Hezbollah Missile Commander

The Israeli army announced it has killed Qassem Saqlawi, commander of Hezbollah’s missile forces in the coastal sector, during an airstrike in Tyre, Lebanon. Saqlawi was responsible for several missile attacks on Israel. Following a Hezbollah missile launch towards Western Galilee, Israeli forces struck a launch pad in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah confirmed targeting Israeli soldiers near the Al-Raheb military site on the Lebanon border. Recent Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon killed five people, including four Hezbollah fighters.

  1. Qatar Hosts Jumblatt to Discuss Lebanon Crisis

Walid Jumblatt, former president of the Progressive Socialist Party, is in Qatar for talks on regional and Lebanese issues. He met with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, discussing the Gaza conflict, Lebanon’s situation, and Qatar’s efforts for peace. Jumblatt praised Qatar’s role in seeking a gas ceasefire and helping Lebanon through the Five-Year Committee. Addressing the Lebanese community in Doha, he urged national unity and avoiding political discord. Jumblatt emphasized the need for solidarity amid ongoing Israeli conflicts and highlighted the importance of resolving Lebanon’s presidential crisis and border issues.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Water-Starved Egypt Warns Ethiopia over Nile Dam Height

Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Dr. Hani Swilam, warned of the dangers posed by unilateral actions to raise the height of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Speaking at the Tenth World Water Forum in Bali, Swilam emphasized the need for international cooperation and adherence to legal principles in managing transboundary water resources. He highlighted the severe water scarcity Egypt faces, with the Nile River providing 98% of its water. Recent steps by Ethiopia to fill the dam without coordination have increased tensions. Egypt’s per capita water supply is critically low, exacerbating food security challenges.

  1. Italy Concerned About Russian Military Activity in Tunisia

Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” reports that the Italian government is worried about potential Russian military infiltration into Tunisia. Writer Paolo Mastrolili noted Russia’s strategic moves in Libya, Algeria, and the Sahel region, aiming to expand its influence. Recent sightings of planes landing at Djerba airport, a Tunisian island near Libya, have intensified these concerns. The exact nature of the activities remains unclear, causing unease among Italian and American officials about the potential objectives of these maneuvers.

  1. Negotiations Between Sudanese Government and SPLM Suspended Over RSF Involvement

Sudanese Defense Minister Yassin Ibrahim confirmed that negotiations between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), led by Abdul Aziz al-Hilu, have been suspended indefinitely. The talks in Juba aimed to facilitate humanitarian aid to conflict-affected areas in South and West Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The suspension followed SPLM’s insistence on involving the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the negotiations. Minister Ibrahim criticized SPLM’s stance, accusing it of aligning with the RSF’s violations and rejecting government proposals for aid delivery. The SPLM demanded relief be delivered to all war-affected states simultaneously, leading to a deadlock.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Erdogan Calls for New Constitution to Suit “New Türkiye”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed his commitment to drafting a new constitution for Türkiye, stating the current one, influenced by past coups, is outdated. He emphasized the need for a liberal, civil constitution to guide the nation into the future. His ally, Devlet Bahceli, urged the closure of Kurdish parties and supported recent harsh sentences against Kurdish leaders. Concurrently, Erdogan expressed satisfaction with the verdicts in the “Kobani protests” case and announced new arrests within the Gulen movement, highlighting ongoing efforts to eliminate opposition and maintain national security.

  1. Global Attention on Turkiye’s Bayraktar Akıncı UAV After Iranian Helicopter Search Mission

Turkiye’s Bayraktar Akıncı UAV gained international recognition for its role in locating the wreckage of a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and senior officials. The Akıncı, deployed by Turkiye for the search mission, identified the crash site in northwest Iran and returned to base, drawing a crescent and star route in the sky. Media outlets like CNN International, AP, and Al Monitor highlighted the UAV’s key role and advanced capabilities. Akıncı’s successful mission underscores Turkiye’s growing prominence in drone technology, contributing to the nation’s defense exports and showcasing its innovative prowess in critical operations.

  1. Türkiye Says Raisi’s Helicopter Sent no Signals Before Crash

Turkish Transport Minister Abdulkadir Oraloglu stated that the helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the foreign minister did not send any signals before its crash on Sunday. Oraloglu mentioned that the signal system was likely not activated or the helicopter lacked such a system. He emphasized that no signals were received, which would have alerted them if the system had been functional. He did not clarify whether he referred to the transceiver or the distress beacon.

  1. Turkiye and China Sign Energy Cooperation Agreement

Turkiye and China have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation in nuclear and renewable energy. Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar, during his visit to Beijing, discussed opportunities for collaboration with Chinese officials, focusing on critical minerals, rare earth elements, and energy projects. The agreement aims to implement concrete projects swiftly, particularly in energy storage and hydrogen. This partnership is expected to bolster Turkiye’s efforts towards decarbonization. Bayraktar highlighted the significance of developing joint projects and emphasized the need for localized approaches in future nuclear energy endeavors.

  1. Erdogan Declares National Day of Mourning Over Death of Iranian President

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a national day of mourning for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian Foreign Minister, and their companions, who died in a helicopter crash last Sunday. Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan emphasized Türkiye’s solidarity with the Iranian people during this tragic time.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 20, 2024

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