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2025 NDAA: Strengthening Middle East Defense Against Iran and Boosting Israel

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • US Congress Stands Firm Against Assad and Bolsters Middle East Defense
  • Khamenei’s Call for the Annihilation of Israel
  • IDF Introduces Solar-Powered Kit to Enhance Counter-Terrorism Operations
  • Huawei Invests $300 Million to Launch First Public Cloud in Egypt
  • Israeli Forces Intensify Military Operations in Rafah

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★ IRAN

  1. Khamenei’s Call for the Annihilation of Israel, Iran Pledges Continued Support for Palestinian Resistance

Ayatollah Khamenei, in a meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, reiterated his ambition for the destruction of Israel, declaring that Palestine would be liberated “from the river to the sea.” He praised the Palestinian resistance, particularly Gaza, for their global support, including from US universities and Japanese demonstrations, and asserted that Gaza’s victories over powerful forces like the US and NATO foreshadow Israel’s elimination. Khamenei assured that Iran’s new leadership would uphold Raisi’s policies on Palestine. At Raisi’s and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian’s funerals,Acting Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani emphasized Iran’s commitment to defending the Palestinian resistance

Despite organized public displays, the spontaneous outpouring of grief was notably absent, contrasting with past events like the 2020 funeral of Qasem Soleimani. The funeral saw lower attendance rates, with some estimates suggesting participation was much lower than the official figures. Media in Tehran has already shifted focus to the upcoming presidential election in June, amidst widespread belief that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his loyalists control the electoral process. The presence of leaders from Iran’s allied terror-affiliated groups and the absence of Western dignitaries at Raisi’s funeral highlight Iran’s continued international isolation. Subsequently, the EU announced today targeting 10 new Iranian individuals with sanctions. This decision follows Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack on Israel, which was largely intercepted by Israel and a US-led coalition.

  1. Whistleblowers Claim Obama Administration Blocked FBI from Arresting Iran Nuclear Program Supporters

Whistleblowers have alleged that the Obama-Biden State Department obstructed FBI efforts to arrest individuals in the U.S. suspected of supporting Iran’s nuclear program during the negotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson disclosed these claims in letters to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Attorney General Merrick Garland. Unclassified FBI emails reveal that then-Secretary of State John Kerry directed these blocks, preventing arrests of suspects, including those on the Terrorism Watch List. The Justice Department and FBI leadership did not counteract Kerry’s actions. The interference, documented in emails from 2015 to 2017, persisted until the Trump administration reversed the State Department’s stance, allowing some arrests to proceed. Grassley and Johnson are demanding records related to these cases from key figures such as Kerry, CIA Director Bill Burns, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and Secretary Blinken. Additionally, a group of Republican lawmakers are pressing Blinken to justify the Biden administration’s decision to express condolences for the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, criticizing it due to Raisi’s ties to terrorism and human rights abuses. Secretary Blinken defended the decision as standard diplomatic practice, but the lawmakers demand further explanation.

  1. Resistance Leaders and IRGC Commanders Convene in Tehran for Strategic Talks

In Tehran, a high-profile meeting took place between representatives of regional anti-Israeli resistance groups and senior commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), including Major General Hossein Salami and Brigadier General Esmaeil Qaani. The gathering, held alongside a ceremony honoring the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage who died in a helicopter crash on May 19, focused on recent developments in Gaza, particularly the Al-Aqsa Storm operation against Israel, and the role of the resistance front in the region. Participants emphasized the need for continued efforts until the Palestinian resistance achieves complete victory in Gaza, calling for unified actions from all regional resistance groups. This meeting underscores the strategic coordination among resistance factions and their unwavering commitment to the ongoing conflict with Israel, coinciding with visits from foreign dignitaries paying their respects to the late President Raisi.

  1. Egypt, Jordan, and Assad Strengthen Ties with Iran and Honor Late President Raisi

In a series of significant diplomatic engagements in Tehran, leaders from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria expressed their condolences over the tragic death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and discussed strengthening ties with Iran. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, during a historic visit, emphasized Egypt’s readiness to enhance cultural, political, and economic relations, marking the first such visit since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Ayman al-Safadi conveyed King Abdullah II’s condolences and reiterated Jordan’s commitment to maintaining strong bilateral ties, stressing the importance of joint efforts for regional stability and addressing the Palestinian issue. Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani also expressed condolences, highlighting Iran’s resilience during this tragic time. The funeral was attended by foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain alongside representatives from Hamas, Hezbollah, Ansar Allah, and the Afghan Taliban. Bashar al-Assad praised Raisi’s significant role in regional and international affairs, likening him to Qassem Soleimani, and announced plans to visit Tehran to further consolidate relations

  1. Russian Duma Speaker Criticizes Blinken’s Remarks on Raisi’s Funeral as “Rude and Inhumane”

Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin condemned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statements regarding the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, calling them “impudent and inhumane.” Volodin expressed that such comments reflect a sense of American superiority and have sparked anger globally. Blinken had remarked that the Iranian people were better off following Raisi’s death and defended the State Department’s official condolences during a congressional hearing. Volodin’s criticism underscores the growing tensions between Russia and the US, while Raisi’s funeral in Iran drew millions, including international participants, highlighting the late president’s impact.

  1. Iranian Media Criticizes Government and Speculates on Conspiracy in Raisi Crash

Iranian media outlets have strongly criticized the government for its handling of the helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi on May 19, 2024. The daily Ham-Mihan accused the government of providing misleading and ambiguous information about the crash, highlighting slow and chaotic rescue efforts that fueled public distrust. The newspaper questioned the decision to fly an overloaded helicopter through hazardous terrain and suggested negligence by flight planners. Meanwhile, the conservative Jomhuri Eslami speculated on a potential foreign conspiracy, pointing to the crash site’s proximity to the Iran-Azerbaijan border and alleging Israeli involvement. Conflicting reports from state media and allegations of protocol breaches have further complicated the narrative, deepening public confusion and mistrust.

  1. Iran’s Nuclear Strategy: Is a Shift Imminent?

Recent signs indicate that Iran’s leadership may be reconsidering its stance on progressing towards a nuclear breakout. As Iran edges closer to the nuclear threshold and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has significantly declined, the possibility of Iran deciding to develop nuclear weapons is increasing. While this move carries substantial risks, including potential military conflict with Israel and possibly the United States, it appears Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, might be weighing the benefits of crossing this critical threshold. 

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israeli Forces Intensify Military Operations in Rafah, Conduct Major Raid in Jenin

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued operations in Rafah, targeting terrorists and seizing weapons. Fierce battles with Hamas fighters resulted in at least 38 Palestinian deaths. In Beit Hanoun, a soldier was seriously wounded, while air support eliminated key enemy positions. The Givati Brigade uncovered weapons and rocket launchers in Rafah, and in Jabaliya, forces confiscated rifles, explosives, and other gear. In the Netzarim Corridor, troops killed a terror cell commander. Concurrently, Israeli forces dismantled terrorist infrastructure in Jenin, resulting in 12 deaths over two days. Defense Minister Yoav Galant announced the deployment of additional air and ground forces to intensify operations against Hamas and create conditions for the return of hostages. Galant, speaking from the shores of Gaza, emphasized that the operation aims to hit Hamas hard and deprive it of military capabilities

The military also disclosed the identities of four Israeli hostages found dead in Gaza last week and reported that Hamas claims to be holding Colonel Assaf Hamami, previously thought dead.

Sirens sounded in northern Israel, signaling possible drone activity, and an Israeli raid targeted a public road in the town of Al-Mansouri. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a visit to the Northern Command, hinted at a detailed plan to restore security in the north, reflecting the government’s proactive stance on national defense.

  1. IDF Introduces Solar-Powered Kit to Enhance Counter-Terrorism Operations

The IDF’s “Refaim” unit has developed a groundbreaking solar-powered kit designed to enhance the effectiveness and mobility of counter-terrorism operations. This innovative product consists of two foldable solar panels that convert solar energy into electricity, allowing soldiers to rapidly charge multiple batteries in the field. By eliminating the need for extensive battery supplies or proximity to power sources, the kit provides significant advantages in terms of resource independence, flexibility, and reduced physical burden. Positive feedback from field tests indicates its potential to be widely adopted across all IDF units, representing a significant step forward in operational efficiency and technological advancement on the battlefield.

  1. ID Warned Netanyahu Four Times About Threats to National Cohesion

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) revealed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received four warning letters from March to July 2023, highlighting internal societal divides and their potential impact on Israel’s security, including the risks associated with a controversial legal reform plan and the nationwide protests it sparked. The IDF confirmed that while the letters did not explicitly warn of an impending Hamas attack, they underscored concerns about how Israel’s enemies, including Hamas, perceived weakened national cohesion and its impact on the military. This disclosure follows Brigadier-General Amit Sa’ar’s claim that he attempted to send an emergency warning about a potential attack involving Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, which was never delivered to Netanyahu before the attack.

  1. New US Bill Advances, Raises Concerns Over ‘Double Standard’ for Israel Weapons Sales

A bipartisan bill advanced by the US House Foreign Affairs Committee seeks to grant Congress the power to block a presidential pause on arms transfers to Israel, signaling strong support for the Netanyahu government. The bill comes in response to President Biden’s decision to halt a planned shipment of 2,000-pound bombs to Israel over concerns of their use in Gaza. GOP lawmakers accused Biden of bypassing congressional intent, framing the move as an “arms embargo.” The bill, supported by nine Democrats, faces opposition for its exclusive focus on Israel, with some arguing for a uniform standard for all US arms transfers. The legislation requires the president to justify any delay in arms deliveries to Israel and allows Congress to block such pauses. The bill’s prospects in the Senate remain uncertain.

  1. Israel Proposes Recognizing Catalonia, Basque Independence in Response

In reaction to Spain’s recognition of Palestine, Israeli Knesset member Sharan Haskel has suggested that Israel recognize the independence of Catalonia, the Basque Country, and other Spanish regions. Haskel contends that Spain’s support for Palestinian self-determination should similarly apply to its own regions seeking autonomy. This proposal aims to underscore perceived inconsistencies in Spain’s stance and exert diplomatic pressure in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  1. IDF Probe: Israeli Forces Violated Protocol, Killed UN Aid Worker in Rafah

An IDF investigation revealed that Israeli forces mistakenly fired on a UN vehicle in Rafah, killing UN worker Waibhav Anil Kale, an Indian national, and wounding a Jordanian colleague. The vehicle, marked with UN letters, was on an off-limits road without IDF coordination. Despite humanitarian worker protocols, the vehicle was attacked with a shell and grenades. Kale worked in the UN’s Safety and Security Division.

  1. Germany to Enforce ICC Arrest Warrants Against Israeli Leaders

Germany has announced it will enforce International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant if issued. German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit confirmed that Germany supports the ICC and will comply with its decisions. This stance comes despite Germany’s historical support for Israel and ongoing military operations in Gaza. The ICC is currently considering charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Israeli officials. This move underscores Germany’s commitment to international law, while also highlighting complex legal and diplomatic challenges ahead.

  1. Calls for Action Surge as Video of Captured IDF Soldiers Spurs Protests and Political Outrage

In response to the video showing the kidnapping of females by Hamas on October 7, family members and politicians expressed outrage and demanded urgent action from the Israeli government. Protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem called for more efforts to secure the hostages’ release, with Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai, participating. Family members highlighted their distress and the urgent need for government action, while politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, condemned Hamas’ brutality and called for a united effort to bring the hostages home. The video has intensified public and political pressure on the government to prioritize the hostages’ return.

  1. Hamas Denounces Alleged Video, Accuses Israel of Distorting Facts and Manipulation

Hamas criticized the video released by Israel, accusing it of deliberate editing and manipulation to support false claims of assaulting female soldiers. They argued that minor injuries seen in the footage are typical in such operations and result from the chaos, not physical assault. Hamas emphasized that no physical assault was depicted in the scenes shown. Hamas also claimed that translation distortions occurred explaining that while Israel claimed the term “Humal” means to be impregnated, it actually means “cowards” in colloquial Palestinian slang. 

Hamas described the footage, lasting more than three minutes and taken from a two-hour video filmed by their fighters, as showing some female soldiers with bloodied faces, sitting on the floor in their pajamas with their hands tied behind their backs. While some tried to speak to Hamas fighters in English, signs of panic were clearly visible on their faces. The soldiers were then transported, amid shouts from Hamas members, into a military jeep under heavy gunfire. Hamas denounced the video as manipulated, claiming Israel deliberately cut and selected images and clips to support false allegations of assaulting female soldiers. They stated that traces of small blood or minor injuries to some female soldiers were expected in such operations and likely resulted from the chaos, not from physical assault.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Washington Seeks to Block Iraq’s Oil Partnership with China

Al-Arab newspaper reports that as Iraq opens its oil and gas sector to Chinese dominance, the US is working to safeguard its interests by ensuring the continued flow of Kurdistan’s oil. The US State Department is in regular contact with officials in Baghdad, Ankara, Erbil, and American companies affected by halted exports via the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel emphasized that diversifying Iraqi energy delivery to global markets benefits both Iraq and the US. The US aims to support American companies, while Iraq’s recent deals favor Chinese firms over American ones.

  1. IHEC to Request New Date for Kurdistan Elections

The Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) will request the Kurdistan Region Presidency to set a new date for parliamentary elections. This follows the Iraqi Council of Representatives’ amendment to the High Elections Commission Law, extending the Commission’s mandate until January 2025. IHEC spokesperson Jumana al-Ghalai stated that the Board of Commissioners is ready to conduct elections in line with international standards. Originally scheduled for June 10, the elections were delayed due to Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruling, which changed the electoral law and seat distribution. The court’s decision now mandates five seats for various communities in the Kurdistan Region’s parliament.

  1. Iraqi Railways Key to Development Road Passing Through Kurdistan Region

The Kurdistan Region’s Transport Minister, Ano Jawhar Abdoka, announced that the Development Road project will pass through the Kurdistan Region en route to Turkiye and Europe. This decision, endorsed by the Iraqi Ministry of Transport, was revealed at a joint press conference in Erbil. Abdoka noted that this route would shorten the distance by 32 kilometers, enhancing cost-effectiveness and security. The project, which spans 1,200 kilometers within Iraq, aims to connect Europe and the Gulf countries. With an estimated budget of $17 billion, it promises to create up to one million jobs upon completion.

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★ YEMEN

  1. Houthi Delegation Participates in Key Meetings in Tehran

Houthi leaders engaged in significant meetings in Tehran, aligning with Iran’s “Axis of Resistance.” During the gatherings, Houthi representative Mohammed Abdul Salam Falita met with top Iranian military commanders, including Major General Hussein Salami and Quds Force Commander Ismail Qaani. Discussions centered on the political, social, and military situations in Gaza and the role of the Resistance Front, emphasizing continued efforts towards supporting the Palestinian resistance. The Houthi delegation also attended the funeral ceremony of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, reflecting their close ties with Iranian leadership.

  1. Pentagon Acknowledges Yemen’s Advanced Weapon Capabilities

A senior American military official revealed that Yemen possesses weapons capable of reaching the Mediterranean Sea and beyond. Bloomberg reported that the US government is concerned about the potential expansion of Yemeni armed forces’ attacks on ships beyond the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The official, speaking anonymously, highlighted the unprecedented deployment of Yemeni anti-ship ballistic missiles. These remarks coincided with a meeting of American and Gulf military officials in Riyadh.

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★ THE GULF

  1. Saudi Merchandise Exports Rise to $77.7 Billion

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil merchandise exports, including re-exports, reached 20.6 billion riyals ($5.5 billion) in the first quarter of this year, a 3.3% increase from the same period last year. Overall merchandise exports totaled 291.7 billion riyals ($77.7 billion), a 5.7% decrease due to an 8.3% drop in petroleum exports. Chemical industry products made up 25.1% of non-oil exports but fell by 18.3%. China was the top importer, followed by South Korea and India. Imports rose by 6.4% to 201.07 billion riyals ($53.6 billion). The trade balance surplus declined to 90.6 billion riyals from 120.5 billion riyals last year.

  1. UAE Deal Threatens Algerian-Spanish Relations

The UAE’s bid to buy all shares of Spanish energy company Naturgy, a key partner in Algeria’s gas market, risks straining Algeria-Spain relations. In April, UAE’s Taqa proposed acquiring Naturgy, Spain’s largest buyer of Algerian gas. The Spanish company claims no contractual restrictions prevent the sale, but Algeria has threatened to halt gas supplies if ownership changes. This potential deal follows a period of cooling relations between Algeria and the UAE since 2019. Meanwhile, Naturgy’s profits rose in 2023, benefiting from robust operations in renewable energy and LNG sectors. The Spanish government must approve any foreign acquisition exceeding 30% of a Spanish company.

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★ SYRIA

  1. US Congress Stands Firm Against Assad and Bolsters Middle East Defense

The US House Armed Services Committee has advanced the $883.7 billion National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2025. This comprehensive bill includes provisions that significantly impact US military operations and alliances in the Middle East. Key elements of the bill emphasize continued support for defense initiatives, reinforcing commitments to allies, and addressing strategic challenges posed by regional adversaries.

A critical component of the bill is its explicit stance against normalizing relations with Bashar al-Assad. It mandates the US to develop a strategy to protect forces at Al-Tanf base from threats by the Assad regime, Iran, and Russian-backed proxies. Additionally, it requires a detailed report on Assad’s connections with ISIS, Iranian groups, and Russian-backed terrorists. The bill also includes measures to increase surveillance and intelligence efforts aimed at uncovering any covert operations or illicit activities by the Assad regime. The bipartisan approval of the bill underscores the US Congress’s strong commitment to countering Assad’s regime and enhancing Middle East defense strategies.

This legislation reflects a renewed focus on holding Assad accountable and preventing any further destabilization in the region. Enhanced support for US allies and increased operational readiness are designed to deter any aggressive moves by Assad, signaling a robust and unyielding stance by the US in protecting regional stability and security.

  1. SDF Announces Arrest of ISIS Military Commander in Raqqa

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the capture of Ayman Abdel Muti, the ISIS military commander in Raqqa’s northern countryside, during a security operation on May 21. Abdel Muti, responsible for planning terrorist activities in the region, was arrested with weapons and ammunition. The SDF stated that he used aliases “Yaqoub Al-Hadidi” and “Osama Al-Qurashi” to evade detection. This arrest follows a series of SDF operations targeting ISIS cells in northeastern Syria.

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LEBANON

  1. IMF: Lebanon’s Economic Reforms Insufficient for Recovery

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared Lebanon’s current economic reforms inadequate for overcoming its severe financial crisis. Ernesto Ramirez Rigo, leading the IMF delegation in Lebanon, highlighted that ongoing regional conflicts and internal challenges worsen the economic situation. Despite measures to stabilize the currency and curb inflation, Rigo emphasized the need for more substantial reforms. Lebanon’s financial system remains paralyzed, with frozen bank deposits and a banking sector unable to support the economy. The IMF insists on addressing bank losses, safeguarding depositors, and avoiding public resource depletion to lay the groundwork for economic recovery.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Egypt Threatens to Withdraw from Israel-Hamas Mediation

Egypt has threatened to cease its mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas following false allegations by CNN that Egypt sabotaged a truce agreement. Dia Rashwan, head of Egypt’s State Information Service, criticized CNN’s claims, calling them baseless and lacking credible sources. Rashwan emphasized Egypt’s significant role in ceasefire negotiations and condemned attempts to undermine its efforts. He noted that Egypt’s mediation was requested by Israel and the US due to Egypt’s expertise. Rashwan warned that continued false accusations could lead Egypt to withdraw from its mediating role, exacerbating the crisis in Gaza.

  1. Huawei Invests $300 Million to Launch First Public Cloud in Egypt

Huawei announced a $300 million investment to establish Egypt’s first public cloud during an event in Cairo. This cloud region will provide innovative, secure, and flexible services for individuals, businesses, and government users across 28 African countries. The initiative aligns with Egypt’s goals to become a regional hub for data transfer and AI solutions. Huawei’s Colin Hu highlighted Egypt’s strategic position and talent pool as key factors for this investment. Additionally, Huawei introduced a new Arabic language model to support digital transformation in the region, emphasizing AI development in local languages to enhance industry efficiency.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Giant Corridor Message from Ankara: Turkiye’s Inclusion is Crucial

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Abdulkadir Uraloğlu emphasized Turkiye’s strategic role in global transport projects at the International Transport Forum in Leipzig. Highlighting Turkiye’s key position between Asia and Europe, Uraloğlu asserted that any structure excluding Turkiye would be ineffective. He discussed the Development Road Projects connecting the Central Corridor and the Persian Gulf to Europe and Central Asia via Turkiye. Uraloğlu stressed the need for sustainable, cooperative projects to maximize the benefits of green growth and infrastructure investments, underscoring Turkiye’s extensive regional and international partnerships.

  1. Kaplan File: Mafia and Ankara Security Target Turkiye’s New Interior Minister

The trial of Ayhan Bora Kaplan, a notorious mafia figure, continues in Turkiye, drawing public interest and revealing ties between security forces, politics, and organized crime. On September 7, 2023, Kaplan was arrested while attempting to flee the country. This move aligns with Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya’s campaign against organized crime, initiated shortly after he assumed office. Kaplan’s arrest highlighted the deep-rooted connections between the mafia and state institutions, igniting hopes for reform and improved security. Turkiye’s ongoing efforts to combat crime aim to enhance its international image and financial stability.

  1. Turkish Central Bank Maintains Interest Rates

The Turkish Central Bank has kept its key interest rate steady at 50% for the second consecutive month, signaling confidence in its current monetary policy. Economists had anticipated this decision, reflecting expectations of sufficient monetary tightening. The bank remains vigilant, promising further tightening if inflation worsens. Officials project inflation, currently among the highest globally, to decline starting next month and end the year at 38%. Despite having the highest nominal interest rates in the G20, Turkiye’s real rates are below zero when adjusted for inflation. Focus will now shift to fiscal policies and alternative tightening measures.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 22, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 21, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 20, 2024

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