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The Early Phoenix January 12, 2024

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Anticipation in Saudi Arabia for Iranian President Raisi’s Official Visit to Riyadh

Top Headlines:

  • Turkish Company Tupras Reports Loss of Contact with Oil Ship in the Sea of Oman.
  • Israeli Military Strategy Shifts: Proposes Truce, Escalates to New Phase in Long-Standing Conflict with Hamas.
  • Raisi’s Forthcoming Visit to Riyadh: A Symbol of Thawing Relations Between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
  • Saudi Customs Thwart Extensive Captagon Smuggling Attempt, Highlighting Ongoing Drug Trafficking Challenges.
  • Economic Impact of Regional Conflict: Houthi Attacks Lead to 40% Revenue Drop for Suez Canal. 

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★ Yemen

 

  1. Global Impact of US-British Strikes on Houthis in Yemen.  US and British airstrikes on Houthi positions in Yemen have led to no response thus far. These strikes, a response to Houthi attacks on international shipping, were aimed at radar systems, air defense, and drone capabilities. Despite Houthis denying threats to international shipping, a Houthi leader warned that the aggression would not go unanswered. US officials stated the strikes aimed to diminish the Houthis’ military strength while minimizing collateral damage. The actions prompted Russia to call for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting, condemning the strikes as a breach of the UN Charter. The European Union is contemplating deploying naval forces for Red Sea ship protection. Concurrently, Tesla halted car production in Germany due to attack-related delivery delays. Israel heightened its alert status, and Hamas labeled the strikes a “terrorist act.” Jordan cautioned against the potential escalation of a broader Middle East conflict, citing Israeli actions against Palestinians. Following the airstrikes, oil prices surged by 2.37%, fueled by rising tensions and potential disruptions in global oil supplies. Saudi Arabia urged restraint and expressed deep concern over the Red Sea’s security and stability, emphasizing the need to avoid further escalation in the region. The Saudi Press Agency reported Riyadh’s call for calm in light of the ongoing military operations and airstrikes in Yemen.

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★ Israel and the Palestinian Territories

 

  1. Israeli Army Proposes Truce, Advances to Third Phase in Conflict with Hamas. The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation has reported that the Israeli army has proposed a truce in its conflict with Hamas. This proposal includes a three-month ceasefire, Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza, the release of detained Palestinians, the return of displaced persons, and the establishment of internationally funded management for Gaza’s reconstruction. The army has transitionally advanced from the second to the third stage of operations against Hamas, led by the 98th Division and its Special Forces. This phase focuses on targeted operations in southern Gaza, particularly in Khan Yunis, employing various military tactics to dismantle military infrastructure and gather intelligence, with an emphasis on minimizing civilian casualties. The Israeli army has conducted strikes against Hamas forces in Gaza, resulting in the elimination of several members, including commanders of groups identified as “elite” within Hamas. These operations are primarily aimed at destroying Hamas’ military capabilities while ensuring minimal civilian impact and maintaining readiness along the Lebanese border.
  2. Israeli Outrage Over ICJ Genocide Hearing. Israeli officials have expressed outrage following a session of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. This session addressed allegations, which Israel vehemently denies, of genocide. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly criticized Pretoria for what he perceives as alignment with Hamas. The Israeli Foreign Ministry condemned the accusations as a “display of hypocrisy.” Netanyahu highlighted what he sees as South Africa’s duplicity, pointing out its silence on the crises in Syria and Yemen, where he noted that “millions were killed or displaced.” Opposition leader Yair Lapid emphasized that it is the integrity of the international community, not Israel, that is under scrutiny.
  3. Israeli Comptroller Accused of Protecting Netanyahu Post-Hamas Attack. Critics of the Israeli government have leveled accusations against State Comptroller Netanyahu Engelman, alleging that he is attempting to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the repercussions of the military and security services’ failure to effectively respond to the Hamas attack on October 7. The investigation led by Engelman, appointed by Netanyahu, is perceived as an effort to absolve Netanyahu of responsibility and place the blame on the military. This approach is seen as part of a broader strategy by the right to critique the performance of the army and intelligence services. Amos Harel, a military analyst with Haaretz, asserts that Netanyahu appears unperturbed by the investigation, believing that any means to maintain power are justified. The opposition denounces these tactics as a ploy to protect Netanyahu, while Engelman maintains that his investigation thoroughly examines all aspects of the military’s shortcomings.
  4. Historic Downturn in Israeli Real Estate Market. The Israeli real estate market is experiencing its most significant downturn in two decades, impacted by the Al-Aqsa flood and the crisis in Gaza. Sales have plummeted due to diminishing investor interest and construction challenges stemming from labor shortages and elevated production costs. Despite government efforts to rejuvenate the market, including reducing purchase taxes and increasing the quota for foreign workers, these measures have yet to effectively address the sector’s challenges.

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★ Iran

 

  1. Iran Accused of Piracy under Guise of Judicial Order in Seizure of Greek Oil Tanker in Gulf of Oman. In a provocative move in the Gulf of Oman, Iran has been accused of engaging in piracy, using the pretext of a “judicial order” to justify the seizure of a Greek oil tanker. The Iranian army forcibly detained the tanker, compelling it to dock at the Iranian port of Jask. This incident, occurring in the wake of the U.S. confiscation of an Iranian shipment, marks a significant escalation in regional tensions. Critics view Iran’s actions as an act of piracy, thinly veiled as a legal procedure, amidst the rising military activities in the region.
  2. Iran Denounces US and British Military Raids in Yemen. Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, has strongly condemned the recent American and British military raids in various Yemeni cities. Describing these actions as arbitrary, Kanaani emphasized that such operations violate Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and breach international laws. He expressed concern about the potential escalation and increasing instability in the region. Additionally, Kanaani suggested that these attacks might be an attempt to divert global attention from Israel’s activities in Palestine.
  3. Rouhani Criticizes Iranian Government, Raises Alarm over Low Voter Turnout. Former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has issued a stark warning about the potential drastic decline in voter turnout for the upcoming parliamentary elections. He criticized the current government for its role in discouraging voter participation in the 2020 and 2021 elections. Rouhani highlighted the Guardian Council’s intervention and the exclusion of Rafsanjani as key issues. He held the hardliners accountable for the ongoing political crisis in Iran, citing their efforts to isolate the country on the international stage and undermine nuclear negotiations.

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★ Iraq

 

  1. Pentagon Refutes Reports of Attacks on US Embassy and Warships Following Yemen Strikes. The Pentagon, through its spokesperson, has categorically denied recent reports of attacks on the American embassy in Iraq or U.S. warships in retaliation for American strikes in Yemen. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces have claimed responsibility for attacks targeting American bases in Iraq. These incidents have adversely affected security and societal peace in Iraq, straining relations with the United States. The escalation has also heightened tensions between the Kurdistan Region and the central government in Baghdad. Fadi Al-Shammari, an advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister, has openly criticized Western countries for escalating conflict in the region. He highlighted the West’s contradictory stance on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and the recent attacks in Yemen, accusing them of exacerbating regional tensions instead of mitigating them.
  2. Report Reveals Undisclosed Canadian Military Presence in Iraq and Nigeria. A recent report by “Canadian Dimension,” translated by the “Information” agency, has brought to light the relatively unknown deployment of Canadian forces in Iraq and Nigeria. The report highlights that Canada has stationed combat soldiers in these critical global areas, a fact that has received minimal media attention. Since 2014, hundreds of Canadian troops have been in Iraq, ostensibly to combat ISIS. Despite a reduction in the ISIS threat, Canadian forces remain stationed in the country. The report comes in the wake of the Iraqi parliament’s resolution requesting foreign forces to leave Iraq after the U.S. government’s assassination of key military figures in Baghdad. However, Canadian troops did not withdraw. The Iraqi government is once again demanding the exit of foreign forces, including Canadian troops, especially following a recent U.S. airstrike in Baghdad. The report underscores that both American and Canadian soldiers show no intention of leaving Iraq, even after attacks on their headquarters.

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★ Lebanon

 

  1. Cross-Border Fire Exchange Between Israeli Forces and Hezbollah. On Thursday, a significant exchange of fire occurred between Israeli forces and Hezbollah along the border areas. Israeli artillery launched attacks on multiple locations, including Tayr Harfa, Al-Jebeen, Tallet Hamams in the Sarda Plain, Marjayoun, the outskirts of Al-Dhahira, Aitaroun, Hula, and Al-Khiyam. In retaliation, Hezbollah released a statement claiming that its members had targeted a group of Israeli soldiers near the Metulla site with missile weaponry, reportedly achieving a direct hit. The incident marks a notable escalation in the ongoing tensions between the two groups.
  2. Hezbollah Denounces US Raids in Yemen, Linking Them to Israeli Actions. Hezbollah has strongly condemned the recent US and British raids in Yemen, which led to the deaths of five individuals. In a statement, Hezbollah asserted that these strikes demonstrate America’s complicity with Israel in the ongoing Gaza massacres and regional violence. This condemnation positions the raids within a broader context of regional conflict, highlighting the perceived interconnectedness of U.S. and Israeli military actions.
  3. U.S. Diplomatic Efforts Intensify in Lebanon to Foster Peaceful Resolutions. In a bid to defuse tensions between Lebanon and Israel, U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein has been actively engaged in diplomatic efforts during his visit to Lebanon. Hochstein voiced his concerns about the “loss of a diplomatic solution” and emphasized the urgency of finding peaceful resolutions. He met with key Lebanese leaders, including Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who showed openness to considering the proposed ideas. Concurrently, Lisa Johnson, the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, arrived in the country. With her extensive regional experience and previous leadership roles in the U.S. State Department, Johnson acknowledged Lebanon’s current challenges. She underscored the importance of unity and collaboration in working towards a more stable and prosperous future for Lebanon.

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★ Arabian Gulf

 

  1. Anticipation in Saudi Arabia for Iranian President Raisi’s Official Visit to Riyadh. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan has officially announced the upcoming visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Saudi Arabia. This announcement was made during a phone conversation between the Saudi and Iranian ministers, where they discussed a range of common issues. Topics included the current state of bilateral relations and recent developments in Palestine. The conversation also touched upon the prospects of expanding political relations, following an agreement between Iranian President Raisi and the Saudi Crown Prince. This visit marks a significant diplomatic engagement between the two nations, indicating a potential shift in regional dynamics.
  2. Saudi Authorities Foil Major Captagon Smuggling Operation at Haditha Port. The Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority has successfully intercepted a significant smuggling attempt at the Haditha port, seizing 841,440 Captagon pills. These were clandestinely concealed within iron boxes inside a truck entering the Kingdom. In response to this incident, the Authority has reaffirmed its commitment to bolstering customs control and intensifying efforts to combat smuggling activities. This initiative is in collaboration with relevant authorities, aiming to safeguard societal security and the national economy. Additionally, the Authority has urged public cooperation in these anti-smuggling efforts, offering financial rewards for providing accurate information that helps in thwarting such illegal activities.
  3. PLO Secretary Conducts Consultations in Qatar and Saudi Arabia on Gaza Situation. Hussein Al-Sheikh, the Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is currently engaged in diplomatic consultations in Qatar and Saudi Arabia regarding the escalating situation in Gaza. In his meeting with the Qatari Prime Minister, discussions centered on the recent developments in Israeli aggression and concerted efforts to halt the conflict. Al-Sheikh emphasized the urgent need for a comprehensive political solution to address the ongoing crisis. These talks reflect a broader regional effort to find a sustainable resolution to the turmoil in Gaza.

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★ Egypt

 

  1. Suez Canal Revenue Drops 40% Amid Houthi Attacks on Red Sea Shipping. The Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority has reported a significant 40% decrease in the canal’s revenues this year compared to 2023. This downturn is attributed to Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, leading to a change in shipping routes. The canal, a vital source of foreign currency for Egypt, experienced a 30% year-on-year decline in ship transit traffic, severely impacting the country’s revenues. The situation highlights the economic consequences of regional conflicts on global maritime trade routes.

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★ Syria 

  1. Iranian Involvement in Syrian Crisis: A Detailed Report on Soleimani’s Role. A special report published by the Iranian Tasnim Agency has shed light on Qassem Soleimani’s critical interventions in the Syrian crisis and the resulting dire humanitarian consequences. Although the report does not reveal new information to the Syrian populace, it serves as a crucial record of the atrocities committed under Soleimani’s leadership. The report verifies that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Khamenei, designated Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, for advisory support to Bashar al-Assad, along with Iranian military leaders like Hossein Hamedani and Hajj Younis. Contrary to the report, American experts confirm that Soleimani’s mission began months prior to the peaceful demonstrations in Syria.  The report details Soleimani’s efforts in forming international alliances with armed groups from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and local Syrian forces. The report highlights the creation of the National Defense Forces in Syria, an initiative led by Soleimani as a response to the threat against al-Assad’s regime and the loss of government control over several cities. Inspired by Iran’s Basij forces, Soleimani established the National Defense Forces under Syrian presidential supervision, integrating thousands of trained and equipped individuals for defense purposes. Additionally, local factions akin to the Basij were formed in Shiite cities to boost security and stability. These forces, merged with the Syrian government forces, aimed to decelerate the loss of control over regions and fortify the home front. According to Hajj Yunus, a field commander alongside Soleimani, the report showcases Soleimani’s ingenious strategies in tackling complex challenges during the Syrian revolution. Global statistics paint a harrowing picture of the Syrian conflict since its onset in 2011, marking it as a major humanitarian tragedy. Approximately 400,000 lives have been lost, including 117,000 civilians, 22,000 children, 14,000 women, and 81,000 men, underscoring the immense human cost and particularly the impact on children and women. The war has inflicted brutal injuries, leaving about 2.1 million people with serious, often permanent disabilities. The conflict has also triggered a massive displacement crisis, with 13 million people, a significant portion of the Syrian population, being uprooted from their homes. Russian intervention, as confirmed by an Iranian report highlighting Qassem Soleimani’s pivotal role, drastically altered the war’s trajectory. Russian airstrikes resulted in approximately 9,000 deaths, including 2,000 children and 1,300 women, and were instrumental in reinforcing the Syrian regime’s control. The report emphasizes that Iran’s support for the regime has perpetuated the conflict and exacerbated the humanitarian disaster. Unrestrained Iranian intervention has directly or indirectly impacted around 20 million people within Syria, leading to profound demographic and social shifts. Despite these staggering figures, global media coverage and statistics have yet to spur decision-makers into recognizing the dangers of Iranian expansionism, which poses a significant threat to both international and American interests. These numbers represent more than data; they symbolize the enduring pain and suffering of the Syrian people. [Editor’s Note]: These numbers are not just statistics; It stands as a testament to the daily pain and suffering that the Syrian people face. Most importantly, these statistics, which were circulated through the global media, did not move decision-makers to realize the dangers of Iranian expansionism, which today constitutes one of the greatest threats to both international and American interests.
  2. Israeli Military Enters Syria, Digs Trench to Counter Iran-Linked Militias. In a move signaling escalating regional tensions, an Israeli military force recently advanced into Syrian territory from the town of Al-Baath, situated within the ceasefire line in the Quneitra countryside, southern Syria. The operation involved the construction of earth mounds, the removal of trees, and the digging of a trench extending hundreds of meters along the Syrian border. The objective of these measures is to thwart potential operations by militias affiliated with Iran. This development follows a period of heightened tensions between Israel and Iran. In response to the Israeli incursion, UNIFIL peacekeeping forces were put on high alert and closed all roads leading from Al-Baath town towards the areas where the Israeli bulldozers were active. This Israeli military action is a reaction to recent incidents where Iran-linked militias launched several rockets towards the Golan Heights from border-adjacent areas in Syria. This is not the first instance of Israeli forces undertaking such actions along the Syrian border in recent months.
  3. ISIS Conducts 34 Operations in Syria, Eyes Expansion into Desert Regions. ISIS has recently claimed responsibility for conducting 34 offensive operations in Syria over the span of one week. These operations primarily targeted areas in Deir ez-Zor and Homs. Reports suggest that the organization is actively seeking to expand its presence in the Syrian desert, with intentions to establish bases closer to urban centers. This development marks a significant uptick in ISIS activities in the region, indicating a strategic shift towards expansion in these desert areas.
  4. Iraqi-Syrian Talks in Damascus on Railway Linkage Between Ports. In a recent meeting in Damascus, the Syrian Minister of Transport and an Iraqi delegation discussed plans to activate a railway connection between Syria and Iraq. The primary aim of this project is to facilitate the transportation and shipment of goods, directly linking the ports of both countries. This initiative emerges in the wake of increased sanctions and the escalating costs of sea and air freight, underscoring a growing necessity for alternative transit routes. The proposed railway would connect the Iraqi ports of Umm Qasr and Al-Faw with the Syrian ports of Tartus and Latakia. The implementation of this project is expected to significantly boost the economies of both nations. However, concerns have been raised that directing the project towards Iranian ambitions could potentially heighten regional tensions.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Turkish Company Tupras Reports Loss of Contact with Oil Ship in Sea of Oman. The Turkish Oil Refineries Company, Tupras, has announced the loss of contact with the oil tanker “Saint Nicholas,” which was transporting Iraqi oil in the Sea of Oman. This announcement coincides with separate reports of an armed group seizing another oil tanker in the same region. Despite this concerning development, Tupras has assured that the incident has not impacted its refining operations. The disappearance of the “Saint Nicholas” adds to the growing concerns over maritime security in the Sea of Oman, an area critical to global oil transportation.
  2. Turkiye Successfully Tests Bozdogan and Gokdogan Missiles, Prepares for Warhead Trials. Haluk Gurgun, the head of the Turkish Defense Industries Authority, has announced the successful completion of design tests for the Bozdogan and Gokdogan missiles. The next phase involves conducting trials for the warheads that will be equipped on these missiles, prior to their delivery to the Turkish Air Force. This milestone signifies a significant advancement in Turkey’s defense industry capabilities, marking an important step in the development of its indigenous missile technology.
  3. Turkish Aircraft Conduct First Arms Control Mission in NATO Airspace, Drone Prepares for Advanced Roles. The Turkish Ministry of Defense has disclosed that two Turkish aircraft successfully executed their inaugural arms control mission within the airspace of a NATO member country, in collaboration with Romanian F-16 jets. This operation represents a significant first for Turkey’s military aviation within NATO. Additionally, Turkish Aerospace Industries has been developing the “Aksungur” drone, designed for a variety of tasks including intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike missions. Plans are in place to equip this drone with a locally produced engine in 2024, a move expected to significantly enhance its capabilities for military operations. This development underscores Turkey’s growing technological advancements and strategic contributions within the NATO framework.

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📌 In case you missed previous versions:

📰Early Phoenix January 11, 2024

📰Early Phoenix January 10, 2024

📰Early Phoenix January 9, 2024

🌍Area January 8, 2024

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