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The Early Phoenix January 24, 2024

Table of Contents

Iran Retaliates with Drone Strikes and Incidents Off Yemen Coast

TOP HEADLINES:

  • Houthi Undeterred, Two New Incidents Occurred Off Yemen Coast.
  • Iran-Backed Militias in Iraq Launch Drone Strike on Israeli Port.
  • Armed Drone Strikes U.S. Base Near Erbil Airport.
  • Continued Tension in Gaza: New Ceasefire Proposal and Escalation of Military Action.
  • Egypt Identifies Hamas’ Internal Divisions as Key Barrier in Gaza Peace Talks.

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★ Yemen

  1. Houthi Undeterred, Two New Incidents Occurred Off Yemen. Following the US Central Command’s announcement of disabling two Houthi anti-ship missiles in the southern Red Sea, two maritime incidents off the coast of Yemen have escalated regional tensions. The British Maritime Trade Operations Authority reported an incident 45 nautical miles south of Aden, and another 50 nautical miles south of Mokha, where a ship experienced a nearby explosion. Despite these occurrences, no injuries or damages were reported. These developments are part of a series of maritime disruptions attributed to the Houthi group, which has intensified its attacks in the region, impacting global shipping routes and raising concerns about wider geopolitical implications.
  2. Precise U.S. Airstrikes and Warnings of Environmental Disaster Due to ‘Safir’ Tanker. On January 24th at 2:30 AM local time in Sanaa, U.S. Central Command conducted precision airstrikes targeting two Houthi anti-ship missiles in the southern Red Sea region. The locations of these missiles were identified within areas controlled by the Houthi rebels. Additionally, on Tuesday, the international coalition to protect the Red Sea carried out 18 precise airstrikes on Sanaa, Taiz, and Al-Bayda, as confirmed by the Houthi spokesperson. Furthermore, the Houthis heightened their threats by announcing a one-month deadline for American and British employees to leave the country. Concurrently, the United Nations reported the suspension of the dismantling process of the “Safir” oil tanker, raising concerns about a potential oil spill from the vessel, which still holds 1.14 million barrels of crude oil. Experts describe the situation as a “ticking time bomb,” warning of the potential catastrophic environmental impact.

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★ Iraq

  1. Armed Drone Strikes U.S. Base Near Erbil Airport Following American Assault on Militia Headquarters in Iraq. Hadi Al-Amiri, a senior figure in the Popular Mobilization Forces, has called for the immediate expulsion of all foreign forces from Iraq in response to these developments. Additionally, Abu Alaa al-Wala’i, head of the Iraqi Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigades, has declared the commencement of a new phase of attacks and urged increased assaults in the Mediterranean to challenge Israeli ports.
  2. U.S. Retaliates with Precision Airstrikes in Iraq Against Iran-backed Militia. In a decisive military response, the United States executed targeted airstrikes early this morning, January 24th, at 12:15 AM Iraq time, against Iran-supported Kata’ib Hezbollah militia in Iraq. This action by the U.S. Central Command is a direct response to the recent aggressive actions by the militia, notably the January 20th attack on Al-Asad Air Base. The strikes specifically targeted three key facilities — a headquarters, a missile and shell storage site, and a training ground for unmanned aerial assault drones — used by the Kata’ib Hezbollah and allied Iranian groups. These precise operations were designed to neutralize significant militant capabilities in the region. Security sources and leaders within the Popular Mobilization Forces have confirmed that the locations hit included areas in Jurf Al Sakhar, approximately 60 km south of Baghdad, and in Al Qaim near the Syrian border, resulting in at least two fatalities. The Pentagon has emphasized that these surgical strikes are a crucial component of a broader strategy to counter escalating Iranian threats and hostile actions in the Middle East. This assertive U.S. military action signifies a firm stance against Iranian influence and aggression in the region, underscoring Washington’s commitment to maintaining regional stability.
  3. Iran-Backed Militias in Iraq Launch Drone Strike on Israeli Port. Iranian-aligned militias in Iraq conducted a drone strike on Tuesday against the Port of Ashdod in Israel. Further intensifying the situation, the Islamic Resistance also launched a missile attack on the Conico base in Syria, which hosts American troops, marking their third strike within a single day. In a rapid counter-response, the U.S. Central Command executed a precise airstrike later the same day. The target was a truck in transit from Iraq to Syrian Deir ez-Zor, believed to be supplying weapons to the Iranian militias. The strike resulted in multiple casualties among the militia members.
  4. Tehran Chamber of Commerce Appeals to Kurdistan Region to Reconsider Boycott of Iranian Goods. The Tehran Chamber of Commerce has expressed deep regret over the Erbil Chamber of Commerce in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s call for a boycott of Iranian products. The chamber reiterated the importance of continuing economic cooperation between Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and Iran. It highlighted the deep historical and cultural ties between the two countries and the significant annual trade volume, which amounts to approximately $3 billion between Iran and the Kurdistan Region. 

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★ Iran

  1. Iran Showcases Strategic Combat, Reconnaissance, and Radar Drones: In a move to assert its military capabilities and technological advancement, Iran has integrated the long-range, precision-strike capable Arash and Bavar drones, alongside the Jet Karrar drones, specialized in target engagement and aerial surveillance. This display aims to deter potential adversaries and reinforce Iran’s position on the international stage.
  2. Iran Expands Space Influence Amidst Four Ground Battlefronts. In a time when Iran is embroiled in four active combat zones, witnessing ongoing acts of violence and terrorism, Iranian leadership, under the guidance of Ayatollah Khamenei, has unveiled plans to bolster its space capabilities. As part of this endeavor, General Ali Jafarabadi, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Space Division, has declared Iran’s readiness to launch satellites for other countries—an indication of its aspirations to excel not only on Earth but also in the realm of outer space. These developments follow Iran’s successful launch of the Thuraya satellite, positioned 750 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, and its intent to launch the larger satellite carrier, Qaim-120, with the capability to reach an orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers. These strategic moves underscore Iran’s expanding influence in the military and space domains, raising concerns about their potential impact on regional stability and international security.
  3. Khamenei Renews Calls for Severed Relations with Israel. Ayatollah Khamenei, during a meeting with the organizers of Tehran’s national martyrs’ remembrance conference, emphasized the importance for Islamic nations to sever political and economic ties with Israel and to refrain from assisting it. He criticized the actions of some leaders of Islamic countries regarding Israel’s war on Gaza, labeling some of their positions as misleading. Khamenei underscored that issues such as the ceasefire in Gaza are beyond their control and in the hands of what he referred to as the “evil Zionist enemy.”
  4. Iran’s Stumbling Blocks in Green Hydrogen Market Entry. Iran, rich in natural gas, faces challenges in joining the $700 billion hydrogen market due to an underdeveloped renewable sector and reliance on natural gas for hydrogen production. Regional counterparts like Saudi Arabia and Turkey are advancing in green hydrogen, leveraging their renewable resources. Iran’s high production costs and technological limitations, along with a lack of strategic economic planning, hinder its progress in the competitive hydrogen energy landscape.
  5. Return of Iranian and Pakistani Ambassadors Following Tensions. The Iranian and Pakistani foreign ministers issued a joint statement announcing the return of their respective ambassadors to their duties on the 26th of this month after tensions arising from an exchange of airstrikes. The statement also confirmed that the Iranian Foreign Minister will visit Islamabad on January 29th at the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart. These agreements were reached following phone conversations between the foreign ministers of both countries.

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★ Syria

  1. Assad Regime Accuses Jordan of Supporting ‘Terrorists’ Since 2011. In a new development for the Assad regime, the regime’s foreign ministry has accused Jordan and neighboring countries of supporting what it describes as ‘terrorists’ since 2011. These accusations follow several Jordanian airstrikes in southern Syria since May 2023, as part of its campaign against drug smuggling. The regime, which had previously been silent about these airstrikes, accused Jordan of ignoring messages from Assad’s ministers of foreign affairs and defense. The statement concluded by reminding that ‘since 2011, Syria has suffered from the influx of tens of thousands of terrorists and the transfer of huge quantities of weapons from neighboring countries including Jordan.’ It noted that the Syrian state is seeking to contain these attacks to maintain the stability of relations between the two countries. Experts interpret the statement as an attempt by the regime to link neighboring countries’ support for the Syrian people with the rise of drug trafficking, and as a tool of revenge against Jordan and other neighboring countries. Indeed, Assad’s forces have begun to down Jordanian drones involved in chasing drug smuggling operations, according to today’s reports. It is noteworthy that previous clarifications by international officials and experts indicated that drug trade in Syria finances the spread of militias allied with Tehran.
  2. Astana Talks: 21 Rounds, No Respite for Idlib. While the Early Phoenix team in Syria was finalizing the latest news for publication today, Assad, supported by Iran and Russia, continues to target civilians in Idlib. This is happening simultaneously with the commencement of the 21st round of the Astana talks, a diplomatic effort involving Russia, Turkey, and Iran, along with the Syrian government and opposition, in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The agreement for this new round of talks comes in the wake of an aerial campaign by Turkish forces targeting positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces. This campaign has impacted critical infrastructure, power stations, and primitive oil refineries, amidst threats of a potential ground military operation at any time. Furthermore, this escalation follows recent intensified Syrian military airstrikes on Idlib since the incident involving the military academy on October 5th.

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★ Lebanon

  1. Tensions Escalate on Israel-Lebanon Border: Hezbollah’s Attack and France’s Efforts to Prevent Escalation. Hezbollah launched an attack on Israeli forces and positions and Lebanese border villages, targeting the Israeli Army’s Northern Command Center in response to Israeli assassinations and attacks in Lebanon and Syria. A large number of rockets were fired at the Mount Meron base in the second attack of this kind within 3 weeks. The attack caused minor damage to the Meron base. Hezbollah also attacked a group of Israeli soldiers at Cobra Hill. In response, the Israeli military spokesperson, Avichay Adraee, confirmed that projectiles crossed the border from Lebanon and some were successfully intercepted, and there were no serious injuries, but some infrastructure was damaged. The reciprocal shelling raises the problem of residents not returning to Israeli settlements in the north, and Israeli ministers held a special meeting to discuss the situation. The Israeli Defense Minister affirms Israel’s readiness to face any escalation in tensions with Hezbollah. The Israeli army bombed the outskirts of several Lebanese towns, and a drone bombed agricultural land in Wazzani. Houses in the border town of Bleda were bombed. On another note, France said it wants to avoid escalation on the border between Israel and Lebanon and asserts that no one wants war. The priority is the implementation of UN Resolution 1701, which calls on all armed parties to refrain from firing and withdraw from disputed areas. The Israeli military considers Hezbollah’s attacks a violation of this resolution, while the Lebanese Prime Minister says Lebanon is ready to implement international resolutions if Israel withdraws from the disputed territories. France’s efforts aim to prevent escalation and maintain stability in the region. The caretaker Prime Minister of Lebanon, Najib Mikati, praised Hezbollah’s restraint despite the rising death toll among its members due to clashes with Israel in southern Lebanon. The death toll due to Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon has risen to more than 200 people, most of them from Hezbollah. Israel has moved to a strategy of targeted killing in recent weeks after months of ongoing clashes with Hezbollah. Mikati confirmed that Hezbollah is exercising restraint to preserve Lebanon’s interest and avoid engagement in an open war. He referred to an acceptable proposal presented by the American mediator Hochstein, aimed at achieving relative stability on the border and repatriating displaced residents on both sides of the border after Hezbollah’s withdrawal eight kilometers from the border, with the postponement of the issue of demarcating land borders and occupied territories to a later time after stability returns to the border.

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★ Israel and the Palestinian territories

  1. Continued Tension in Gaza: New Ceasefire Proposal and Escalation of Military Action. In the ongoing developments in Gaza, Israel has put forth a new plan for a ceasefire, marked by an extended duration and deeper implications. According to reports, this new proposal bears some resemblance to previous ceasefire offers in Gaza, but it surpasses them in terms of both its duration and depth. Israel has presented this fresh initiative through Qatari and Egyptian mediators, suggesting a ceasefire against Hamas in Gaza for a period of up to two months. As part of this proposal, there would be a gradual release of 136 hostages held in Gaza, adding a significant dimension to the negotiations. Additionally, the plan includes provisions for the departure of senior Hamas leaders from the region and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from major residential areas in Gaza. This would be coupled with a gradual process aimed at returning Palestinians to their homes in the northern part of the strip. Simultaneously, recent military events have seen the imposition of a cordon around the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza by Israeli forces, further intensifying the region’s tensions and conflicts. The Israeli military has announced the completion of the encirclement and has launched a wide-scale offensive in the area, resulting in the loss of several Palestinian militants’ lives. At the same time, reports have surfaced regarding an explosion in the region, leading to the unfortunate demise of 24 Israeli soldiers. Investigations into the causes of this explosion are still ongoing.

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★ Egypt

  1. Sisi and Putin Inaugurate Work on the Fourth Unit of El-Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin supervised the start of concrete pouring for the fourth unit of the El-Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant via video conference, reflecting deepened cooperation between Egypt and Russia. The El-Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant, costing $30 billion, is one of the most strategic projects between the two countries, including four nuclear reactors from Generation 3+ with a total capacity of 4800 megawatts. The plant aims to enhance the Egyptian economy and support modern industries, marking a key step in Egypt’s approach to diversifying energy sources and reducing reliance on fossil fuels, with the first reactor expected to be operational by 2028. The partnership between the two countries spans various fields like agriculture and energy, and Egypt is expected to join the “BRICS” group, which would enhance its strategic position in international relations.
  2. Egypt Identifies Hamas’ Internal Divisions as Key Barrier in Gaza Peace Talks.  Egypt asserts that internal divisions within Hamas constitute the primary obstacle in the negotiations aimed at ending the war in Gaza. Egypt plays an active role in a plan supported by the United States and Qatar, with its phased negotiations taking place in Cairo. The Egyptian proposal includes the establishment of a “Gaza Reconstruction Fund” and providing security guarantees for Hamas’ political leaders. According to Egyptian officials, the split within Hamas, especially between its leaders in Doha and the movement’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, regarding disarmament, hinders progress in the talks. The Doha-based leaders view disarmament as a crucial step post-war, while Sinwar strongly opposes this direction.

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★ The Arabian Gulf

  1. The United States Supplies Qatar with Advanced ‘Ababil’ Aircraft to Enhance Its Aerial Capabilities. Qatar inaugurated the ‘Ababil’ fighter jet (F15 QA), a new model of the American-made ‘F-15’ aircraft, which represents a leap in its air force strength. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, opened the new aircraft wing at Al Udeid Air Base. The aircraft is equipped with high-end technologies including advanced electronic flight systems, a fully digital glass cockpit, modern sensors, an upgraded radar, and sophisticated electronic warfare capabilities. These aircraft enhance Qatar’s aerial superiority in the Gulf region.
  2. Houthi Attacks Shake and Impact Qatar’s Economy. Qatar expresses its concern over the increasing Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, which affects its trade and forces ships to change their course towards Europe. The spokesperson for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majed Al-Ansari, emphasizes the importance of dialogue with Iran and warns of escalating tensions. He stresses that the developments pose a regional threat and affect security and the economy. The United States and Britain respond with strikes against the Houthis, and Qatar supports efforts to de-escalate. The impact extends to regional security and economies dependent on safe navigation.

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★ Türkiye

  1. Turkish Parliament Approves Sweden’s NATO Membership. The Turkish Parliament has approved a bill allowing Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), approximately 20 months after Sweden’s application for membership. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to sign the bill into law soon. Despite its opposition to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Turkey has criticized Western sanctions against Russia. Hungary remains the only country yet to approve Sweden’s NATO membership.

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📌 Incase you missed it,

🌍 The Region Jan 22, 2024

📰 The Early Phoenix January 19, 2024

📰 The Early Phoenix January 18, 2024

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