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THE EARLY PHOENIX – August 30, 2023

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TOP HEADLINES:

SYRIA

  1. Debt Payday: Iran’s Minister Picks Up a Payment for the  $65B IOU from Assad (Jesr Press). Leaked Document: Assad Regime Owes Iran Billions, Fate of $18 Billion Uncertain. Iran’s support in the Syrian war totals $50 billion, with $18 billion’s fate unknown. Assad owes for military and civil expenses. Amid this, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian visits Damascus a month after Syrian FM Al-Miqdad’s Tehran visit.
  2. Arrest of Deir Ezzor Military Council Leader Leads to 22 Deaths and 12-Hour Ultimatum (Syria TV).  Deir-ez-Zor’s violent clashes claimed 22 lives, including 6 SDF members, while SDF’s engagement with National Defense Forces’ vehicles escalated tensions. Amidst the turmoil, the arrest of Deir ez-Zor Military Council’s leader triggered confrontations and an Arab clan’s 12-hour ultimatum for his release. As SDF counters ISIS and Arab tribes seek solutions, the situation’s intricacy deepens with Al-Khabil’s replacement by Abu Laith Khasham. Deir-ez-Zor’s future remains uncertain, though Lilwa al-Abdullah, Council leader, praises local security engagement.
  3. As-Suwayda Protests Demand Regime Change and UN Resolution 2254 Implementation (SyriaTV). Massive protests in As-Suwayda demand Assad’s regime overthrow and UN Resolution 2254’s political transition. Demonstrations persist after ten days, aligning with regime closures and roadblocks. 
  4. Turkiye’s Forced Deportations of Syrians Escalate (NPA Syria). Turkish authorities deport 425 refugees to northern Syria in 24 hours, 160 via Tal Abyad, 265 to Idlib. Records taken to prevent return. Over 13,500 Syrians deported this month, higher rates expected next month.
  5. Autonomous Administration Hands Over 64 Children and 30 Women Linked to ISIS to Kyrgyzstan (Ronahi). North and east Syria’s Foreign Relations handed over 64 children and 30 women tied to ISIS to a Kyrgyz delegation led by Paket Kadyrov of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They discussed counterterrorism, regional issues, and returning Kyrgyz citizens. The Administration stressed transparent trials for ISIS detainees, sought global court support, and advocated Syrian-Syrian dialogue for crisis resolution.
  6. Over 112,000 Forcibly Disappeared in Syria, Says SNHR Report (Syria TV). The Syrian Network for Human Rights released its twelfth annual report, revealing over 112,000 cases of enforced disappearances in Syria until 2023, including 3,105 children and 6,698 women.

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Libya Meeting Leak Strains Negev Forum Revival and Regional Diplomacy (Times of Israel). The incident strained Israel’s U.S.-mediated diplomacy. The leak of Cohen’s meeting with Libyan counterpart Mangoush, known to Netanyahu, triggered criticism and raised doubts. Netanyahu’s directive aimed to distance himself. Arab diplomats expressed Negev Forum revival concerns, highlighting unease with Israel’s policies.
  2. Israel Tests Game-Changing Oron Surveillance Aircraft (Breaking Defense). Israel’s Defense Ministry has begun test flights for the cutting-edge Oron surveillance aircraft, a collaborative effort involving multiple defense and intelligence sectors. Packed with advanced sensors and C4I systems, Oron promises to be the world’s most advanced of its kind. Once operational, it will grant the IDF advanced real-time monitoring across terrains and weather conditions.

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Sudan Army Chief Returns from Egypt Amid Ongoing Violence in Darfur (Al Monitor). Sudanese Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan returns from his first international trip to Egypt, where he met President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The visit coincides with ongoing violence in Darfur, claiming 39 civilian lives. Both the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces face war crime accusations. The conflict continues to displace millions.
  2. Algeria Proposes Six-Axis Political Initiative to Resolve Niger Crisis (Al Jazeera). Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ataf announces a six-axis initiative to address the Niger crisis, focusing on upholding constitutional legitimacy and rejecting military intervention. The plan calls for a summit, political arrangements under national supervision, and an international development conference for the Sahel. This comes amid warnings from France of a security collapse in West Africa.

GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Kuwait and UK Forge Investment Partnership to Strengthen Bilateral Ties (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Kuwait and the UK signed an MOU for investment partnership, aiming to enhance economic, security, and cultural cooperation. Crown Prince Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and UK PM Rishi Sunak attended the signing at 10 Downing Street. 
  2. Aden Braces for Yemen Accord as Global Diplomacy Gains Momentum (Yemen Window). Aden Prepares for Yemen Agreement Amid International Diplomacy. UN envoy seeks political progress, Defense Minister responds to Houthi actions. Reports hint at imminent government-Houthi signing addressing humanitarian issues and currency unification.
  3. Houthi Militia Allegedly Aiding African Migrants for Smuggling Activities at Saudi Border (Al Arabiya). Yemeni sources report that Houthi militia is aiding African migrants’ entry to Saudi Arabia’s adjacent border for smuggling activities. The militia allegedly trains migrants in camps, arming them under self-defense pretenses. These migrants are reportedly used for smuggling, leading to clashes with Saudi border guards. Successful smugglers are rewarded with money and weapons.

IRAN

  1. Iran’s Covert Infiltration Challenges Russia in Syria (Syria TV). The Alma website uncovered Iran’s bid to infiltrate Syria’s communication networks through telecom, with the Revolutionary Guards overseeing Vatel. Key equipment from PASNA and Iran Electronic Industries enhances monitoring. Assad supports Vatel, as Iran competes for intelligence and economic benefits, challenging Russian influence. 
  2. Iran’s Trade Balance Records $5 Billion Deficit Amid Petrochemical Export Drop (Iran International). Iran’s foreign trade balance reports a deficit of nearly $5 billion for the first five months of 2023, attributed to a decline in petrochemical exports despite an overall increase in exports by 27%. The deficit is primarily due to falling global prices of petrochemicals, a major component of Iran’s exports.
  3. Hacktivists Expose Iranian Surveillance Software (Forbes). GhostSec Breaches Iranian Surveillance Software, Exposing Extensive Data: Facial Recognition, GPS Tracking, and More. The hacktivist group infiltrated Fanap Behnama, uncovering 20GB of source codes and tools for face recognition, motion detection, and citizen monitoring. GhostSec plans to share findings via ‘Iran Exposed’ Telegram channel.
  4. Iran, Russia Exploit Quran Burning Controversy in Sweden (Jerusalem Post). Swedish Minister Cautions on Iran and Russia Exploiting Quran Burnings for Misinformation, Amplifying Extremist Threats. Iran and Russia target Sweden, linking Iran to operations. Government reinforces defenses, Psychological Defense Agency counters influence, and fosters global collaboration against campaigns sowing anti-Sweden sentiments and implicating extremism. Concerns persist over Iran’s European involvement.

TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye’s Trade Deficit Swells to $12.2 Billion in July Amid Increased Imports (Turke Conom). Turkiye’s trade deficit grew to $12.2 billion in July, a 14.2% increase from the previous year. Exports rose by 8.3% to $20.1 billion, while imports increased by 10.5% to $32.3 billion. The export-to-import ratio declined to 62.2%.
  2. UN and Turkish Cypriot President Discuss Controversial Cyprus Road Construction (TRT World). Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar met with UN assistant secretary-general Miroslav Jenca to discuss a disputed road construction in Cyprus. The UN had intervened in the construction, leading Tatar to express that the project is humanitarian and born out of necessity.

IRAQ

  1. Turkish Foreign Minister Addresses Water, PKK, and Oil in Baghdad Talks (France 24). Turkish FM’s Baghdad visit tackles water scarcity, PKK presence, and resumption of Iraqi Kurdistan oil exports to Turkey. Discussions aim for sustainable dialogue on water issues and urge recognition of PKK as terrorist group. Precedes Turkish President’s visit.
  2. Kurdistan Region Estimates $5 Billion Loss from Oil Export Halt (Zagros News). KRG’s Safin Dizi: $5B losses from halted oil exports. Urges Ankara, Baghdad, Erbil cooperation to resolve obstacles. Paris Court decision incurs $5B damages to Iraq. Economic concerns rise.

LEBANON

  1. Nasrallah’s Warnings to Israel: All Bluff and Never an Act (Times of Israel). Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned of severe reactions to any Israeli assassinations on Lebanese soil, responding to veiled threats by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aimed at Hamas leaders in Lebanon. Nasrallah declared that Lebanon will not be a battleground for Israeli actions and that any shift in the rules of conflict would not be tolerated. His comments come amid heightened tensions and a recent uptick in violence in the West Bank.

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