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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 3, 2023

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

  1. ★ Iranian Army Plans Major Drone Exercise
  2. ★ Israel’s Defense Exports Surge, Drone Sales to Countries Increase 40% Since 2020
  3. ★ Egypt’s President Al-Sisi-Third-Term Candidacy
  4. ★ Assad-Chinese Council Convenes in Damascus
  5. ★ Saudi-Iran Football Match Canceled Due to Soleimani Statue
  6. ★ Lebanese Exploration Blocks Under International Bids
  7. ★ Turkiye to Resume Iraqi Oil Pipeline Operations

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$1 SYRIA IRAN IRAQ EGYPT TURKIYE ISRAEL
13,350 49,500 1,318 30 27.6 3.8

THE EARLY PHOENIX

IRAN

  1. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Arrests Spy Cell Using Starlink to Incite Chaos (Sharq Awsat). The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has arrested a five-member “spy cell” in Zahedan, Balochistan Province, for allegedly using Starlink internet equipment to incite unrest. The cell is accused of collaborating with the People’s Mujahedin Organization and a foreign intelligence agency. The arrests come during ongoing protests and a security crackdown in the region.
  2. Saudi-Iran Football Match Canceled Due to Soleimani Statue (Anadolu Agency). A scheduled football match between Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad and Iran’s Sepahan was abruptly canceled. Reports suggest the Saudi team withdrew due to a statue of the late Iranian General Qassem Soleimani inside the stadium. The Asian Football Association cited “unanticipated” reasons for the cancellation, and both countries’ football federations have yet to comment.
  3. Iranian Army Plans Major Drone Exercise: Regional Security Implications (Iran Front). The Iranian Army is set to conduct a major joint military exercise involving unmanned aircraft. The drill will include participation from the Ground Force, Navy, Air Force, and Air Defense Force, covering large areas of central and southern Iran. This development comes as Iran has made significant advancements in drone technology, even attracting purchase inquiries from European countries. The upcoming exercise could have implications for regional security dynamics. 
  4. Iran’s Syria Arms Deal: Impact on U.S., Israel, and Regional Stability (Jerusalem Post). A Kuwaiti report claims Iran is brokering an arms deal involving Hezbollah, Russia, and Syrian Arab tribes. The deal aims to upgrade Hezbollah’s arsenal with new Iranian weapons while supplying older arms to Russia and the tribes. This could challenge U.S. and Israeli interests and shift the regional power balance.
  5. Iran’s Social Unrest: Women’s Rights, Afghan Influx, and Growing Dissent (Iran International). Iran faces mounting internal challenges as women defy mandatory hijab laws, nearly 2.5 million Afghans strain resources in Tehran, and public sentiment turns against the legacy of the 1979 revolution. These issues highlight the regime’s struggle with social, economic, and political discontent, leading to international scrutiny and internal unrest. For a more in depth report into Iran’s military, political, and social unrest, read the Region
  6. Rouhani Eyes Assembly Seat Amidst Conservative Control. (Amwaj). During conservative dominance and the aging of current Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, the next election is pivotal for succession. The Assembly’s historical difference suggests continued conservative influence.
  7. Iran faces challenges as Azerbaijan gains control in Karabakh. (Bayan Media).  Iran faces complex geopolitics as Azerbaijan advances in Karabakh, threatening Tehran’s European gateway. It supports a political Armenia-Azerbaijan resolution for stability but is concerned about losing access to Europe due to recent Karabakh developments. Outdated foreign policy and Azerbaijan’s Israel ties complicate Iran’s stance, putting its regional strategy in question.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

IRAQ

  1. Iraqi President Calls on Turkey to Respect Sovereignty Amid Airspace Violations (Al Hadath). Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid calls for a security agreement with Turkiye, citing daily airspace violations and civilian casualties. Rashid emphasizes the need for Turkiye to respect Iraq’s sovereignty, particularly in the Kurdistan region.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Attends Expo Qatar 2023 (Shafaq News). Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani attends Expo Qatar 2023 in Doha, a first-of-its-kind event centered on gardening, climate change, and desertification. The expo offers Iraq an opportunity to gain insights and form international partnerships in agricultural development and combating desertification.
  3. Iraq Submits Security Report to Iran (Iraqi News). Iraq’s National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji led a delegation to Tehran to deliver a joint report from Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government on the status of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups near the border. The visit aims to discuss the implementation of a security agreement between Iraq and Iran concerning these groups. Iran has previously threatened military action if these forces are not disarmed and moved away from its borders.
  4. Iraqi Christian Leaders Seek International Probe into Hamdaniyah Fire (Al Hurra). Christian religious figures in northern Iraq are calling for an international investigation into the Hamdaniyah fire that killed over 100 people. Father Boutros Shito, who lost family members in the fire, insists the incident was intentional, contradicting the Interior Ministry’s claim that it was accidental. The tragedy has intensified concerns about the dwindling Christian population in Iraq, which has faced persecution and a decline in numbers since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

THE GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Saudi Arabia Forecasts $21 Billion Deficit (Al Monitor). Saudi Arabia expects a $21 billion deficit for the financial year ending in 2024, revising its earlier forecasts of surpluses. The deficit is attributed to oil cuts and funding for Vision 2030 projects aimed at diversifying the economy. Despite global challenges, the kingdom maintains it is in a resilient fiscal position.
  2. Gulf Nations to Invest $325 Billion in Energy Projects, UAE Leads (Khaleej Online). Gulf countries plan to spend $325 billion on future energy projects, including oil, gas, and petrochemicals. The UAE leads with 29% of the planned spending, amounting to $93.9 billion. Saudi Arabia and Oman follow with $84.4 billion and $79 billion, respectively. The region is also focusing on reducing fossil fuel dependency by investing in renewable energy.
  3. Yemen Special Forces Chief Survives Car Bomb: 6 Injured, AQAP Suspected (Xinhua). Chief Fadhal Baash of Yemen’s special security forces survived a car bomb attack in Abyan province. The attack injured six bodyguards but Baash was unharmed. Authorities suspect al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is behind the attack. The incident highlights ongoing instability in Yemen.
  4. Yemen Food Crisis Worsens: Prices Soar 300% (Yemen Online). Humanitarian organizations warn of a dire economic crisis in Yemen, particularly in areas controlled by the Internationally Recognized Government (IRG). Food prices have surged 300%, and over 50% of households in IRG-controlled areas can’t meet basic food needs. The crisis exacerbates unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition, disproportionately affecting women and children.
  5. Houthis Attack Yemen Military Camp: Drone and Rocket Strike Kills One (Sharq Awsat). Houthi militias launched a drone and rocket attack on a military camp in Yemen’s Saada province, killing one and injuring several. The attack targeted a military parade and came days after Houthis attacked Bahraini troops, killing four. The military repelled the attack, downing several drones, and warned that such actions hinder peace efforts.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Egypt’s President Al-Sisi Announces Third-Term Candidacy (France 24). Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi confirmed his candidacy for a third term in the presidential elections scheduled for December 10-12. The announcement comes as Egypt faces an economic crisis, including record inflation and a significant decline in the value of the pound. Only one opposition candidate, Ahmed Al-Tantawi, has begun an election campaign against Sisi.
  2. Massive Fire Engulfs Ismailia Security Directorate in Egypt, Dozens Injured (Sharq Awsat). A large fire broke out at the Security Directorate building in Ismailia, Egypt, resulting in dozens of injuries and the collapse of the building’s main facade. Firefighting teams controlled the fire and rescue teams are working to free those trapped. Causes of the fire are still unclear.
  3. Egypt Faces $29.2 Billion Debt Repayment in 2024 (The New Arab). The Central Bank of Egypt has announced that the country is due to repay $29.2 billion in 2024, nearly a fifth of its total external debt obligations. This amount is significantly higher than the estimated debt service bill for the current year, which stands at $19.3 billion. Egypt’s external debt rose to $165.4 billion at the end of the third quarter of the 2022/2023 fiscal year. The country is also in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund regarding a $3 billion loan program. Economist Hani Genena expects the IMF loan to potentially increase to $6-8 billion following economic reforms.
  4. Algeria Mediates Niger’s Political Crisis After July Coup (Arabic Post). Algeria announced that Niger has accepted its mediation offer to resolve the country’s political crisis following a July coup. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has assigned Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf to initiate talks in Niamey. The initiative aims to restore constitutional order and involves multi-level consultations.
  5. UN Envoy Worries About Disorganized Flood Relief in Southern Libya (Al Moraqb). UN envoy Abdullah Batili voices concern over uncoordinated reconstruction efforts following devastating floods in Ubari, southern Libya. Local authorities are assessing damage and suspending studies in affected regions.
  6. Morocco Q2 2023 Economic Growth Fueled by Agricultural Sector Surge (SNA Business). Morocco’s economy expanded by 2.3% in Q2 2023, up from 2.2% year-over-year. Agricultural activities increased by 6.3%, while the industrial sector contracted by 2.8%.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1.  IDF Investigates Surge in Migrant Boats Reaching Israeli Shores Undetected (I24). The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are investigating a migrant boat incident in Netanya. Passports and personal items were found on board, indicating a rising trend in such incidents since 2017. IDF Navy and Israel Police are searching for the occupants, while radar systems are under review for improvements.
  2. Netanyahu Denies Rift with Ben Gvir Over Security Meeting Exclusion (Sharq Awsat). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied media reports suggesting a rift with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir over his exclusion from a recent security meeting. Netanyahu stated that the meeting was focused on Iran and did not fall under Ben Gvir’s jurisdiction. The media had reported that Ben Gvir was excluded due to fears of information leaks and his controversial proposals.
  3. Israel Accuses France of Ignoring Hezbollah’s Growing Influence in Lebanon During Border Tensions (I24). Israel criticizes France for ignoring Hezbollah near the border. Foreign Ministry summons French deputy ambassador amid tensions over Hezbollah’s activities in Israeli territories. Israeli officials warn France’s alignment with Lebanon could hinder negotiations. France’s UNIFIL mandate draft changed after pressure from the US, Israel, and Security Council members.
  4. Israeli Authorities Close Ibrahimi Mosque, Allow Settler Entry to Al-Aqsa During Sukkot Celebrations (TRT Arabic). Tensions rise in East Jerusalem as Ibrahimi Mosque closed to Muslims during Sukkot, allowing settler access. Al-Aqsa Mosque sees hundreds of Israeli settlers with age restrictions for Palestinians. 859 settlers entered Al-Aqsa on the first day of Sukkot, causing increased regional tension.
  5. Israel’s Defense Exports Surge, Drone Sales to Countries Increase 40% Since 2020 (Al Monitor). Israel’s defense exports surged with drone sales up 40% since 2020. The Israeli Defense Ministry approved drone sales to 56 countries in 2022, compared to 41 in 2021 and 40 in 2020. Munitions sales rose by 45%, while intelligence and cyber systems increased by 24%. These exports, totaling $12.55 billion in 2022, benefited from the 2020 Abraham Accords, leading to $3 billion in exports to Arab nations in 2022. The growth continues with a commitment to sell the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system to Germany in 2023.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

SYRIA

  1. Skyrocketing Prices and Declining Production in Regime-Controlled Areas (Sham News). Syrian businesses face capital depletion and resource scarcity due to rising expenses and obstructive laws. Imports plummeted from 18 billion euros in 2010 to 2.2 billion euros by August 2023. Soaring costs of essentials like food and fuel strain citizens. Ineffective governance, scarce importers, and higher energy prices worsen the situation. While Prime Minister Hussein Arnous seeks practical solutions, Syria’s economic prospects remain grim.
  2. ISIS Intensifies Attacks on Iranian-Backed Militias in Eastern Homs (Aleppo Today). ISIS has intensified attacks on Iranian militias in eastern Homs, Syria. A landmine explosion killed two members of the “Al-Baqir Brigade” and injured two others on the M20 highway near Sukhna. Sukhna is a key base for Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah-backed militias. This surge in ISIS activity aligns with increased assaults on Assad’s forces and their allies. Consequently, heightened security measures, including extra patrols, are being implemented, raising security concerns in the region.
  3. Syrian-Chinese Council Convenes in Damascus: Aims to Boost Trade (Syria TV). The Syrian-Chinese Council convened in Damascus to boost economic cooperation. This follows President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to China. Muhammad Hamsho, council head, aims to strengthen economic ties and support Syrian exports to China. The Caesar Act’s sanctions from Washington present obstacles. The council suggests creating a joint office for addressing money transfer challenges and forming agreements for potential food exports. The U.S. maintains that Chinese aid to Syria won’t happen while sanctions are in effect.
  4. Syria Signals Renewed Diplomatic Ties with Saudi Arabia (Syria TV). Syria is signaling the resumption of diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, as announced by Deputy Foreign Minister Bassam Sabbagh during his visit to Saudi Arabia. This comes after years of severed relations and Saudi support for the Syrian opposition. However, the normalization process has slowed down due to Syria’s unmet demands and faces criticism from Western countries. An anti-normalization bill in the U.S. Senate further complicates the situation.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye to Resume Iraqi Oil Pipeline Operations Following Payment Dispute Resolution (New Arab). Turkiye announced the resumption of an Iraqi oil pipeline that was halted in March due to a payment dispute with the Kurdish autonomous region. The pipeline, which previously exported about 450,000 barrels per day, will restart operations this week.
  2. Turkish Coast Guard Rescues 374 Migrants in Aegean Sea (Anadolu Agency). Türkiye’s Coast Guard rescued 374 irregular migrants in the Aegean Sea, including 41 off the coast of Datca district in Mugla province and 165 off Canakkale province. An additional 68 migrants were rescued off Izmir province after being pushed into Turkish waters by Greek forces. Türkiye and global rights organizations have criticized Greece for its illegal pushback practices, citing violations of international law and humanitarian values.
  3. Ankara Bombing: Turkiye’s Counterterrorism Measures and Global Implications (ACLS). On October 1, 2023, a suicide bombing near Ankara’s General Directorate of Security and Parliament building left two police officers injured. The PKK claimed responsibility for the attack, prompting Turkiye to launch airstrikes on PKK sites in northern Iraq. President Erdogan vowed to continue the fight against terrorism, while international leaders condemned the attack. The incident has led to heightened security measures and could have far-reaching implications for Turkiye’s relations with NATO and the U.S., particularly in the realms of intelligence sharing and military cooperation.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

LEBANON

  1. Total Energies, Eni, and Qatar Energy Bid for Lebanese Exploration Blocks (Al Maydeen). A consortium including Total Energies, Eni, and Qatar Energy has applied to bid on two blocks in Lebanon’s maritime waters in the second licensing round. These companies already hold petroleum rights in the fourth and ninth blocks, with Qatar having a 30% share and the European firms sharing the remaining 70% equally.
  2. Lebanese Internal Security Forces Face Morale Drop and Desertions (Sharq Awsat). Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) are grappling with numerous challenges, including heightened security risks, an economic downturn, and decreased morale among personnel due to salary cuts and lost benefits. Brigadier General Rabih Mujaes’ telegram urging deserters to return was retracted due to legal issues. The ISF, with 26,000 members, has seen salaries drop from $1,000-$6,000 to $120-$800. High retirement rates and a four-year recruitment freeze have worsened its human resource crisis.

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For more information contact rkisar@americancenter.org

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