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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 4, 2023

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

Top 5 Headlines in THE EARLY PHOENIX: 

  • Moroccan King Excludes French and American Ambassadors Over Western Sahara Positions
  • Turkiye’s Strategic Push for Zangezur Corridor Sparks Tensions with Iran
  • Fans Stone Soleimani Statue in Hilarious Twist to Canceled Soccer Showdown!
  • Qatar Initiates Expansion of North Field, Aiming to Boost LNG Production by 60% by 2027
  • Israel Expands Gazan Worker Permits, Eases Gaza Goods Entry, and Engages in Talks with Qatar for Hamas Salaries

THE EARLY PHOENIX

THE EARLY PHOENIX

Currencies:

$1 SYRIA IRAN IRAQ EGYPT TURKIYE ISRAEL
13,125 49,500 1,310 30 27.8 3.8

THE EARLY PHOENIX

USA

  1. Kevin McCarthy Steps Down as Speaker but Pledges Unwavering Commitment to American Governance (CBS). Kevin McCarthy, the 55th Speaker of the House, recounted his improbable journey from a working-class background in Bakersfield, California, to becoming one of the most powerful figures in American politics. He emphasized the importance of perseverance, citing his initial rejection for a congressional internship for the very seat he would later hold. McCarthy defended his record, highlighting his commitment to governance over grievance and his efforts to build coalitions. Despite losing a vote that led to his decision not to run for Speaker again, he expressed pride in his accomplishments and optimism for the future. He concluded by encouraging the younger generation to visit the Capitol and engage in public service. An Arabic-subtitled video of his speech is available in this link.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

TURKIYE

  1. Erdogan Seeks Allied Support in Turkiye’s Anti-Terror Efforts (Al Nahar). As Predicted in the Region’s Section: ‘Turkiye’s Possible Three-Pronged Responses: Military Escalations, NATO Cooperation, and U.S. Diplomatic Strains’, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated today that he expects “tangible support from allies” in Turkiye’s fight against terrorism. Turkish police have conducted nationwide raids, arresting dozens suspected of ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Furthermore, Turkiye announced today that the attack on the interior ministry is linked to Syria. One assailant, Hasan Oğuz, was reported to have association with the PKK and is believed to have entered Turkiye from Syria. The probe also focuses on the origin of the weapons and explosives used, which are also being reported to have been smuggled from Syria. The United States would benefit from preparing for all the possible upcoming scenarios.   
  2. Turkiye’s Strategic Push for Zangezur Corridor Sparks Tensions with Iran (Al Hurra). Turkiye aims to open the Zangezur Corridor, connecting Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan and bypassing Iran. President Erdogan’s announcement has been met with stern warnings from Iran, cautioning geopolitical instability. The corridor could reshape regional dynamics, affecting Iran’s influence and transit income, while bolstering Turkiye-Azerbaijan relations. 
  3. Turkiye Emerges as Europe’s Natural Gas Lifeline (Star). Turkiye is leveraging its strategic position to become Europe’s key natural gas supplier, especially in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. With new export agreements in place, Turkiye aims to fill the energy void in Europe and establish itself as a pivotal natural gas hub.
  4. France Stirs Controversy Over Karabakh; Foreign Minister Targets Turkiye’s Territorial Integrity (Sabah). France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna faces backlash for a social media post implying Mount Ararat as part of Armenia, challenging Turkiye’s territorial integrity. This follows Azerbaijan’s successful anti-terror operation in Karabakh, which has been largely cleared of armed groups despite ongoing disinformation campaigns, particularly from some Armenian circles.
  5. UK and Turkiye Negotiate Financing for Third Railway Project (Al Monitor). The UK’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), is in talks with Turkiye to finance a third railway project. This follows UKEF’s recent underwriting of £781 million for a high-speed electric railway in southern Turkiye. The negotiations align with the UK’s broader infrastructure and sustainable energy interests in the region.
  6. Erdoğan Urges Removal of “Coup-Constitutional Shackles” as Turkiye Nears 100th Republic Anniversary (Star). In a recent speech, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan emphasized the need for a new constitution, stating that it’s time to “remove the shackles” imposed by past military coups, specifically referring to the coups of May 27, 1960, and September 12, 1980. Erdoğan expressed that these “coup-constitutional shackles” have hindered Turkiye’s progress and that the country should aim for a more democratic and civil constitution as it approaches its 100th Republic anniversary.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

IRAN

  1. The Hidden Crisis: Region’s Deep Dive Exposes Iran’s Economic Woes Contradicting State Media (ACLS). Despite state media’s rosy outlook, the Region’s report reveals a grim Iranian economy with only 27.5% formal employment and a poverty rate exceeding 50%. This aligns with Fraser Institute’s ranking of Iran at 160th out of 165 in economic freedom, spotlighting government corruption and a lack of financial transparency.
  2. Fans Stone Soleimani Statue in Hilarious Twist to Canceled Soccer Showdown! (Al Arabiya). After the cancellation of a match between Saudi Al-Ittihad and Iranian Sepahan Isfahan due to political banners, tens of thousands of Iranian fans pelted a statue of Qasem Soleimani with stones and water bottles. Chants of “We don’t want to politicize football” and “dictator” filled the air.
  3. Iran Plays the ‘Political Card’ in Response to Bombshell Report on Influence Network in the U.S. (Iran International). After a week of silence, Iran’s Foreign Ministry commented on Iran International’s expose revealing an Iranian influence network connected to U.S. officials. Spokesman Nasser Kanaani sidestepped direct questions, framing the issue as U.S. domestic politics. The report has stirred debates in Iranian media, questioning the regime’s secrecy and impact on U.S.-Iran diplomatic relations.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

IRAQ

  1. Iranian Military Delegation in Kurdistan to Discuss Security Deal with Baghdad (Kurdistan 24). An Iranian military delegation visited Kurdistan to discuss the implementation of a security agreement between Baghdad and Tehran aimed at moving Kurdish-Iranian militant groups away from the borders. The visit follows recent trips by Iraqi and Kurdish security officials to Tehran and comes during a UN-backed dialogue. Iran has threatened to resume drone and artillery attacks if the militant groups are not moved by September 19.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

THE GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Sanaa Rejects Bilateral Deal with Saudi Arabia, Calls for Inclusive Negotiations (Al Khaber Al Yemeni). Sanaa has declined a bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia, insisting on the inclusion of all relevant parties. The announcement comes as Oman-led negotiations between the two sides are set to resume. Abdul Qadir Al-Murtada, head of the Prisoners’ Committee, stated that Sanaa holds Saudi and Sudanese prisoners and is open to a comprehensive prisoner exchange deal. The move underscores Sanaa’s demand for addressing key humanitarian issues before engaging in political talks.
  2. Bahraini Forces Conduct Retaliatory Operation on Saudi-Yemen Border(Al Khaber Al Yemeni). Bahraini forces have carried out an operation on the Saudi-Yemen border in response to an attack that killed several of their officers. The operation followed an investigation into an earlier attack on forces led by Yasser Majli, brother of pro-Emirati Presidential Council member Othman Majli. Saudi officers leading the investigation have indirectly implicated the Majli forces in the attack on the Bahraini unit and have requested the handover of those described as “Houthis.” Tensions are rising as Saudi leaders aim to prevent a clash between Emirati and Bahraini forces in the border region.
  3. Qatar Initiates Expansion of North Field, Aiming to Boost LNG Production by 60% by 2027 (Al Nahar). Qatar has begun the expansion of its North Field, one of the world’s largest natural gas fields, with the aim of increasing its LNG production by 60% to 126 million tons annually by 2027. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, attended the foundation-laying ceremony and emphasized the project’s role in strengthening Qatar’s global LNG production. The expansion comes due increasing demand for Qatari gas, particularly from Asian countries and Europe, which has been seeking alternatives since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  4. Saudi Arabia’s E-commerce Sector Soars with 21% Growth in Q2 2023: A Pillar of Vision 2030 (Sharq Awsat). Saudi Arabia’s e-commerce sector surged by 21% in Q2 2023, reaching 35,314 registered companies. Bolstered by digital infrastructure and government initiatives under Vision 2030, online sales hit $33 billion in 2022. The sector is poised for continued growth.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Sisi’s Re-Election Celebration Turns into a Parade of Opposition! (New Arab).  Hours after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced his bid for a third term, a rally in Marsa Matruh turned into demonstrations against him. Residents tore down Sisi’s propaganda banners and clashed with security forces. The unrest comes due to the growing dissatisfaction with Sisi’s administration and economic conditions in the region.
  2. Contrasting Approaches to Derna’s Reconstruction in Libya (Sharq Awsat). Libya’s Unity Government seeks cooperation and transparency in Derna’s recovery, while a Western diplomatic mission backs UN envoy Batili’s call for unified aid efforts. In contrast, a parallel government promises immediate assistance to municipalities, and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar inspects recovery work. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi commended the House of Representatives for election law approval. The Libyan Parliament approves a law to establish a Derna Reconstruction Authority, initially proposed for broader reconstruction, now focusing on disaster response. 
  3. Tunisian President Rejects EU’s “Meager & Contradictory” Payment, Deeming it “Charity” (France 24). Tunisia rejects EU financial aid of €42 million out of a total €105 million to curb illegal immigration. President Kais Saied considers it “charity” and inconsistent with their agreement and the spirit of the Rome conference held in July. The funds aimed to rehabilitate Tunisian coast guard boats, cooperate with international organizations for migrant protection, and organize return flights to migrants’ home countries. The agreement also included €150 million in direct EU assistance to Tunisia’s 2023 budget to address economic difficulties.
  4. Moroccan King Excludes French and American Ambassadors Over Western Sahara Positions (Al Quds). King Mohammed VI of Morocco’s exclusion of the French and American ambassadors from official accreditation raised questions about their positions on the Western Sahara conflict and the United Nations. It’s seen as a diplomatic message to urge allied countries to take a clear stance on the Sahara conflict. Morocco has expressed concerns about the US’s ambiguous position on the Sahara, particularly after Secretary Blinken’s statement supporting UN envoy Staffan de Mistura’s efforts without explicitly mentioning Moroccan sovereignty. Morocco’s reservations about the UN envoy’s approach to marginalize autonomy proposals explain their actions. Excluding the French Ambassador, Christopher Lecourtier, reflects tensions between Morocco and France due to Paris’s perceived obstruction of EU support for autonomy in Western Sahara. This move underscores strained relations between Morocco and France and concerns over the US’s stance on the issue. Meanwhile, Secretary Blinken is set to visit Morocco in October to align discussions on the Sahara issue in the Security Council.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 

  1. Israeli Ministry Blocks European Ministers’ Visit to West Bank Palestinian Villages (AlWatan). The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied visits by Ireland, Norway, and Britain’s foreign ministers to Palestinian villages in Area C of the West Bank. Israel cited security concerns, fearing escalation and violence. The right-wing government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has intensified demolitions and displacements in Area C, despite its intended expansion for the Palestinian Authority. Settlement organizations are pressuring the government to hinder European aid to Palestinians in this region.
  2. Israel Expands Gazan Worker Permits, Eases Gaza Goods Entry, and Engages in Talks with Qatar for Hamas Salaries (Sharq Awsat). These measures are designed to reinforce American efforts in talks with Saudi Arabia by preventing Gaza-related tensions. Due to a recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Joe Biden highlighted that averting violence against Palestinians would enhance US-Saudi communication, signaling a show of strength in support of these negotiations. Meanwhile, Palestinian Islamic Jihad test-fired rockets toward the Mediterranean Sea, leading to an alert in southern Israel. These launches occurred after a hiatus in border riots and incendiary balloon attacks. The rockets were directed seaward and did not breach Israeli territory. The group characterized the event as a live fire drill simulating raids on Israeli military sites, including advanced offensive maneuvers. The timing coincided with increased Jewish visits to the Temple Mount during Sukkot.
  3. Israel Ranks High in TikTok Content Removal with 12.75% Rate (Jerusalem Post). Israel featured prominently in Canopy.us’ analysis of TikTok content removal rates, with 12.75% of videos removed from January to March 2023. Pakistan led the list with a 70.91% removal rate. The primary reasons for removal were minor safety concerns (30%), followed by the display of illegal activities and adult content. Israel’s strict moderation is in response to issues like cyberbullying, predatory behavior, and scams, despite the app’s 13+ age restriction. The UK also displayed active content removal practices, nearly 20% of videos were removed, reflecting a wider trend in content management.
  4. Leader of Afghan National Resistance Front Open to Cooperation with Israel for Peace (Jerusalem Post). Ahmed Massoud, leader of the Afghan National Resistance Front seeks support from any party backing their cause against terrorism and ignorance. Massoud, who studied at elite institutions and leads the resistance, aims for international backing in Europe and a democratic Afghan government that decides its international relations, including cooperation with Israel. He emphasizes the global need for peace and dialogue.
  5. Ben Gvir’s Anti-Terrorism Online Unit: 34 Arrests, 100 Investigations, 759 Posts Removed (Jerusalem Post). Since 2022, the Anti-Terrorism Online Operation Unit led by Itamar Ben Gvir has arrested 34 individuals for online terrorism incitement, conducted 100 investigations, and removed 759 posts from social media. The unit comprises various security personnel and prosecutors, effectively countering online radicalization and incitement to terrorism.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

SYRIA

  1. Critical Alert: Europe Must Intensify Asylum Seeker Vetting in Wake of Tishreen Torture Report (Syria TV). A Saydnaya Prison report exposes Tishreen Military Hospital’s role in detainee torture since 2011. The findings, based on 154 interviews, implicate medical and military staff in these acts. Detainees are isolated and tortured, with death certificates issued to legitimize the crimes. The hospital, with a capacity of 1,200 beds, was initially lightly armed but later reinforced. The report also notes 30 similar Syrian hospitals. Critically, some involved officials are now residing in Europe.
  2. Nasrallah Blames U.S. Caesar Act, Practices Taqiyya on Israel Demarcation—No Government in Sight (OpEd Summary). Hassan Nasrallah, Iran’s Hizballah proxy in Lebanon, blames the U.S. Caesar Act for Syria’s economic woes while using recent atrocities as a bargaining chip for a “unified Lebanese strategy.” On the Israel-Lebanon demarcation issue, he feigns patriotic concern before sharply veering off course to announce this issue as a matter in the hands of the government, much like a reckless driver on the Shtoura mountains pretending his mother was driving after being stopped by the cops. As Nasrallah continues his political zigzagging, Lebanon sinks further into poverty and chaos, making its civil war era look like a free market paradise.
  3. Israel Strikes Back: Decisive Blow to Pro-Iran Forces in Syria Signals Unyielding Vigilance (Sharq Awsat). In a powerful move to deter Iran’s influence in Syria, Israel is suspected to have launched an airstrike that eliminated six pro-Iranian fighters in eastern Syria. This decisive action comes on the heels of another Israeli strike that injured two Syrian soldiers near Deir ez-Zor. The strikes have significantly impacted Iran-backed groups, including the destruction of a critical radar point. Israel’s unyielding vigilance sends a strong message, disrupting Iran’s attempts to establish a military foothold in the region.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

LEBANON

  1. Escalating Clampdown on Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Sparks Discrimination Concerns (Al Hurra). Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Abdullah Bouhabib, highlights international resistance to Syrian refugee repatriation. Criticizing Western nations for unfulfilled funding commitments to host countries, Bouhabib reveals Lebanon’s pursuit of voluntary returns citing the economic turmoil. However, concerns about refugees’ safety in Syria persist among international organizations. Lebanon’s aggressive measures against refugees, including curfews and rental restrictions, raise systemic racism concerns. Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Bassam Mawlawi, considers the Syrian exodus an “existential threat,” while General Joseph Aoun discusses confronting refugees. Municipalities, including Beirut and Dekwaneh, enforce these measures, and Ghobeiry municipality intensifies inspections, prompting shop closures. Hezbollah supports refugee return, and over 40% of Lebanon’s population is now Syrian, driven by births, marriages, and polygamy, particularly in Tripoli and Baalbek.
  2. Lebanese Political Leader Geagea Addresses Presidential Elections, Refugee Issue, and Opposition Dynamics (Beirut 24). In his comments, Geagea clarified that Qatar supports a third presidential option and criticized Gebran Bassil’s opposition to the army commander’s candidacy, suggesting it’s driven by a desire for power. Geagea indicated that he doesn’t have a veto over the army commander but will express his opinion when needed, as the decision requires careful study. He downplayed the significance of thwarting President Berri’s initiative, stating the opposition isn’t obsessed with Gebran Bassil, and doubts an understanding with Hezbollah to elect Suleiman Franjieh will be reached. Geagea also defended the Lebanese Forces’ call for Syrian refugees’ return, citing the changing circumstances and the presence of over 1.7 million refugees in Lebanon.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX

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