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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Sept 12, 2023

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TOP HEADLINES:

TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye’s July Current Account Deficit Surges to $5.5 Billion, Exceeding Market Expectations (Al Sharq Al Awsat). In July, Turkiye’s current account deficit soared to $5.5 billion, exceeding the expected $4.45 billion, driven by higher gold imports, a widening trade gap, and new wage hikes. The Central Bank reported a $42.3 billion deficit for H1, following a $651 million surplus in June.
  2. Erdogan Optimistic About Resolving Syrian Crisis After Egypt Relations Restored (Al Arabiya). President Erdogan is optimistic about positive outcomes in regional issues, including Syria, amid improved Egyptian-Turkish relations. Erdogan and President El-Sisi exchanged invitations to visit Cairo, but no dates were specified. This follows the recent reconciliation between Egypt and Turkiye.
  3. Erdogan and Pashinyan Discuss Bilateral Relations and Regional Issues (Anadolu Agency). In a Monday phone call, Turkish President Erdogan and Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan discussed bilateral ties and regional stability. According to the Turkish Presidency’s Communications Department, they stressed the need for lasting peace in the region and committed to ongoing diplomatic efforts for mutual prosperity.
  4. The Kazakh President Receives Fidan in Astana (Anadolu Agency). On Monday, Kazakh President Tokayev met Turkish Foreign Minister Fidan in Astana, aiming to strengthen ties. Tokayev praised Turkiye’s global role in conflict resolution and emphasized their strategic partnership. Bilateral trade increased 54% to $6.3 billion last year, with plans to reach $10 billion soon.
  5. World Bank Grants $1 Billion for Turkish Earthquake Recovery (Hurriyet Daily News). The World Bank has allocated $1 billion to assist earthquake recovery efforts in southern Turkiye. Minister Mehmet Özhaski stated that this funding will significantly contribute to reconstruction in the affected region, with a substantial portion earmarked for housing and infrastructure projects in rural areas within the earthquake zone.
  6. Turkish Intelligence Neutralizes Senior PKK/YPG Leader in Northern Syria (TRT World). Turkish National Intelligence Service conducted a cross-border operation in northern Syria, neutralizing Muhtasem Akyurek, a prominent PKK/YPG terrorist known as Serhat Serhildan. Akyurek, active since 2015, played a vital role in the organization’s actions and armed training. His elimination is expected to disrupt PKK’s training activities in the region.

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israel Vows Action Against Iran’s Uranium Enrichment Above 60% (Jerusalem Post). Israel’s National Security Advisor, Tzachi Hanegbi, declared at the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism that Israel would respond if Iran enriched uranium beyond 60%, considering it evidence of nuclear weapons pursuit. Hanegbi emphasized that there would be no choice but to act if such enrichment occurred, with global recognition.
  2. UK foreign minister to warn of Iran threat on visit to Israel (Reuters).  British Foreign Minister James Cleverly is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories to promote renewed dialogue for a two-state solution and address regional security threats, including those posed by Iran. Cleverly will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh. In a speech at an international security conference, he will condemn Iran for supporting militant groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, accusing it of enabling terrorism.
  3. Iranian Hackers Break Into Networks of More Than 30 Companies in Israel (Ynet). Iranian hackers have breached the networks of over 30 Israeli companies, as reported by cybersecurity firm ESET. A company in Brazil and another in the United Arab Emirates were also targeted. The affected Israeli firms operate across diverse sectors, including insurance, medicine, industry, communications, IT, technology, retail, automotive, law, financial services, architecture, and civil engineering.
  4. Family of EU Diplomat Detained in Iran Appeals for His Immediate Release (Times of Israel). The family of Johan Floderus, a Swedish EU diplomat imprisoned in Iran for over 500 days, marked his 33rd birthday by pleading for his swift release. Flowers was arrested at Tehran’s airport on April 17, 2022, while returning from a trip. He had been working for the EU delegation to Afghanistan in Brussels. The family released a picture from his sole video call with them. Flowers remains in Tehran’s Evin prison.
  5. PM Netanyahu Lauds US-Led Transport Corridor as Historic Cooperation Project (Times Of Israel). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commends the newly unveiled US-supported initiative to construct a rail and freight corridor connecting India, the Middle East, Israel, and Europe. Described as the “largest cooperation project in our history,” it aims to boost economic growth, political cooperation, trade, energy transfer, and digital connectivity.

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Eastern Libya PM: Over 2,000 Dead in Devastating Floods (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Osama Hammad, the head of the eastern Libyan government supported by parliament, revealed that over 2,000 people have lost their lives due to the hurricane and torrential rains in the country. Additionally, thousands are missing, and the death toll may continue to rise. Storm “Daniel” caused widespread flooding in eastern Libyan cities.
  2. Al-Burhan Arrives in Eritrea to Discuss Developments in Sudan (Al Jazeera). Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, arrived in Asmara, Eritrea, with Foreign Minister-designate Ali Al-Sadiq and Intelligence Chief Ahmed Ibrahim Mufaddal. They met with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to discuss bilateral ties, shared concerns, and developments in the Sudanese conflict as diplomatic efforts intensify to end the war.
  3. Morocco Earthquake: Death Toll Reaches 2,700 with 2,500 Injured, Rescue Efforts Intensify (Emirates 71). Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior confirmed a rising death toll of 2,700 and 2,500 injured in the recent earthquake. Observers express concern as the number of deaths surpasses the wounded, and it is expected to rise further due to challenging access to some areas. Morocco continues diligent rescue efforts, and several countries are sending urgent aid to support the disaster-stricken nation.

GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Saudi Arabia and India Ink Deals in Renewables, Petrochemicals, Agriculture, and Industry (Al Sharq Al Wsat). Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed agreements in renewable energy, petrochemicals, agriculture, and industry during the Saudi-Indian Strategic Partnership Council meeting. Bin Salman emphasized the mutual benefits of Saudi-Indian relations, underlining the importance of the Indian community in Saudi Arabia.
  2. U.S. and Bahrain to Sign Strategic Security and Economic Agreement (YP Agency). Axios reports that the United States is set to sign a significant security and economic agreement with Bahrain, enhancing American security commitment to the Kingdom. Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, is expected to sign the agreement during his visit to Washington, where he will also meet with top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
  3. UN Security Council Urges Progress in Yemen Peace Talks and Commends Saudi-Omani Mediation (Al-Mashhad Al-Yemeni). The UN Security Council stresses the importance of making substantial advancements in the year-long Yemen peace discussions under UN auspices. The Council acknowledges the continuous support from Saudi Arabia and Oman for UN mediation efforts in Yemen and emphasizes the urgent necessity of Yemeni-Yemeni dialogue and a nationwide ceasefire.

IRAN

  1. Iran Will Not Allow Geopolitical Change in Region: Top MP (IRNA). Ali Nikzad, a top Iranian MP, reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to not allowing geopolitical changes in the region. He urged neighboring countries, including Azerbaijan, to respect international borders and highlighted Iran’s historical cooperation with Azerbaijan. Nikzad also cautioned against interference by the “illegitimate Zionist regime” and encouraged preserving bilateral relations based on cultural and religious ties while tensions persist along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border.
  2. Smuggling Iranian Oil into Pakistan: 90 Govt Officials, 29 Politicians Found Involved (Business Recorder). Pakistan faces an annual loss of over Rs60 billion due to the smuggling of 2.81 billion liters of Iranian oil, implicating 90 government officials and 29 politicians. The Civil Intelligence Agency’s report, submitted to the Prime Minister House, also links oil smuggling proceeds to terrorist activities. The report reveals that 995 petrol stations across Pakistan sell smuggled Iranian oil, including Pakistan State Oil (PSO) vehicles in transportation. Iranian oil is smuggled into Pakistan using Iranian vehicles known as Zamyad, with 76 sellers near the border engaged in the illicit trade.
  3. Trade Offers Economic Diplomacy Channel Between UAE And Iran (Iran International). As diplomatic ties between the United Arab Emirates and Iran strengthen, economic and trade associations are also growing…The two countries resumed diplomatic relations last year, the UAE sending its ambassador back to Tehran after six years of Cold War-style ties…The UAE downgraded its ties with Iran after Saudi Arabia severed its relations with Tehran in January 2016. 
  4. Iraq Destination of 18% of Iran’s Exports in 5 Months (Tasnim News). Iran exported more than $3.5 billion worth of non-oil products to neighboring Iraq in the first five months of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21 to August 22), meaning that the Arab country accounted for 18.3 percent of Iran’s total export share in this period…Iran and Iraq have targeted $20 billion in trade, Chairman of Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce Yahya Al-e Es’hagh stated.

SYRIA

  1. Turkish Authorities Deport Hundreds of Syrian Refugees (North Press).On Monday, Turkish authorities forcibly deported 580 Syrian refugees, including women and children, to areas controlled by Ankara-backed armed factions. Approximately 120 refugees were handed over at the Tal Abyad crossing in Raqqa, while over 460 were delivered to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham through the Bab al-Hawa crossing in Idlib.
  2. UN Envoy Urges Sustained Funding Amid Syria’s Deepening Economic Crisis (Syria. TV). UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen urged donors not to reduce funding for Syria amidst a worsening economic crisis. Pedersen emphasized the increasing humanitarian needs and stated that the financial situation in Syria has deteriorated even further than during the conflict. He plans to meet with foreign ministers from Arab nations, Turkiye, Russia, and Iran, to discuss the Arab Liaison Committee initiative and the resumption of Constitutional Committee meetings.
  3. First French Trial of Syrian Regime Officials Set for May (Syria. TV). The Paris Criminal Court will conduct its first trial for Syrian regime officials accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the murder of Mazen Dabbagh and Patrick Dabbagh. The problem may involve Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan, and Abdul Salam Mahmoud, who are subject to international arrest warrants and may be tried in absentia.
  4. SDF Arrests ISIS Financial Official in Deir ez-Zor Operation (Syria HR). Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) arrested the financial affairs official of ISIS during a security operation in Al-Busayrah, Deir ez-Zor. A member of ISIS cells was also apprehended in Al-Dashisha, south of Al-Hasakah, with support from the International Coalition’s aircraft.
  5. Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard Conduct Drone Training in Palmyra, Coalition Prepares for Defense (Syria HR). Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are conducting drone training exercises at Palmyra Military Airport in Syria’s eastern desert. Fighters from Lebanon and Iran are receiving instruction from specialists, while the International Coalition continues training in Al-Tanf to prepare for potential threats.

IRAQ

  1. Iran: No Extension of the Deadline for Removing Militants from Northern Iraq (Baghdad Today). After the two countries agreed last month to disarm terrorist groups and close their military headquarters, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani announced on Monday that there would be no extension to the deadline for removing terrorists from Iraqi Kurdistan.
  2. The President of the Kurdistan Region Meets with the Iranian Ambassador to Iraq (Mawazin). Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani affirmed the region’s commitment to the Iraq-Iran security agreement and vowed not to allow any security threats from the Kurdistan Region toward Iran. Barzani and Iranian Ambassador Muhammad Kazem Al Sadiq discussed strengthening Iran’s relations with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, the security agreement, Erbil-Baghdad relations, and dialogue to resolve outstanding issues.
  3. Erbil Accuses PKK of September 1 Bombing in Iraq (Arabic TR). The Security Council of Iraqi Kurdistan has accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of behind the September 1 bombing in Erbil. In a press statement, they alleged that the bombing was carried out by a member of the Freedom Movement affiliated with the PKK, identifying the individual as (Z.J.K.), a resident of Chamchamal in Sulaymaniyah Governorate.

LEBANON

  1. Iran’s Terrorist Base in Lebanon Near Israel Border Exposed (The Jerusalem Post). Defense Minister Yoav Galant unveiled images of an Iranian terrorist base at Qalaat Jabbar Airport in southern Lebanon, only 20 kilometers from Israel’s border. Galant emphasized that despite using proxies like Hezbollah, Iran remains the greatest threat to Israel. He warned of a heavy price if Hezbollah engaged in conflict and vowed not to let Iran transform Syria into a new Hezbollah stronghold armed with powerful missiles.
  2. UN Rights Chief Calls for International Probe into Beirut Port Explosion (24). UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, urged an international investigation into the Beirut port explosion, expressing concern over the lack of accountability. He cited the need for a global fact-finding mission due to suspicions of interference in the ongoing investigation amid Lebanon’s economic crisis and governance challenges three years after the explosion killed over 200 people and injured thousands.

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