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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Sept 20, 2023

Table of Contents

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Egypt’s Water Security Risks Rise as Ethiopia Talks Stagnate 
  • Xi Seeks Meeting with Kuwaiti Prince, Assad at Asian Games
  • Saudi Arabia Sends Ronaldo to Iran for Historic Match After 7-Year Ban 
  • Assad: Syrians Can Come Home After U.S. & Turkiye Leave 
  • Houthi Visit to Saudi Hints at Yemen Breakthrough

Currencies:

1 U.S Dollar
SYRIA 13,700 SYP
IRAN 49,600 IRR
IRAQ 1,3011  IQD
EGYPT 30 EGP
TURKIYE 27,2 TL
ISRAEL 3,8 ILS

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israeli Intel Flags Imam Hussein Brigade as Emerging Threat (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Israeli military intelligence warns of the 1,000-member unit within the Iran-affiliated Imam Hussein Brigade, equipped with Iranian drones and missiles. Concerns also rise over weapon smuggling to Palestinian groups via Syria and Jordan.
  2. Saudi FM Reiterates Need for Independent Palestinian State in UN Peace Initiative (Times of Israel). Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan emphasized the necessity of an independent Palestinian state for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The statement was made during a UN General Assembly event aimed at reviving the peace process. The event, supported by the EU and Arab nations, plans to create a “Peace Supporting Package” for Israelis and Palestinians. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials were present, and Saudi-Israeli normalization efforts remain in question.
  3. Iran’s Raisi Rejects Israel Normalization, Denies Ukraine Drone Support (Times of Israel). Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warns against normalization with Israel and denies aiding Russia in the Ukraine war. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Raisi also criticized U.S. interference in the Middle East. The remarks come after the U.S. unlocked nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets following a prisoner exchange.
  4. IDF Engages in Jenin Operation and Gazan Border Unrest Escalates (Arutz Sheva). IDF forces conducted operations in the Jenin “refugee camp,” targeting a senior Hamas operative and engaging in firefights. Meanwhile, tension along the Gaza-Israel border continues to rise, with one Palestinian killed and nine wounded. The IDF is investigating the fatality, suggesting he may have died from a self-inflicted explosive mishap. These developments come amidst the extension of the closure of the Erez crossing for Gazan workers.

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EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam Presents Grave Water Security Risks to Egypt as Negotiations Stall (Al Sharq Al Awsat). As Egypt prepares for another round of talks in Addis Ababa about Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, heightened concerns exist over the dam’s capacity to significantly curtail water supplies and inflict environmental and economic harm on Egypt and Sudan. Both countries are calling for a binding legal agreement to govern the dam’s operation. Previous talks have failed to produce a compromise, and experts foresee ongoing Ethiopian reluctance to reach an agreement, casting doubt on the possibility of resolving the issue in upcoming negotiations.
  2. Washington Pledges $11 Million to Aid Flood Relief Efforts in Libya (Nabd). The flooding disaster in Derna, Libya, following Hurricane Daniel, has resulted in significant challenges for rescue operations and has severely damaged 70% of the area’s infrastructure. Despite concerns about potential health risks due to contaminated water, the Minister of Health dispelled fears of spreading epidemics. The UN praised the local response but indicated that better early warnings could have reduced damage. The disaster has left 11,470 dead, 10,100 missing, and 40,000 displaced, according to UN figures.
  3. Morocco Shifts to Damage Assessment in Al Haouz Post-Earthquake (Press Bee). As Al Haouz earthquake rescue operations conclude, Moroccan authorities are evaluating building damage and developing rehousing plans for the affected 50,000 homes.

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GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. China Leverages Asian Games to Strengthen Arab Relations; Assad Also Invited to Event (Alkhaleej Online). Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah will visit Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Hangzhou. This marks a significant step in China’s efforts to enhance its relationships in the Arab world, utilizing the Games as a diplomatic tool. Chinese Ambassador to Kuwait, Zhang Jianwei, sees the visit as boosting bilateral relations, especially in economic and trade cooperation. 
  2. Kuwait Protests Iraqi Court Ruling That Invalidates Khor Abdullah Navigation Agreement (CNN Arabic). Kuwait delivered a formal protest to Iraq after the country’s Federal Supreme Court deemed a 2013 agreement on navigation in Khor Abdullah unconstitutional. The court cited Article 61/Fourth of the Iraqi Constitution for its decision, saying any text violating the constitution cannot be implemented.
  3. Houthi Visit to Saudi Arabia Signals Progress on Key Issues in Yemen Conflict (Annahar). For the first time since the Yemen war erupted in 2014, Houthi representatives visited Saudi Arabia last week. Talks centered on reopening Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, wage payments for public employees, and setting a withdrawal timetable for foreign forces. Both sides reported some progress and plan to reconvene “soon.” This development could pave the way for resuming the broader UN-led peace process in Yemen.

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IRAN

  1. Saudi Arabia Breaks 7-Year Ban, Sends Soccer Icon Ronaldo to Iran for Historic Match (BBC). Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival in Tehran with Saudi club Al Nassr ignites unprecedented excitement among Iranian football fans, who chased the team’s bus and gathered in large numbers outside his hotel. This marks a significant moment as it ends a seven-year ban on Saudi teams visiting Iran, despite ongoing geopolitical tensions and general hesitance from managers and sponsors about sending high-profile players to the country.
  2. Iran and Russia Strengthen Alliances During Nagorno-Karabakh Tensions and Defense Talks (i24). As Azerbaijan battles separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh, Iran and Russia emerge as regional influencers. Iran shows military readiness, cautioning against Israeli intervention. Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visits Iran to deepen Moscow-Tehran defense ties, coming after visits from China’s foreign minister and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Russia. Both countries aim to strengthen their global alliances and appear to capitalize on current regional instabilities.
  3. Bedouin Businessman Convicted for Sharing Intel with Iran Gets One-Year Sentence (Jerusalem Post). Yacoub Abu al-Qia’an, a Bedouin businessman who once ran for Israel’s Knesset, pleads guilty to sharing intelligence with Iran. A plea agreement will see him serve a 12-month prison term, as he poses no immediate security threat to Israel. Abu al-Qia’an was convicted of contacting a foreign agent and passing information to an enemy state.      ===============================================================

TURKIYE

  1. Erdogan Rejects EU and U.S. Conditions at UNGA, Puts Ball in Sweden’s Court on NATO Entry (Sharq Al Awsat). On the sidelines of the UNGA summit, President Erdogan told PBS that Turkiye has never needed EU support and remains self-sufficient. He was dismissive of the recent European Commission report, suggesting Turkiye could distance itself from the EU. Erdogan also rejected a U.S. condition tying Turkiye’s F-16 acquisition to Sweden’s NATO entry, insisting Sweden must first curb terrorist activities on its soil.
  2. Turkiye’s Foreign Policy: From Karabakh Talks to Jordanian Business and NATO Briefings (Daily Sabah). Turkiye’s foreign policy activities were in high gear this week. Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan met with his Azerbaijani counterpart to discuss the Karabakh issue on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Meanwhile, a Turkish-Jordanian business forum aimed at bolstering economic ties commenced in Amman. President Erdogan was also busy in New York, meeting with his Algerian and Polish counterparts, as well as the NATO Secretary General, to discuss a range of regional and international issues.

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SYRIA

  1. Assad Conditions Return of Displaced Persons on U.S., Turkish Withdrawal; Lebanese Negotiations Stalled (Syrian Observer). The Assad regime has tied the return of displaced persons to the end of U.S. and Turkish military presence, while failing to address internal security and illicit trade concerns. Prospects for the return of Syrians from Lebanon dim as the Lebanese government has not formed a delegation for negotiations and the Syrian regime vets returnee lists on security grounds. Arab diplomatic sources indicate that the Syrian government is not meeting conditions for a political solution and is shifting the responsibility for displaced persons onto the international community. 
  2. Bashar al-Assad to Visit China for Summit and Asian Games Opening Ceremony (Nba Syria). Bashar al-Assad is set to visit China in response to an invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping. Assad and his delegation, which includes key ministers and advisors, will participate in a Syrian-Chinese summit as well as other meetings in Khanju and Beijing. The visit will also include attending the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Khangu. The move comes as Assad seeks to bolster international ties amidst ongoing domestic challenges.

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IRAQ

  1. Iraqi PM Al-Sudani Invited to Washington by Biden; Iraq Summons Turkish Ambassador Over Kurdistan Attacks; Iranian Opposition Groups Relocated (Arabic RT).  Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani received an invitation from U.S. President Joseph Biden to visit the White House during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. The focus was on strengthening the bilateral partnership. Concurrently, Iraq plans to issue a formal protest to the Turkish ambassador over attacks on Kurdistan, affirming that Iraq will defend its security, sovereignty, and stability. In a separate development, Iraq announced the relocation of Iranian opposition groups from the border areas, removing their weapons and preparing them for possible refugee status under UNHCR guidelines.

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LEBANON

  1. Lebanese PM Mikati Conveys Concern over Syrian Refugee Influx to UN Secretary-General; Legislative Proposal Emerges for Refugee Resettlement (Syria TV). Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss Lebanon’s economic burden due to the influx of Syrian refugees. During the meeting, Mikati emphasized Lebanon’s limitations in accommodating more refugees given its current financial crisis. Meanwhile, the Lebanese House of Representatives is contemplating a law that mandates the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to resettle Syrian refugees to third countries within a year. The law, proposed by Representative Elias Jarada, outlines a legal framework for the temporary residence and deportation of Syrians in Lebanon.

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For Inquiries please contact: rkisar@americancenter.org

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