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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Sept 26, 2023

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Top 6 Headlines: 

  • US Captures ISIS Operations Chief in Syria Raid
  • Iraqi Forces Nab ISIS Foreign Commander in Kirkuk
  • Iran’s IRGC Unveils Naval Drones Amid Gulf Tensions
  • Al-Qaeda Attacks Kill 8 Yemeni Soldiers in Anti-Houthi Fight
  • Erdoğan, Aliyev Open Gas Pipeline Amid Regional Shifts
  • Ukraine Ends Assad Deal Over Russia Support

Currencies:

$1 SYRIA IRAN IRAQ EGYPT TURKIYE ISRAEL
13,700 49,350 130,7 30 27,4 3,8

IRAN

  1. Gas Leak Triggers Explosion at Bandar Abbas Refinery in Iran (Sharq Awsat). An explosion occurred at the Bandar Abbas refinery in southern Iran due to a gas leak, as reported by the official Iranian News Agency (IRNA). The incident involved the explosion of gas condensates at one of Iran’s largest refineries. Official confirmation and details on damage or casualties have not been released.
  2. Iran to Boost South Pars Gas Production to Over 730 mcm/d by Next Winter (Tasnim). Mohammad Hossein Motejalli, CEO of Pars Oil and Gas Company, announced plans to increase Iran’s gas production capacity in the South Pars field to over 730 million cubic meters per day by next winter. The increase will be facilitated through new wells and pipelines. South Pars, shared by Iran and Qatar, is crucial for Iran’s gas supply. Pressure-boosting projects are underway to maintain production levels, as Iran faces a potential gas imbalance of over 250 mcm/d in winter.
  3. Iran’s IRGC to Deploy Water-Landing Naval Drones Amid Rising Tensions in Persian Gulf (EurAsian Times). Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is set to deploy water-landing naval drones capable of carrying missiles and bombs, according to IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri. The announcement comes amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf and follows Iran’s unveiling of its longest-range drone. These developments are part of Iran’s broader strategy to enhance its military capabilities, which have garnered international attention, especially after the supply of Iranian drones to Russia.
  4. Iranian Schools Face Unsettling Changes and Tragedies as New Academic Year Begins (IranWire). The new academic year in Iran is overshadowed by past tragedies, including child deaths in protests and school poisonings. Staff at girls’ schools are being replaced by religious and paramilitary personnel. Amid denial from the Ministry of Education, parents worry about security and ideological shifts.
  5. UN Nuclear Watchdog Chief Notes Lack of Progress in Iran’s Nuclear Program Compliance (Iran International). Rafael Grossi, head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, stated that ‘significant safeguards issues remain outstanding’ in Iran’s nuclear program. Despite promises, Iran has failed to provide satisfactory answers about traces of uranium found at undeclared sites. 

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IRAQ

  1. Iraqi Security Forces Arrest ISIS Foreign Battalion Commander in Kirkuk (Maspero.eg). In a coordinated operation, Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service and Kurdistan’s Asayish Operations Department arrested Abu Bukhari, the so-called commander of the foreign battalion of ISIS in Kirkuk. The operation was directed by Muhammad Shia’ al-Sudani, Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces. Additionally, Iraqi army aviation destroyed an ISIS den in Salah al-Din. A separate incident saw a training plane crash at Iraqi Kut Air Base due to a technical defect, injuring its crew.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Meets Commander of International Coalition Forces to Discuss Security Cooperation (Mawazine News). Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani met with General Joel Fowell, Commander of the International Coalition Forces to Combat Terrorism in Iraq and Syria. The meeting, also attended by the American Ambassador to Iraq, focused on security cooperation, intelligence exchange, and training of Iraqi forces. Both parties emphasized the ongoing work of a joint committee formed to shape the future relationship between Iraq and the international coalition, particularly after the defeat of ISIS.

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EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Egypt’s Options Limited as Ethiopian Dam Negotiations Hit Deadlock (Asharq Al-Awsat). The latest round of talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on the Renaissance Dam ends without progress, prompting calls for international intervention. Ethiopia counters Egypt’s blame for the stalemate. Experts suggest the involvement of global parties like the EU or World Bank in future talks, or else Egypt may resort to the UN Security Council.
  2. Egypt Ratifies CNS Nuclear Safety Convention Amid Expanding Nuclear Program (Al Ghad TV).  Egypt has finalized the ratification process for the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS). The announcement was made by Dr. Mohamed Shaker Al-Marqabi, Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, at the 67th session of the IAEA General Conference. The move aligns with Egypt’s expanding nuclear program, including the Dabaa nuclear station project. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi lauded Egypt’s commitment to nuclear safety.

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THE GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Surge in Al-Qaeda Attacks in Yemen Claims 8 Anti-Houthi Soldiers (Al Hurra). Eight Yemeni soldiers opposing the Houthi movement were killed in two separate Al-Qaeda attacks in Abyan and Shabwa Governorates. The incidents underscore the escalating daily attacks by Al-Qaeda amid ongoing military operations by the Transitional Council forces. The attacks also highlight concerns about Al-Qaeda capitalizing on the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi movement.
  2. UN Reports 122% Spike in Landmine Casualties in Yemen’s Hodeidah Province (Xinhua). The United Nations Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) recorded a 122% increase in civilian casualties due to landmines and explosive remnants in Yemen’s Hodeidah province during August. The incidents mainly occurred in southern districts and over 30% of the victims were children. Hodeidah, largely controlled by Houthi rebels, is severely impacted by landmines, with experts estimating over 1 million have been planted since 2014.
  3. Saudi Arabia Transitions to Comprehensive IAEA Safeguards for Expanding Nuclear Program (Al Hurra). Saudi Arabia has transitioned from limited IAEA oversight to comprehensive safeguards for its growing nuclear program. The decision aligns with IAEA’s push for stronger non-proliferation protocols. The Kingdom’s future nuclear ambitions remain unclear.

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TURKIYE

  1. Erdoğan and Aliyev Inaugurate Gas Pipeline, Discuss Zangezur Corridor and Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire (Daily Sabah). During a visit to Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, Turkish President Erdoğan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev discussed regional issues and bilateral relations. The leaders inaugurated a new gas pipeline and talked about the future Zangezur corridor, aimed at connecting Nakhchivan to Azerbaijan’s mainland. The meeting comes after a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, ending decades of separatist rule.

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SYRIA

  1. Ukraine Severs Investment Agreement with Assad Government Over Support for Russian Invasion (Orient). The Ukrainian Parliament has voted to terminate an investment agreement with the Assad-led Syrian government, citing its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The agreement, initially signed in 2002 and ratified in 2003, focused on the encouragement and mutual protection of investments between the two countries.
  2. Russian Airstrikes Target Hama and Idlib, Drone Attack Causes Casualties Near Suqaylabiyah (SOHR). Russian warplanes conducted eight airstrikes in the western countryside of Hama and the southern countryside of Idlib, targeting areas with a presence of various militant factions. The strikes follow a drone attack near Suqaylabiyah that resulted in multiple injuries. These incidents come amid ongoing tensions in the “Putin-Erdogan” area.
  3. Jordan Admits Anti-Smuggling Failure with Assad, Seeks Gulf Aid (Aleppo Today). Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi reveals the ineffectiveness of anti-drug smuggling efforts with the Assad regime, stating that only one out of three Captagon shipments from Syria is intercepted. Despite establishing working groups and setting targets, smuggling has increased. Safadi questions the Assad regime’s ability to control the situation, while suspicions loom that the regime itself may be involved in the drug trade. For a deep dive into this topic go to: The Region- The Catastrophic Crisis of Jordan: Escalation of Captagon After Opening the Border with Syria.  
  4. Assad’s China Adventure: All Talk, No Fortune Cookie (Al Hadath). In a theatrical display of diplomatic futility, Bashar al-Assad spent his fourth day in China schmoozing with the Chinese officials. Ever the sycophant, Assad hailed China as a beacon of “international, civilized, political, and moral power.” According to him, the world should look to China for a transition from a force-driven old world to a morally upright new one. For his part, the Chinese Prime Minister was the epitome of diplomatic vagueness. He emphasized the need for “greater coordination and cooperation,” which is code for “let’s keep talking but do nothing concrete.” So, while Assad and his wife may have enjoyed their Chinese escapade, the trip was essentially a glorified photo-op, offering little more than empty promises and diplomatic platitudes. To read more about this topic, go to The Region- Assad’s Chinese Takeout: A Geopolitical Rom-Com or Just a Fortune Cookie? 
  5. US Central Command Captures Key ISIS Leader in Northern Syria Raid (Al Nahar). US Central Command has arrested Abu Halil Al-Fadaani, a high-ranking ISIS operations and facilitation officer, in a helicopter raid conducted in northern Syria. Al-Fadaani is believed to have extensive connections within the terrorist organization’s regional network. 

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LEBANON

  1. Lebanon’s Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration: A Beacon of Economic Hope or a Mirage? (Arab). Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati touts offshore oil and gas exploration as a potential economic lifeline. Exploration in Block No. 9 near Israel shows promise, but faces challenges like border disputes and corruption. Successful finds could boost the economy and attract foreign investment.
  2. Iraqi Investigation Uncovers Narcotics Hidden in Pomegranate Shipment from Lebanon (The New Arab). An Iraqi newspaper investigation found that a pomegranate shipment from Lebanon to Iraq concealed large amounts of the narcotic Captagon. The shipment was under a Baghdad-Beirut oil-for-goods agreement. The discovery, after passing through Syria, has raised questions about Lebanese and Syrian involvement and heightened concerns over Iraq as a drug trafficking route.

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For more information: rkisar@americancenter.org

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