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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Sept 27, 2023

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Top 5 Headlines: 

  • More than 100 Dead, 150+ Injured in Iraq’s Wedding Blaze
  • How Tehran Placed Aides in U.S. Policy Circles
  • Torrential Floods Exacerbate Crisis in Sudan
  • Israeli Tourism Minister’s Landmark Visit to Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Ambassador’s Ramallah Visit Centers on Two-State Solution

Currencies:

$1

SYRIA

IRAN

IRAQ

EGYPT

TURKIYE

ISRAEL

13,450

49,300

1,307

30

27,4

3,8

IRAN

  1. How Tehran Placed Aides in U.S. Policy Circles (Iran International). An investigative report by Semafor and Iran International reveals the “Iran Experts Initiative,” a network of influential academics and researchers directly sponsored by Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Established in 2014, the initiative aimed to shape global security perspectives, particularly on Iran’s nuclear program. Three key members became senior aides to Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy on Iran. The report uncovers internal communications and emails that provide new insights into Iran’s influence operations, particularly during the Obama administration. Participants in the initiative were active writers and analysts, promoting compromise with Tehran on nuclear issues. 
  2. Mysterious Tremor and Noise in Khorramabad, Iran Puzzle Authorities (Iran International). A mysterious tremor accompanied by a loud noise occurred in Khorramabad, western Iran, sparking confusion and concern. While initial reports suggested an earthquake, authorities later denied any seismic activity or explosion. The incident has led to speculation, especially given the proximity of an underground IRGC ballistic missile base. Observers noted that Israel has previously targeted sensitive sites in Iran, although no official confirmation has been provided for this incident.
  3. Putin and Raisi Discuss Nagorno-Karabakh Amid Azerbaijani Offensive (Sharq Awsat). This discussion comes as Azerbaijan intensifies its military operations in the separatist region, resulting in a substantial Armenian displacement. Iran, sharing borders with both Azerbaijan and Armenia, is closely monitoring the developments.
  4. German and Austrian Firms Attend US-Sanctioned Iran Oil Show (Jerusalem Post). German and Austrian engineering companies participated in Iran’s annual Oil Show, organized by the US-sanctioned National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). Critics argue that the NIOC finances terrorist activities and that European companies’ involvement could be in violation of sanctions. German authorities and the U.S. State Department are monitoring the situation but have not announced any specific actions.
  5. Iran and Turkiye May Back Syrian Tribes Against US-Backed SDF (Jerusalem Post). Iran and Turkiye are allegedly providing support to Syrian tribal fighters against the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Despite their differing allegiances in the Syrian conflict, both countries aim to diminish American influence in the region. Ongoing tribal attacks on SDF positions signal a shifting and intricate scenario that may pose challenges to U.S. objectives in Syria.

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IRAQ

  1. Tragic Fire in Iraqi Wedding Hall Claims 114 Lives, Injures Over 150 (Al Hadath). A devastating fire in a wedding hall in Al-Hamdaniya, east of Mosul, results in over 100 fatalities and 150+ injuries, reportedly ignited by fireworks during the ceremony. The hall lacked safety features like wet alarms and firefighting systems, causing a major tragedy. Iraqi and Kurdish authorities are providing relief and support to the victims.
  2. Iraqi PM Al-Sudani Dismisses Need for U.S.-Led Coalition Against ISIS (Al Arabiya). Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani says ISIS is no longer a threat to Iraq, eliminating the need for a U.S.-led international coalition. Al-Sudani stresses the importance of Iraq’s stability and warns that Syrian instability could impact the region. He also discusses confidence in the upcoming Iraqi elections.
  3. Iraq to Fast-Track Iran Railway Connection for Pilgrimage and Bilateral Ties (Sky News Arabia). Iraq aims to complete a 30-km railway from Basra to Iran’s Shalamcheh in 18 months, enhancing pilgrimage to Shiite shrines and bilateral relations, says Nasser Al-Asadi, advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister. Plans for a Karbala-Najaf metro line extension are also in progress.

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THE GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Israeli Tourism Minister’s Landmark Visit to Saudi Arabia (TRT Arabic). Israeli Tourism Minister Haim Katz visits Riyadh for a UN tourism conference, marking the first public Israeli ministerial visit to Saudi Arabia. Despite talks of imminent normalization, Saudi Arabia insists on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict first.
  2. Houthi Attack Near Saudi-Yemen Border Draws Condemnation (Yemen Monitor). Bahrain has demanded the handover of individuals responsible for a fatal attack on its defense forces near the Saudi border, losing two members in what was described as a “Houthi attack.” Saudi Arabia also strongly condemned the incident, offering its full solidarity with Bahrain. The attack has raised concerns over the stability of the current Yemen truce and undermines efforts for a comprehensive political solution. Both nations emphasized the need for regional solidarity, involving key allies like the UAE, Egypt, Kuwait, and Jordan.

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EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Sudan Grapples with Flooding and Displacement (Al Jazeera). Deadly floods in Sudan’s Nile River state have killed 11 and affected 72,000, as the country also faces a military conflict displacing 7.1 million people, a global high. Aid is scarce, and challenges include malnutrition and scorpion bites.
  2. Russia Praises Egypt for Not Arming Ukraine (Sputnik Arabic). Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev commended Egypt’s decision to withhold arms from Ukraine, noting it resisted U.S. and European pressure. The visit focuses on security and counter-terrorism talks.
  3. Haftar in Moscow for Talks Amid Libya’s Challenges (France 24). Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar is in Russia for talks with Deputy Defense Minister Yunusbek Yevkirov on Libya’s situation and bilateral relations. The visit comes as Russia expands its Africa outreach and maintains its alliance with Haftar. The talks also follow recent natural disasters in eastern Libya.

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ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 

  1. Israel Sets Conditions for Reopening Erez Crossing to Gaza (YNET). Israel tells Hamas via UN envoy that the Erez Crossing will reopen for Palestinian laborers if border violence and incendiary balloon launches stop. The move is tied to Gaza’s economic stability and Israel is considering a Hamas request to increase the laborer quota, dependent on border peace.
  2. Historic Visit by Saudi Ambassador to Ramallah Focuses on Two-State Solution (Jerusalem Post). Nayef al-Sudairi, Saudi Arabia’s first ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, arrived in Ramallah, advocating a two-state solution as key to Israel relations. Plans for a consulate in east Jerusalem are pending Israeli approval. Sudairi will be based in Jordan, and the move aims to bolster Saudi-Palestinian ties.
  3. PA Sets Terms for Israel-Saudi Deal (Arabic Times of Israel). The Palestinian Authority demands Israel stop West Bank activities for any Saudi-Israeli normalization. In return, the PA would cease unilateral actions like international court cases. The PA seeks U.S. support and Saudi assurance on the Palestinian issue.
  4. Israeli Airstrikes Target Hamas in Gaza (Times of Israel). Following border clashes and incendiary balloons, the Israeli military hit two Hamas posts in Gaza. No Israeli soldiers were injured, but Hamas reports five Palestinians hurt.

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SYRIA

  1. Australians in Syrian Camp Sue for Repatriation (The New Arab). Over 30 Australian women and children in a Syrian camp have filed a legal case in Melbourne for repatriation. Save the Children represents them, citing severe health risks. The move is politically sensitive in Australia.
  2. Jordan Downs Drug-Laden Drones from Syria, Cites Organized Smuggling (Al Jazeera). Jordan’s army intercepted two drones carrying narcotics from Syria, highlighting increased organized smuggling. Most seized drugs are destined for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. To read an in-depth report on Jordan’s Catastrophe with its daily challenges: Read The Region: Jordan’s Costly Mistake: The Surge in Captagon Shipments Since Reopening Syrian Border or watch the video.   
  3. U.S. Backs Israeli Control of Golan Heights, Cites Syrian, Iranian Threats (Syria TV). The U.S. State Department reaffirmed Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as crucial for Israel’s security, citing threats from Syria and Iran. The stance is consistent with U.S. policy since March 2019.
  4. Iranian Arms Reach Homs for Hezbollah Amid Tight Security (Aleppo TV). A convoy of arms from Iran arrived in Homs, Syria, for Hezbollah. The shipment, stored in Mahin area warehouses run by Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, includes new weapons for missile and drone development. Increased security was in place to deter attacks.
  5. Lavrov Claims U.S. Establishes Kurdish Entity in Syria for Oil Smuggling (Zaman Wasl). Lavrov alleges the U.S. is setting up a “Kurdish quasi-state” in Syria to illicitly export oil, negatively affecting Syria’s economy. He also emphasized Russia’s dedication to facilitating direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis to stabilize the Middle East.

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TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye and Azerbaijan Discuss Controversial Land Corridor Near Armenia (The New Arab). Azerbaijani and Turkish presidents met to explore the creation of a land corridor through southern Armenia, linking Azerbaijan and Turkiye. The talks come after Azerbaijan’s recent victory in Nagorno-Karabakh and raise concerns in Armenia and Russia.
  2. Turkiye Exposes Extensive FETÖ Network Within Law Enforcement (Daily Sabah). Turkish intelligence has decrypted a database revealing 3,000 previously unidentified law enforcement personnel linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). The six-year investigation also identified over 4,000 “handlers” within the group. The findings are expected to serve as evidence in future operations against FETÖ.
  3. Turkish Customs Seize 17 kg of Methamphetamine Hidden in Carpets at Istanbul Airport (Al Khaleej). Turkish authorities intercepted 17 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed within two carpets at Istanbul Airport. Detected by trained dogs, the seized drugs are valued at around 18 million Turkish liras. An investigation has been initiated by the Turkish Public Prosecutor’s Office.

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LEBANON

  1. Lebanese Protesters Storm State Electricity Company Amid Ongoing Crisis (Al Monitor). Angry protesters stormed Lebanon’s state electricity company in Beirut over high bills and outages. Security forces intervened, and talks with EDL’s director followed. The ongoing crisis, exacerbated by the 2019 financial collapse, underscores the urgent need for sector reforms to unlock international aid.

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