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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Sept 28, 2023

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Top 5 Headlines: 

  • Iran-Linked Plot to Assassinate Israeli Minister Foiled 
  • Head of Iraq’s Deep State, Nouri Al Maliki Invited to Turkiye
  • Clashes Escalate at Sudan Army HQ in Khartoum
  • U.S. Administration Officially Contacts Druze Spiritual Leader for the First Time
  • Ukraine Urges Western Allies to Target Syrian Site Producing Iranian Drones for Russia

Currencies:

$1 SYRIA IRAN IRAQ EGYPT TURKIYE ISRAEL
13,450 49,450 1,314 30 27,5 3,8

IRAN

  1. Iranian-American Citizen Faramarz Javidzad Dies in Iran’s Evin Prison Due to Inadequate Medical Care (Bas News). Faramarz Javidzad, a 60-year-old Iranian-American, died in Iran’s Evin Prison due to inadequate medical attention. Despite his deteriorating health and critical blood pressure levels, he was not transferred to a hospital. The exact details of his conviction are unclear, and it’s unknown if the U.S. raised his case in recent prisoner exchange talks with Iran.
  2. U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Entities Linked to Iranian Drone Operations (Enab Baladi). The U.S. Department of the Treasury has imposed sanctions on seven individuals and four entities from Iran, China, Russia, and Turkiye for their involvement with Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program. The sanctions target those facilitating shipments and financial transactions for Iran’s Aircraft Manufacturing Company “HESA,” which is already on the U.S. sanctions list. The move aims to curb Iran’s drone activities that are seen as undermining global stability.
  3. Israel Foils Iran-Linked Assassination Plot Targeting National Security Minister (Iran International). Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet, announced the arrest of five individuals—two Arab-Israelis and three Palestinians—accused of planning to assassinate Israel’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and other public figures. The operation was a joint effort with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israel Police. The suspects were reportedly guided by an individual in Jordan acting on behalf of Iranian security officials. The arrests come amid escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, particularly concerning Iran’s nuclear program.

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IRAQ

  1. Erdogan Invites Nouri al-Maliki, Head of Iraq’s Deep State, for Official Visit to Türkiye (Iraqi News). The Turkish ambassador delivered the invitation, highlighting Turkey’s aim to resolve existing issues and signaling a “qualitative shift” in future relations between the two countries.
  2. Thousands of Mourners Gather to Bury Over 100 Victims of Tragic Fire at Iraqi Christian Wedding (Iraqi News). Mourners gathered at a cemetery in Qaraqosh, Iraq, to bury victims of a tragic fire that erupted during a Christian wedding, claiming at least 100 lives and injuring 150 others. The fire spread rapidly, fueled by indoor fireworks. Emotional scenes unfolded as coffins were carried through the crowd, followed by grieving women barely able to stand. The community is in deep mourning as they lay their loved ones to rest.

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THE GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Dubai Reduces Public Debt by $7.9 Billion, Aiming for 25% of GDP by End of 2023 (Al Arabiya). The reduction is part of a broader public debt sustainability strategy, which includes repayments of various financial obligations such as Islamic bonds and bank loans. The strategy also aims to enhance investor confidence and prepare for future strategic projects like the Dubai Urban Plan 2040.
  2. Qatar Appoints New Ambassadors to Egypt and South Africa, Receives Credentials of Five New Envoys (The New Arab). The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, appointed Tariq Ali Faraj Hashem Al Ansari as the new Ambassador to Egypt and Mubarak Nasser Mubarak Al Khalifa as Ambassador to South Africa. The appointments come amid improving Egyptian-Qatari relations since the Al-Ula Summit in 2021. Additionally, the Emir received the credentials of five new ambassadors to Qatar, including the Emirati ambassador.
  3. Houthi Militia Dismisses Its Salvation Government, Imposes House Arrest on Its President (Yemen Window). The Houthi militia, backed by Iran, announced the dismissal of Yemen’s internationally unrecognized Salvation Government based in Sanaa. The group also imposed house arrest on its president, Abdulaziz bin Habtoor. 

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EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Clashes Escalate at Sudan Army HQ in Khartoum (Sharq Awsat). The Rapid Support Forces have escalated their attacks on the Sudanese Army General Command in central Khartoum. The renewed fighting led to significant fires, including the destruction of the Nile Company’s headquarters, a major oil firm and city landmark.
  2. Huawei Invests $430M in North African Cloud Center and Developer Training (Al Monitor). Huawei plans to invest $430 million in North Africa to establish its first cloud center and train local tech talent. The “Intelligent Future” initiative allocates $200 million for the cloud center, $200 million to support local tech partners and distributors, and $30 million for training 10,000 developers and 100 tech specialists. This move comes amid Huawei’s expanding presence in the Middle East, despite U.S. warnings about the company’s potential security risks.
  3. Accusations Against US Senator Menendez Spark Calls to Reconsider $235M Military Aid to Egypt (Raialyoum). US Senator Bob Menendez is facing allegations of accepting bribes to support the Egyptian government, prompting calls within Congress to reevaluate $235 million in military aid to Cairo. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, Chairman of the Middle East Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has expressed interest in investigating these claims and Egypt’s involvement. The indictment against Menendez includes accepting gold bullion and cash for influencing in favor of Egypt. The allegations raise questions about Egypt’s behavior and could impact future aid.
  4. Iranian and Egyptian Parliamentary Speakers Discuss Strengthening Bilateral Cooperation at BRICS Meeting (Al Arabiya). The Speaker of the Iranian Shura Council, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and the Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament, Hanafi Jabali, met on the sidelines of a BRICS parliaments meeting in South Africa. Both officials emphasized the importance of enhancing bilateral cooperation and extended invitations for visits to their respective countries. The Egyptian Speaker also highlighted the need to bolster relations between Tehran and Cairo within the framework of the BRICS organization.

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ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 

  1. U.S. Welcomes Israel into Visa Waiver Program, Citing Strengthened Strategic Partnership (JP). The United States has welcomed Israel as the 41st country to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), emphasizing the move as a milestone in U.S.-Israel relations. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas highlighted the benefits in people-to-people engagement, economic cooperation, and enhanced security for both nations.
  2. Pompeo Doubts Feasibility of Saudi-Israel Peace Deal Tied to Palestinian Statehood (JP). Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed skepticism about the possibility of a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel if the establishment of a Palestinian state is a precondition. Pompeo, who played a key role in the Abraham Accords, told The Jerusalem Post that the current Palestinian leadership’s support for terrorism and financial ties with Iran make a two-state solution unlikely. His comments came a day after Saudi Arabia’s first ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Nayef al-Sudairi, visited Ramallah and emphasized that a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital is crucial for any agreement with Israel.

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SYRIA

  1. Assad Regime Forces Intercept US Convoy (SOHR). Syrian regime forces blocked a convoy of four International Coalition armored vehicles in the Tal Tamr countryside, northwest of Al-Hasakah. The incident occurred as two helicopters flew overhead and comes amid increased Turkish aggression in the area. The convoy rerouted without any conflict. 
  2. Iran Completes Preliminary Studies for New Oil Refinery Project in Syria (Shaam News). Iranian Assistant Minister of Oil, Jalil Salari, announced the completion of basic studies for a new oil refinery in Syria. The project, which follows a memorandum of understanding between Iran, Venezuela, and Syria, aims to address the petroleum needs of Syria and its neighbors. The planned refinery will have a capacity of 140,000 barrels and will enter the financing and construction phase.
  3. U.S. Administration Officially Contacts Druze Spiritual Leader for the First Time (Orient). Sheikh Hikmat Al-Hijri, the spiritual leader of the Druze Unitarians, received his first official phone call from the Biden administration, specifically from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ethan Goldrich. The call aimed to affirm U.S. support for freedom of expression in Syria, including peaceful protests in Suwayda, and reiterated the U.S. stance for a unified Syria and a political solution in line with Security Council Resolution No. 2254.
  4. Republican Senators Introduce Anti-Normalization Bill Against Assad’s Regime for 2023 (Aleppo Today). Senators Marco Rubio and James Risch have introduced a draft law aimed at preventing the U.S. from normalizing relations with Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The bill seeks to extend current sanctions and expand penalties to include members of the People’s Assembly and senior Baath Party officials. The legislation has already passed the House Foreign Relations Committee and now awaits Senate approval. Watch Al Hurra Interview with Former Special Envoy to Syria and Founder/Director of the American Center for Levant Studies, Joel Rayburn speak more on this topic.
  5. Ukraine Urges Western Allies to Target Syrian Site Producing Iranian Drones for Russia (Orient). Ukraine has requested its Western allies to bomb a Syrian facility where Iran is reportedly manufacturing drones for Russian use in Ukraine. A 47-page document submitted to the G7 reveals that European components were found in Iranian drones used by Russia for attacks on Ukrainian cities. Components were identified from companies based in countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia.
  6. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s Military Attempts to Expand Its Control into Aleppo Countryside Stopped by Turkiye (Syria TV). Turkish intervention has put a halt to the military expansion attempts by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in the Aleppo countryside. Turkish officials ordered a cessation of hostilities, backed by army reinforcements in the area. The move follows a series of failed negotiations and a fragile agreement between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and the Syrian National Army. A Second Corps commander confirmed that the stoppage is based on Turkish orders and could be reinstated at any time.
  7. High-Ranking ISIS Leader Transferred from U.S. Central Command to SDF Custody (North Press). The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have confirmed the receipt of Abu Halil al-Fadaani, a high-ranking ISIS leader, from U.S. Central Command. Initially arrested in a U.S.-led operation in northern Syria, al-Fadaani is now under SDF investigation for his involvement in crimes against humanity and orchestrating terrorist activities in various countries. The transfer underscores the collaborative efforts between the SDF and the international coalition to eradicate terrorist cells in the region.

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TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye Expands Diplomatic Horizons: High-Level Talks with Armenia Amid Crisis and $5 Billion Trade Goal with Uzbekistan (Daily Sabah). Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan engaged in significant diplomatic activities, holding high-level talks with Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan amid the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis and a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians. The talks aim to normalize Turkiye-Armenia relations. Concurrently, Fidan met with Uzbek Foreign Minister Bakhtiyor Saidov in Ankara to discuss a range of bilateral issues, including a targeted $5 billion trade volume. The meeting also covered regional and international matters, such as relations within the Organization of Turkic States. 
  2. Erdogan Supports Azerbaijan’s Karabakh Success, Signals Positive Iranian Response for Turkiye-Azerbaijan Corridor (Al Monitor). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed strong support for Azerbaijan’s recent military operation in Karabakh, emphasizing Turkiye’s commitment to strengthening bilateral relations “at all levels.” Additionally, Erdogan revealed that Iran is showing positive signals towards a joint Turkish-Azeri plan to establish a transport corridor connecting Turkiye to Azerbaijan via Armenia. The corridor aims to enhance trade and is considered a strategic initiative by both nations. 

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LEBANON

  1. Cyprus Seeks EU Aid for Lebanon to Curb Syrian Refugee Influx, Offers Joint Patrols (Al Araby). Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou has called on the EU to provide financial and technical assistance to Lebanon to manage the Syrian refugee crisis and prevent them from reaching Cyprus. Nicosia has also offered to donate speedboats and conduct joint patrols with Lebanon. The move comes as smuggling routes shift towards the Lebanese coast and away from Turkey. Lebanese authorities have recently intercepted several migrant ships, and the issue was discussed between the Cypriot Ambassador and Lebanon’s Interior Minister.
  2. Hezbollah Official Claims Erosion of Israeli Deterrence Amid Multiple Threats (El Nashra). Hezbollah’s Wafiq Safa stated that Israel’s deterrence has eroded due to governance crises and multiple threats, including internal Palestinian issues and external threats from Lebanon and the axis of resistance. Safa emphasized that there is no need for border demarcation as borders have been established since ancient times. He also clarified that his meeting with Army Commander General Joseph Aoun was for security coordination and not politically oriented. Safa reiterated Hezbollah’s policy of not shaking hands with Israeli or American officials.

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