THE EARLY PHOENIX – Sept 29, 2023

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Top 5 Headlines: 

  • IRGC Navy Points Lasers at US Marine Helicopters in Arabian Gulf, US Navy Condemns Act
  • Iran, Venezuela, and Assad Ink Deal for New 140,000 BPD Oil Refinery in Homs
  • Germany and Israel Ink Landmark $3.5 Billion Arrow 3 Missile Defense Deal
  • Turkish-Azerbaijani Defense Partnership Flourishes
  • Dollar Drops from 10-Month High as Speculation of Japanese Yen Intervention Grows


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  1. IRGC Navy Points Lasers at US Marine Helicopters in Arabian Gulf, US Navy Condemns Act (Iran International). Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Navy is condemned by the US Navy for pointing lasers at a US Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter in the Persian Gulf. The incident, described as “unsafe, unprofessional and irresponsible,” occurred during routine operations in international airspace. This marks the second such incident involving lasers and the USS Bataan in six years. No injuries or damages were reported.
  2. Iran, Venezuela, and Assad Ink Deal for New 140,000 BPD Oil Refinery in Homs (The Cradle). Iran announces a tripartite agreement with Venezuela and Syria to construct a new oil refinery in Syria’s Homs governorate. The facility will have a capacity of 140,000 barrels per day and aims to meet the petroleum needs of Syria and its neighbors. The deal moves forward despite heavy sanctions on all three nations.
  3. Second Fire in a Week Erupts at Iranian Defense Ministry’s Car Battery Factory (Times of Israel). A fire broke out for the second time in less than a week at a car battery factory owned by Iran’s defense ministry. The blaze occurred in an area storing plastic waste, producing a column of black smoke visible in Tehran. No injuries were reported. Iran, which has faced multiple industrial incidents, often attributes such mishaps to sabotage by Israel.
  4. US Defense Department Investigates Chief of Staff’s Alleged Covert Contacts with Iran (Iran International). The US Defense Department is scrutinizing allegations that Ariane Tabatabai, Chief of Staff to Assistant Secretary of Defense Christopher Maier, had covert contacts with Iran. The inquiry follows a report revealing Tabatabai’s involvement in the Iran Experts Initiative, a group aimed at influencing US policy. Congressional members are demanding answers on her security clearance and potential influence on US-Iran policy. The revelations have led to calls for suspension of clearances for those linked to the initiative.



  1. Iraqi Military Captures Suspected ISIS Members in Anbar Province and Baghdad (Bas News). The Iraqi Military, in collaboration with security forces, captured two suspected members of ISIS in Anbar province. The suspects were apprehended in elaborate ambushes and have been handed over for judicial proceedings. The Islamic State continues to maintain a presence in Iraq, particularly in disputed Kurdish territories. In a separate development, three more ISIS members were captured in Baghdad as anti-terror operations intensify.
  2. Cooling Equipment, Not Just Fireworks, to Blame for Tragic Wedding Fire in Iraq (Al Hadath). A friend of the groom revealed that the tragic wedding fire in Iraq was not solely caused by fireworks. Prior to the fireworks incident, cooling equipment had been burning unnoticed for over half an hour, contributing to the fire’s spread. The owner was unaware that the devices were malfunctioning. 



  1. Dollar Drops from 10-Month High as Speculation of Japanese Yen Intervention Grows (SNA Business). The US dollar index fell from a 10-month high but is still on track for weekly gains. The decline comes as investors anticipate potential intervention by Japanese authorities in the yen exchange rate. The dollar had previously risen due to expectations that the US economy would withstand rising interest rates better than other economies. This follows last week’s warning from the Federal Reserve about possible interest rate hikes. Ten-year US Treasury bond yields have reached their highest levels since 2007, at 4.688%.
  2. Oil Prices Dip as Western Economies Eye High Interest Rates to Tackle Inflation (Al Arabiya). Oil prices experienced a downturn due to increasing speculation that Western economies will sustain elevated interest rates to counter ongoing inflation. The drop in Brent crude and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures comes despite earlier gains attributed to low oil inventories and production cuts by Saudi Arabia and Russia. The looming OPEC+ meeting on October 4 adds to market uncertainties.
  3. Saudi Arabia and China Ink Agreement to Revolutionize Future of Modern Transportation (Khaligy). Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics, Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, and Chinese Minister of Transport, Li Xiaoying, have signed an agreement to advance modern transportation methods. The deal aims to implement cutting-edge technologies, harmonize policies, and exchange expertise in areas such as digital transformation of highways, autonomous vehicles, and smart shipping. This collaboration is part of a broader strategic partnership between the two nations in the transport and logistics sector.
  4. Saudi Aramco Makes First International LNG Investment with $500 Million Stake in Med Ocean (Sky News Arabia). Saudi Aramco has finalized agreements to acquire a strategic minority stake in Med Ocean Energy for $500 million. Med Ocean, managed by investment firm EIG, is involved in liquefied natural gas (LNG) and is currently investing in four Australian LNG projects. This marks Saudi Aramco’s inaugural international investment in the LNG sector.
  5. Al-Qaida Escalates Attacks in Yemen: Five Secessionist Fighters Killed in Abyan Province (ABC News). At least five fighters from Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council were killed in clashes with suspected al-Qaida militants in Abyan province. The secessionist forces reclaimed several areas previously under militant control and reported three injuries among their ranks. The Southern Transitional Council, backed by the UAE, controls much of southern Yemen and seeks its separation. The number of al-Qaeda casualties remains unknown.


  1. Geopolitical Differences Drive Chinese Investments Toward Morocco (SNA Business). Chinese companies are steering clear of direct investments in the U.S. and Europe due to geopolitical concerns and permit delays. CNGR Advanced Material plans to invest $2 billion in a Moroccan factory for cathode materials used in electric vehicle batteries. The move aims to serve the American and European markets, positioning Morocco as a strategic intermediary. The country offers quicker factory build times and less investment risk, especially if the U.S. or Europe enacts new protectionist policies.
  2. US Sanctions Former Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti for Obstructing Peace in Sudan (Al Hurra). Ali Karti, former Sudanese Foreign Minister and Secretary of the Sudanese Islamic Movement, has been added to the US sanctions list. The US Treasury and State Departments accuse Karti of actions that “threaten the peace, security, or stability of Sudan.” Karti, known for his role in the 1989 coup and leading a militia, is said to be obstructing efforts to reach a ceasefire and undermining the democratic transition in Sudan. The sanctions come amid ongoing conflict in the country that has resulted in thousands of deaths and millions displaced.
  3. Revolutionary Discoveries in Sahure’s Pyramid Unearth Hidden Storerooms and Validate Historic Observations (Science News). The pyramid complex of Sahure, built in the 26th to 25th century BCE, has been the focus of a conservation and restoration project initiated in 2019. Led by egyptologist Mohamed Ismail Khaled and supported by the Antiquities Endowment Fund, the project aimed to stabilize the pyramid’s interior and prevent further collapse. During the restoration, the team uncovered the original dimensions and floor plan of the antechamber. They also validated British egyptologist John Perring’s 1836 observations by discovering a passage leading to eight storerooms. These findings offer new insights into the pyramid’s structure and its historical significance.



  1. Israeli Tourism Minister’s Historic Visit to Saudi Arabia Sparks Hope for Diplomatic Ties Through Tourism (Skift). Israel’s Tourism Minister, Haim Katz, made a historic visit to Saudi Arabia, advocating for tourism as a means to normalize relations between the two nations. The visit aligns with ongoing U.S. negotiations to establish diplomatic ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both Katz and his Saudi counterpart, Ahmed Al Khateeb, see tourism as a “bridge between nations.” However, past tourism data with other Gulf states like the UAE and Bahrain suggests that achieving significant tourism exchange may be challenging.
  2. Elon Musk and Israeli Prime Minister Discuss National AI Strategy in High-Profile Meeting (JP). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Tesla CEO Elon Musk to discuss artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on humanity. The meeting took place in San Jose and included a public livestream and a panel discussion with experts. Netanyahu emphasized the need for Israel to become a world leader in AI technology, similar to its standing in cybersecurity. The Prime Minister also addressed the topic of AI at the UN General Assembly, highlighting the need to maximize its benefits while controlling its negative consequences.
  3. Germany and Israel Ink Landmark $3.5 Billion Arrow 3 Missile Defense Deal (Al Jazeera). Germany has acquired Israel’s Arrow 3 hypersonic missile system in a historic $3.5 billion agreement, marking the largest-ever deal for Israel’s military industry. German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius emphasized the system’s role in future-proofing Germany’s air defense, especially in light of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant highlighted the significance of the deal, coming just 80 years after the Holocaust, as a step toward a safer future. The Arrow 3 system is capable of providing protective cover for neighboring EU states and had to receive U.S. approval before the deal could be finalized.



  1. Brazil Extends Open Arms to Syrian Refugees: A Beacon of Hope in Challenging Times (Syria TV). Facing deteriorating economic conditions and discrimination in traditional asylum countries, Syrians are increasingly turning to Brazil as a sanctuary. Since 2013, Brazil has offered humanitarian visas to Syrians, providing a legal pathway to work and settle in the country. Despite challenges such as crime rates and language barriers, Brazil’s welcoming policies offer Syrian refugees a chance for a better life and future stability.
  2. Landmark Hearing on Syria Torture Cases Set for October: International Court of Justice to Examine Netherlands and Canada Lawsuits (Aleppo Today). The International Court of Justice is set to consider lawsuits filed by the Netherlands and Canada against the Assad regime on October 10 and 11. The court aims to order an immediate halt to all acts of torture and arbitrary detention by Assad’s authority. This marks the first time in 12 years that an international court will scrutinize violations committed in Syria. The lawsuits demand that Assad’s regime stop violating the United Nations Convention against Torture.
  3. Turkish Forces Train 150 Syrian National Front Members in Anti-Aircraft Missiles (SOHR). Turkish forces have conducted military training for 150 members of the National Liberation Front in the “Putin-Erdogan” area, located in the Idlib countryside. The training involved the use of three types of shoulder-fired air defense missiles at the Al-Mastumah military base. This follows previous rounds of training in anti-aircraft and other heavy weapons. Additionally, a sudden replacement of high-ranking officers in the area has occurred, the reasons for which remain unclear. Earlier this year, a helicopter landing pad was established to facilitate the transfer of officers and medical cases.



  1. Turkish Airlines and China Eastern Airlines Forge New Partnership: Boost in Flights Amid Post-Pandemic Recovery (Anadolu Agency). Turkish Airlines and China Eastern Airlines have signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance their cooperation. The agreement was announced at the International Aviation Forum “North Bund Forum 2023” in Shanghai. Following the recovery of the Turkish-Chinese market post-COVID-19, China Eastern Airlines has initiated flights to Istanbul. The flights between Shanghai and Istanbul will operate alternately three times a week, marking a significant step in the expansion of cooperation between the two airlines.
  2. Turkish-Azerbaijani Defense Partnership Flourishes: Nakhchivan Military Modernization Complex Marks New Milestone (Anadolu Agency). Turkiye and Azerbaijan have deepened their defense industry cooperation with the recent opening of the Nakhchivan Military Modernization Complex. The project, completed in just seven months, aims to enhance the Azerbaijani Army’s capabilities by providing maintenance, repair, and modernization services for ground vehicles without relying on foreign sources. The Turkish Company for the Management of Military Factories and Shipyards (ASFAT) played a key role in the project, transferring over 50 years of accumulated experience in defense installations. The success of this low-cost, rapid project has led to discussions about modernizing other military facilities in Azerbaijan.
  3. Turkish Parliament Speaker Engages in Diplomatic Talks with Israeli and Irish Counterparts During European Conference (Daily Sabah). Turkish Parliament Speaker Numan Kurtulmus met with Irish Senate President Gerry Buttimer and Israeli Parliament Speaker Amir Ohana in Dublin. These separate meetings occurred on the sidelines of the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliaments, which runs from Wednesday to Friday. Discussions focused on international and regional issues as well as bilateral relations. The meetings were attended by various Turkish officials, including the head of the Turkish-Irish parliamentary friendship group, Sunay Karamik.



  1. Lebanon’s Christian Political Forces Reject Blame for Presidential Stalemate (Sharq Awsat). Lebanon’s main Christian political parties, including the Lebanese Forces and Lebanese Phalange, refuse to take responsibility for the ongoing presidential vacuum. The parties are pushing back against Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s claims that the deadlock is due to their lack of participation in dialogue. Berri has been criticized for not holding open election sessions and instead insisting on preconditions for dialogue. Members of these Christian parties argue that the focus should be on implementing the constitution and that international initiatives could facilitate the election process without replacing the internal Lebanese role.


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