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The Region Feb 1, 2024

Table of Contents

Iran Sustains Major Hits in the Houthi Front, Faces Setbacks in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Israel Nears the Completion of Its Military Operations in Gaza as Egypt Spearheads the Negotiations.

By: Rania Kisar

Analysis Summary 

Iran is intensifying threats against U.S. forces, yet faces internal economic turmoil, marked by a falling Rial, soaring inflation, and strikes, questioning its direct confrontation capacity. In Yemen, Houthi rebels, leveraging Iran’s support, escalate Red Sea attacks, targeting ships and underwater cables, posing global connectivity risks. Despite ‘Prosperity Guardian’ forces’ presence, Houthis’ are using the November 19 captured ship,  as a tourist spot, alongside viral qat festivities, alarming local analysts of a potential threat surpassing the Taliban’s actions in Afghanistan after the American withdrawal.  Iran’s proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are strategically pausing their attacks, aligning with the Quds Force leader’s directives for heightened alertness, masquerading as de-escalation efforts. In contrast, Israel-Hamas tensions show mixed signals: de-escalation in Gaza but increased strain on Israel’s north, along with revelations of Hamas’ UNRWA infiltration and Israel’s strategic planning for Gaza. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait report economic downturns, with Saudi experiencing a Q3 slump and Kuwait facing a $19 billion deficit. Egypt plays a pivotal role as a mediator with Israel, facilitating ceasefire and hostage negotiations with Hamas. Turkiye boosts diplomacy with Iraq, aiming to resolve water disputes, enhance oil transit, and economic ties, in exchange for support against the PKK. 

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January 29, 30, 31 2024

★ IRAN

1.Iran Threatens Escalated Attacks on U.S. Troops. The day following the Iranian government’s denial of involvement in strikes operated by militias in Iraq and Syria which caused the killing of three American officers, Tehran Times released “Crime in Gaza and Punishment in Jordan,” stating that the United States should consider that resistance groups have carried out more than 150 attacks on American forces in the region and should realize that these groups will intensify their retaliation if targeted by the U.S. The article ended with the statement that the entire West Asia region would become “Hell on Earth” for the U.S. In another article on January 30, the same Iranian government led newspaper published explaining Iran’s policy towards American threats in one sentence. “No to war but finger on the trigger.” indicating that President Biden is stuck between “a rock and a hard place”, and noting that the Biden administration is trying to distance itself from pressures on the White House to act. The Iranian authorities in response to Senator Lendsey Graham and Tom Cotton calls for strikes inside Tehran, responded that over 150 attacks on U.S. forces in the region were conducted by resistance groups, warning that these groups would intensify their actions if targeted by the U.S. to distance itself from harsh rhetoric by Congressional Republican leaders and allied hawks who demand the U.S. carry out strikes against Iran. The Iranian regime further explained their positions on Al Jazeera, stating any attack on Iranian territory would cross a red line. Iran emphasized its unwillingness to initiate war but vowed a strong response to any American provocation. Iran referenced its past actions, like the downing of a U.S. drone in June 2019 and missile strikes on Ain al-Asad base in January 2020, as evidence of its defensive capabilities.

2.Decline of Iranian Rial Intensifies Economic Crisis and Sparks Widespread Strikes. The Iranian rial’s decline exacerbates the economic crisis and ignites widespread strikes. Due to a 16% fall in the value of the Iranian rial against the US dollar today, and inflation in Iran nearing 50%, as reported by Iranian newspapers and global economic sources, the official government salary in Iran has decreased by 10%, reaching an equivalent of $180. This amount is $400 less than Iran’s total poverty line, set at $600 per month. In Iran’s Kurdish cities, which are experiencing significant economic deterioration, Ilam Province – one of the majority-Kurdish provinces – recorded an unemployment rate of 6.8% in the spring of 2023, down from 8.1% the previous year. Over the past two years, the proportion of low-income families in Iran has exceeded 22.1% of the total population. Against the backdrop of the Iranian regime’s execution of four civilians, who were arrested in 2022 on charges of collaborating with Israel, ten Kurdish cities in western Iran organized a comprehensive economic strike on January 30. Following this, the regime cut off internet networks, conducted continuous helicopter flights over the area, and the government refused to hand over the bodies of the executed, as their wives pointed out. 

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★ YEMEN

3.US Bombs Houthi Drone Control Center. The US Central Command  conducted airstrikes targeting a Houthi drone control center and up to ten Houthi drones in Yemen.  Additionally, a Houthi missile, deemed a direct threat to US aircraft, was neutralized by US forces on Wednesday. The Houthi militia confirmed to Al Mayadeen Channel, an Iranian-led Arabic news platform, that 11 raids were conducted. Of these, 9 targeted the Al-Jabbana area in Hodeidah, while 2 raids were directed at northern Saada Governorate. Ali Al-Qahum, a member of the political bureau of Ansar Al-Yemeniya, stated that this operation followed the earlier strikes on Saada. Consequently, a member of the Political Council of the Yemeni Movement emphasized that their operations continue, reaffirming support for Gaza. Notably, Yemeni naval forces reported claims that no one heard about targeting the American commercial ship “KOI” headed for Israel, using naval missiles with precise hits, shortly after targeting the American destroyer “USS Greeley” in the Red Sea. At approximately 10:30 a.m. (Sanaa time), the USS Carney engaged an unmanned aerial vehicle and shot it down over the Gulf of Aden.

4.The Houthis Threaten to Target the Undersea Internet Cables. Affiliated channels on Telegram, including links to Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, published photos of twenty submarine internet cables threatening that these cables will be the Houthis’ next target. These cables are crucial for global digital infrastructure, handling over 95% of international data flows and communications, including significant financial transactions. Damage to these cables could disrupt internet access and economic activities globally and impair military and government communications, especially for the Gulf Cooperation Council states and the U.S. The feasibility of such attacks is highlighted by past incidents, like the 2013 attempt to cut a cable near Alexandria, Egypt. 5.Above Water, The Situation Remains Tense. The Houthis have intensified their maritime aggression, targeting both U.S. military and commercial vessels. On Monday morning, the Houthis announced that they fired a missile at the U.S. Buller. This claim was refuted by  US Defense officials who explained that the Houthis have previously launched missiles that did not reach their intended target and instead fell on land or sea. Additionally, a British maritime authority announced on Monday that three boats approached a commercial ship 44 miles west of Mokha, one of them carrying a weapon. The ship’s security team fired warning shots to deter the boats, after which the ship safely headed to the nearest port. On Tuesday evening, the Houthis launched an anti-ship cruise missile from their areas of control in Yemen towards the Red Sea. The US destroyer Greeley shot down the missile, and no injuries or damage were reported. In recent weeks, shipping companies have resorted more to using air freight and some customers have begun to ship goods entirely or partially by air to avoid delays. The results are for air freight prices to rise for the first time in seven weeks ahead of the Lunar New Year in Asia, as attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea prompted companies to resort to more expensive air freight. The Baltic Air Cargo Index, which shows weekly transaction rates for general freight across a number of routes, rose 6.4 percent in the week to Monday. Air freight prices from Shanghai rose 8.8 percent on a weekly basis yesterday, Monday, driven by significant increases to Europe Air freight rates outside Hong Kong also rose 5.9 percent, and air freight rates outside Southeast Asia jumped 10 percent. 6.On Ground, The Houthis Escalate Aggression Across Key Yemeni Fronts. The Houthi forces have intensified their military operations across several strategic regions in Yemen. The Yemeni Minister of Information reported that within the last 48 hours, the Houthis have made substantial advances in Taiz, Shabwa, Al-Jawf, and Saada, key areas encompassing the south, east, and north of the country. This offensive includes the mobilization of fighters, vehicles, and ammunition, signaling a deliberate escalation strategy. Notably, the Houthis are leveraging public sentiment around the Palestinian crisis to bolster their ranks and resources. Concurrently, large Houthi reinforcements are moving towards the oil and gas-rich governorates of Marib and Shabwa, intensifying battles in the northern Al-Jawf Governorate. Despite these aggressive maneuvers, the Giants forces, allied with the recognized government, have successfully countered several Houthi attacks, including a significant offensive in the Harib and Bayhan districts of Ma’rib Governorate. The conflict has also seen fierce clashes near the Saudi border, with government forces repelling Houthi attacks in multiple locations in Al-Jawf Governorate. The ongoing violence, marked by mutual artillery shelling, has resulted in casualties and equipment losses on both sides, underlining the escalating tension in the region. 7.Houthis Transform Captured Ship into a Tourist Attraction in Yemen. The Houthi rebels in Yemen have converted the “Galaxy Leader” ship, which they have been holding for over two months, into a tourist attraction. This ship, linked to an Israeli businessman, is now a site for Yemenis, especially from Houthi-controlled areas, to visit. The visitors, who come from various parts of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, travel significant distances to see the ship, located off the coast of Al Hudaydah in western Yemen. During these visits, they engage in activities like taking photos and videos, chewing qat (a local stimulant), and performing traditional Yemeni dances to Houthi songs. The ship, owned by a British group affiliated with an Israel-based company, was seized by the Houthis on November 19 as part of their campaign against commercial ships in the Red Sea suspected of being linked to Israel.

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★ IRAQ

8.Khamenei Sends Iranian Quds Force Commander to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon Following U.S. Strike in Jordan. Following the U.S. military strike in Jordan, General Ismail Qaani, leader of the Quds Force in Iran, undertook a secret mission to Baghdad. During his visit, Qaani engaged in discussions with the Iraqi Prime Minister and heads of various armed groups. The meetings supposedly aimed at de-escalating the tension that had risen between the American forces and militias supported by Iran. These talks were conducted in parallel with conversations about the potential conclusion of the international coalition’s mission in Iraq. In the aftermath of Qaani’s visit, Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-aligned militia, declared a cessation of its military operations targeting U.S. forces. This decision was described as an effort to avoid putting the Iraqi government in a difficult position. The U.S. Department of Defense, while not commenting directly on these events, highlighted the significance of deeds rather than words. Furthermore, the U.S. Treasury is actively pursuing details from the Iraqi administration regarding the operations of these Iranian-backed entities.

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SYRIA 

9.Russia Offers Citizenship to Foreigners Fighting in Ukraine.  Two years into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Putin has signed a decree that allows foreigners serving in the Russian army to obtain Russian citizenship. This policy has attracted individuals from various countries, including Arab nations, Afghanistan, and India. A young Syrian recruit shared with his family that he received training in weapon handling and basic Russian language skills before he was stationed along the Russian-Ukrainian border within Russian military installations.  10.Turkish Forces and ISIS Strike SDF. In the morning hours of Tuesday January 30, Turkish forces targeted six civilian villages north and west of Manbij city in Aleppo. On Tuesday night, ISIS claimed responsibility for several attacks against SDF in the eastern suburbs of Deir Ezzor.  11.Israeli Forces Strike Iranian Posts in Daraa, South Syria. In response to the firing of at least three missiles into the Israeli-occupied area of ​​the Golan Heights, Israeli missiles targeted a military site and another near the Yarmouk Basin area. 

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★ LEBANON

12.Series of Hezbollah Attacks and Israeli Military Responses in Lebanon: January 29-31, 2024. On Monday, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for 12 attacks on Israeli army positions near the border using Iranian-made Falaq 1 missiles. On Monday evening, the Israeli army announced that it had carried out strikes against Hezbollah in response, including against “facilities and an observation point in the Lebanese villages of Markaba, Al-Taybeh and Maroun Al-Ras.” The army also confirmed the launch of several projectiles from Lebanon, noting that it “responded by targeting the launch sites and other sites in Lebanon.” Hezbollah targeted Tuesday a group of soldiers in the Hadb Yarin post. Hezbollah also said it has targeted surveillance equipment near the border village al-Wazzani. The situation further intensified on Wednesday, January 31. The Israeli army reportedly used phosphorus shells in Kafr Kila, while Hezbollah launched attacks against Israeli soldiers and assets, including targeting the “Al-Manara” settlement, the “Jal al-Alam” site with a Falaq 1 missile, and an Israeli Merkava tank at Bayad Blida. Hezbollah also claimed responsibility for bombings targeting Israeli soldier gatherings at Al-Tayhat Hill, Metulla, and the Mitat Barracks. Concurrently, Israeli forces conducted multiple raids on Lebanese towns such as Beit Lev, Blida, and Yaron, resulting in civilian casualties and the targeting of an ambulance. This three-day period demonstrated a severe deterioration in the security environment along the Lebanese border, with both sides actively engaging in military actions and reporting direct hits.

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 

Monday January 29, 2024

1.Israel Nears End of Major Military Campaign in Gaza, Exposes UNRWA-Hamas Connections.  On this day, after four months of military operations, Israel estimated that 2,000 Hamas members are incapacitated, the Israeli government released documents proving at least 190 members of UNRWA staff are Hamas or Palestinian Jihad, and continued destroying the vast network of underground tunnels used by Hamas members as part of Israel’s broader strategy to dismantle Hamas’ underground tunnel network, allegedly used for command and control, weapon transport, and holding about 130 hostages. In a press conference, Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari reported that approximately 2,000 Hamas militants were killed by the Israeli army in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip. He noted that numerous Hamas leaders died, fled, or surrendered providing valuable intelligence. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant, speaking near the Gaza border, stated that around half of Hamas fighters were either killed or injured. He anticipated prolonged fighting in Gaza, emphasizing that Hamas lacks supplies, ammunition, and reinforcements.  Meanwhile, Elon Levy, addressing the situation from the Israeli government’s viewpoint, accused UNRWA of serious offenses. His globally aired statement implicated the agency as a covert supporter of Hamas, outlining ‘recruitment, military activity, and aid distribution’ as the main forms of collusion. Levy contended that 10% of UNRWA staff have ties to Hamas or Jihad.   Following Levy’s statement, Israeli intelligence provided concrete evidence, uncovering documents and identity cards that link approximately 190 UNRWA employees to Hamas or Palestinian Jihad. This evidence includes names and photographs of individuals involved in various activities, including the transport of an Israeli soldier’s body, coordination of weapon supplies, and management of militant transport. Among the implicated are an UNRWA teacher possessing an anti-tank missile, another caught photographing a hostage, and a store manager at an UNRWA school who allegedly set up a war command room for the jihad movement. In light of these findings, Israeli forces arrested several UNRWA workers traveling from Khan Yunis to Rafah and dismantled a hidden Palestinian Islamic Jihad underground weapons factory, seizing rockets and explosives concealed in U.N. Relief and Works Agency sacks. In response to these allegations and potential funding issues, UNRWA announced the risk of suspending operations in Gaza and the region after February. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the challenging conditions faced by UNRWA workers in humanitarian relief.  Several nations, including key allies, openly opposed the United States’ decision to halt funding to UNRWA. In this context, the UAE, through Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, reinforced its support for UNRWA during talks with Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. They stressed the necessity of safe humanitarian aid in Gaza and the importance of preventing further conflict and loss of life. Sheikh Abdullah praised UNRWA’s swift handling of internal issues and urged other donors to renew their support, highlighting UNRWA’s essential humanitarian role amidst ongoing conflict and allegations. Axios reported that a group of Democratic Jewish U.S. Congress members discussed alternatives to UNRWA in Gaza, with a senior official suggesting six international organizations, including UNICEF and the World Food Programme, as potential replacements or supplements, indicating a pursuit of viable solutions for the humanitarian needs in Gaza amid complex regional politics and security concerns. Last but not least in Monday’s events, the AP Press reported on a contentious development in southern Gaza where an Islamic cemetery was demolished. The Israeli army justified this action, stating that Hamas has been utilizing such sites for military operations. In a related move, the Israeli army disclosed its strategy of flooding the underground tunnel network in Gaza. This tactic aims to disrupt the extensive tunnel system used by Hamas for various purposes, including attacks on Israel, command and control operations, weapons transportation, and allegedly holding around 130 hostages Following the reports of significant casualties among Hamas fighters and the controversial demolition of an Islamic cemetery in southern Gaza, tensions escalated further. An official from Hamas’ Health Ministry leveled grave accusations against Israel, alleging organ theft from the bodies managed by the Ministry of Health. These claims were echoed by the Palestinian News Agency “Wafa,” which reported inconsistencies in bodies returned by Israeli forces. Adding to the gravity, The Palestinian News Agency “Wafa” supported the allegations of misconduct, reporting anomalies in bodies that Israeli forces had returned. “Wafa” revealed that the Israeli army initially took 110 bodies from the Shifa Medical Complex, all casualties of their military actions in Gaza. However, they later returned only 100 of these bodies, raising questions about the missing ten. No response in Israeli media was found. 

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Tuesday January 30, 2024

2.Israel Uses AI-Powered Technologies to Identify Hamas Members; Conducts Covert Operations.  Arab media sources revealed the Israeli military’s deployment of an AI-driven camera system along the Gaza-Rafah routes. This system, aimed at identifying Hamas operatives, reportedly distinguished 300 suspects from nearly 100,000 displaced Palestinians. These individuals, implicated in the October 7 attack, faced detention by Israeli forces. On Tuesday, during a covert operation at Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin, West Bank, Israeli commandos engaged with three members of a Hamas cell linked to the October 7 attacks near Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Shin Bet security agency, and Yamam police counter-terrorism unit executed this 10-minute operation, which involved disguising themselves as medical staff and Palestinian women. They targeted a third-floor room, resulting in the elimination of the suspects, including cell leader Muhammad Jalamneh, a Hamas spokesperson and attack planner, and operatives Muhammad and Basel Ghazawi. The IDF claimed the hospital was used as a strategic hideout for plotting imminent attacks. Muhammad was known for his involvement in attacks on Israeli troops, while Basel was associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Since October 7, Israeli forces have arrested over 2,980 Palestinians in the West Bank, with more than 1,350 linked to Hamas. The Palestinian Authority reports over 300 Palestinian fatalities during this period. A recent incident included a roadside bomb killing a Border Police officer and wounding three, plus an airstrike in Jenin killing seven Palestinians.  Israeli fatalities in Gaza increased to 223 since the onset of the ground offensive against Hamas, with three soldiers killed on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the army announced the death of Major (Reserve) Yitzhar Hoffman, 36, from Ishhar in the Galilee. Hoffman, a platoon leader in the Shaldag unit, was killed during combat in northern Gaza. Concurrently, a recent video published by the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, showcases a series of engagements with Israeli forces in the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City. This incident highlights a tactical shift, with Hamas operatives directly targeting Israeli military hardware, including vehicles and a tank, using light weapons and missiles, notably the “Al-Yassin-105.” In the last intercepted story from Tuesday, January 30, 2024, Hamas issued a statement accusing Israel of executing approximately 30 Palestinians in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip. According to Hamas, the victims were found in a school, executed while blindfolded and with their hands tied. This account is allegedly supported by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club and local citizens. Hamas demanded that international human rights institutions document and prosecute these actions. Furthermore, Hamas highlighted the discovery of bodies in a Beit Lahia school as clear evidence of execution by Israeli forces. They also claim that photographic evidence shows Israeli forces publicly displaying blindfolded and naked Palestinian men in Gaza streets, with some allegedly killed for not following orders quickly enough. This narrative, as presented by Hamas, emphasizes their accusation of severe human rights violations by Israeli forces.

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Wednesday January 31, 2024

3.Strategic Intel Successes and Peace Efforts in the Gaza Strip.  On January 31, the IDF reported uncovering a Hamas cell operation involving Jewish Israeli citizens unknowingly transporting weapons and explosives. This was part of a wider scheme where, from October 7 to late December. Approximately 350 IDF personnel, predominantly reservists, processed over 65 million electronic files and 500,000 physical documents. Their analysis was crucial in thwarting numerous potential Hamas ambushes. The operation exposed after seizing vital electronics from a Hamas intelligence headquarters included analyzing computers and cellphones, leading to a counterintelligence sting against Hamas operatives. It was discovered that these operatives, previously detained by the IDF and expelled to Gaza following the 2011 Gilad Schalit exchange, had manipulated Jewish Israelis, especially those from the Jerusalem area. They were misled into believing they were aiding Jews overseas, thereby inadvertently supporting Hamas’s logistical operations. This marks Hamas’s largest known attempt to recruit Jews as spies, a significant departure from earlier efforts targeting individuals with vulnerable backgrounds for espionage. Maariv, an Israeli newspaper, revealed a detailed three-stage plan for the Gaza Strip, post-conflict, which is being considered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a preliminary proposal. This plan, devised by a group of businessmen, some of whom are closely associated with Netanyahu, aims for a comprehensive approach to the region’s future, on Wednesday. Initially, it proposes establishing an Israeli military administration in Gaza for humanitarian aid and governance. Simultaneously, it aims to form an international Arab coalition, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, the UAE, and Bahrain, to back a new Palestinian Authority, independent from Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas. This authority would eventually take over Gaza’s governance, with Israel maintaining security oversight similar to the West Bank. The final phase, contingent on the new authority’s success and comprehensive West Bank reforms, could lead to Israel recognizing a demilitarized Palestinian state within two to four years, potentially including additional territories without displacing settlements. Conversely, Hamas announced it was reviewing a different three-phase proposal in Cairo which emerged from negotiations in Paris.  The first phase of this proposal includes a ceasefire and the release of specific hostages, alongside the resumption of essential humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza. The second phase plans for the release of female Israeli soldiers and further increases in aid and restoration of utilities. The final phase involves the exchange of deceased Israeli soldiers’ bodies for freed Palestinian prisoners. This structured proposal aims at gradually de-escalating the conflict while addressing immediate humanitarian concerns and setting the stage for a more lasting resolution​​.  Achieving peace in the Gaza Strip requires a balanced approach that addresses immediate and urgent needs while laying the groundwork for a lasting political settlement. The analysis of both the Maariv and Hamas proposals reveals contrasting approaches to resolving the Gaza Strip conflict, each with its merits and limitations that reflect differing priorities and potential outcomes. The Maariv proposal’s comprehensive strategy, involving international and regional support for a new Palestinian Authority and a pathway to statehood, demonstrates a long-term vision for peace but risks perpetuating tensions through an initial military administration and the contentious issue of security oversight. On the other hand, the Hamas proposal emphasizes immediate humanitarian relief and phased de-escalation, offering a pragmatic approach to reducing hostilities and addressing urgent human concerns, yet it falls short by not providing a durable political solution or detailing the involvement of external actors to ensure its success and sustainability.

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★ The Arabian Gulf

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Already Report Economic Fallout from Houthi Attacks in Red Sea.  Previously hypothetical concerns about the global impact of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are now becoming tangible realities for Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The security incidents have led major shipping companies, including Denmark’s Maersk and Germany’s Hapag Lloyd, to halt their shipments through this critical commercial artery. As a result, the disruptions are having significant implications for the oil supply chain and pricing, underscoring the growing threat to regional stability and global energy markets.  In the wake of the tangible threats posed by Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia experienced a notable economic repercussion in the third quarter of 2023. The Kingdom saw a 10% decrease in net foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, amounting to 11 billion riyals ($2.93 billion), down from 13 billion riyals ($3.47 billion) in the preceding quarter. This downturn coincides with a period of heightened regional tensions, including the Israel-Hamas conflict and Houthi activities, which have likely influenced investor sentiment. Notably, this reduction in FDI flows occurred following the Saudi Statistics Authority’s implementation of a new IMF-aligned methodology for calculating these investments. The broader implications of the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, extend beyond Saudi Arabia to include Kuwait. Kuwait, facing a budget deficit exceeding $19 billion for the fiscal year 2024-2025, encounters a significant challenge. The country’s economy, heavily reliant on oil revenues, is particularly vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations. The Houthi attacks exacerbate this vulnerability, potentially leading to increased oil price volatility and impacting Kuwait’s oil revenue projections, a critical component of its national budget. These incidents illustrate the interconnectedness of regional security, global energy markets, and the financial stability of oil-exporting nations. 

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★ EGYPT

Egypt Mediates Israeli Security Concerns, Ceasefire Before Ramadan, And Coordinates With Hamas.  Israeli security expresses grave concerns about senior Hamas figures and Israeli prisoners being smuggled from Gaza into Egypt. Reports emphasize heightened smuggling fears in the Gaza-Egypt border area, particularly through the Philadelphia Corridor. Israel alleges Hamas weapon smuggling from Egypt and seeks to increase presence there to halt hostage and leader smuggling. Egypt refutes Rafah crossing smuggling claims and demands Israel provide evidence. Israel plans limited military operations in the area despite Egyptian objections. The situation reflects a tense standoff, with Israel aiming to secure the border amid calls for tunnel proof. Egypt is pressuring Israel to end the Gaza war before Ramadan to prevent a regional explosion. Israel faces fears of escalating tensions if no ceasefire is reached. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is expected to visit Cairo for talks, and Israeli Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar recently met with his Egyptian counterpart to discuss hostage issues, preventing weapons smuggling into Gaza, and post-war plans. CIA Director William Burns also participated in talks in Paris with Egypt, Qatar, and Israel to discuss a ceasefire in Gaza. Egypt is urging the United States to exert more pressure on Israel to achieve a ceasefire. Hamas officials are meeting with Egyptian intelligence in Cairo to discuss a Qatar-brokered truce proposal. The proposal involves a three-stage ceasefire with a focus on releasing hostages held in Gaza since October 7, starting with civilians, followed by soldiers, and eventually the deceased hostages’ bodies. Both sides are expected to halt military operations during these phases. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects ending the war or releasing prisoners until Israel’s objectives are fully met, despite reports of potential concessions. Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer is discussing the Gaza conflict and hostage release efforts with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Israel’s war cabinet tentatively supports the deal but anticipates a resumption of the conflict post-agreement.

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★ TURKIYE

Turkiye Seeks Tripartite Cooperation Mechanism With Baghdad and Erbil Linking Security, Water, Energy, and Economic Files. In recent high-level talks, Turkiye has advanced a proposal for a tripartite cooperation mechanism with Baghdad and Erbil, aiming to integrate security, water, energy, and economic concerns. Ibrahim Kalin, the head of the Turkish Intelligence Service, engaged in two rounds of discussions in Baghdad and Erbil within a week, focusing on regional developments, counter-terrorism efforts, and the ongoing conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). These talks culminated in a significant meeting in Ankara, where Turkish and Iraqi officials outlined a roadmap to deepen bilateral cooperation. Key points of agreement included a joint commitment to combat PKK activities, resolve water resource disparities, and facilitate Iraqi oil transportation. Concurrently, Turkish forces reported the elimination of three PKK fighters in Northern Iraq on January 30, 2024.

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📌 Incase you missed it, 📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  January 26, 2024 📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  January 25, 2024 📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  January 24, 2024 🌍 The Region Special Report:  Has Tehran Crossed America’s Redline? 🔗 Follow the latest news from the American Center for Levant Studies via Google News

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