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Russia Joins War on Israel, Iran and Hezbollah Escalate

Russia Joins War on Israel, Iran and Hezbollah Escalate

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Top Headlines: 

  • Russia Arms Houthis with Advanced Weapons to Target U.S.
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Enhances Naval Power with New Ships
  • Hezbollah Launches 20 Drones, 200 Rockets on Israel
  • Israel Approves Largest West Bank Land Seizure in Decades
  • Erdogan Fails as Ukraine Mediator, Seeks Putin’s Help with Assad

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ISRAEL-HEZBOLLAH CRISIS

  1. Hezbollah Launches 20 Drones, 200 Rockets on Israel

Hezbollah launched a massive assault on northern Israel with over 20 drones and 200 rockets, hitting the Galilee and Golan Heights. The attack, which lasted 40 minutes, led to tens of thousands of hectares of fires and damage but no immediate casualties. Israel’s defense forces intercepted many projectiles and retaliated by targeting launch sites in southern Lebanon. This escalation follows the killing of senior Hezbollah commander Muhammad Nimah Nasser. Just before midnight, Israeli forces fired flares and targeted the outskirts of Alma al-Shaab and Marwahin with artillery shells.

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ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israel Reviews Hamas’ Response to CIA Chief’s Hostage Deal Proposal

CIA Director William Burns’ proposal has revitalized negotiations for a hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas. Developed with Egyptian and Qatari mediators, and possibly involving Turkiye, the proposal includes a ceasefire guarantee during negotiations. This aligns with Hamas’ demand for a complete ceasefire. Another idea involves Israel evacuating the Rafah crossing, managed by Egypt. US President Biden’s administration introduced new terms to bridge gaps, pushing for a three-stage deal to free 120 prisoners and achieve lasting calm. Hamas’ latest response is seen as constructive, allowing detailed talks. However, challenges remain, and negotiations could take weeks. An agreement would bolster Biden’s political standing, while Israeli officials prepare to discuss the next steps with PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant.

  1. Is the Opposition Leader Suggesting Israel Use Nuclear Action?

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman’s comments appear to suggest the consideration of unconventional methods, including potential nuclear action, to counter Iran’s nuclear program. Liberman emphasized the need to use “all the tools” available and stated that it is impossible to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons through conventional means. This implication is strengthened by his position and access to information about Israel’s military capabilities. Moreover, his remarks align with previous calls for extreme measures, including nuclear options, by other Israeli officials in different contexts. Therefore, while not explicitly stating it, Liberman is strongly implying the use of nuclear action to stop Iran’s nuclear progress.

  1. Israel’s Largest West Bank Land Seizure Faces International Criticism

Israel has approved its largest land seizure in the West Bank in over 30 years, designating 12.7 square kilometers in the Jordan Valley as “state property.” This action follows a pattern of reclassifying land under Israeli domestic law, facilitating settlement expansion. The move has faced international condemnation, with the UN and human rights organizations labeling it a violation of international law and a threat to the two-state solution. The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, claims the territory is disputed, not occupied, justifying its actions legally. This seizure connects settlements along the Jordan border, further undermining the prospects for a contiguous Palestinian state and increasing regional tensions.

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YEMEN

  1. Russia Supports Houthis with Advanced Weapons to Target U.S. Vessels

Yemen’s Houthi group has intensified attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea using explosive-laden drone boats, with new evidence indicating critical Russian support. Russia is reportedly supplying the Houthis with advanced anti-ship ballistic cruise missiles, such as the P-800 Oniks, smuggled via Hezbollah and Syria. This development aligns with Russia’s strategy, retaliating against U.S. Ukraine support and complicating Western maritime security efforts. The Houthis, having agreed not to target Russian or Chinese ships, now pose a heightened threat to U.S. and allied vessels, potentially destabilizing the Red Sea and beyond. This cooperation proves Russia’s broader geopolitical strategy to counter Western influence, using proxy forces to exert pressure in critical regions.

  1. Houthis Escalate Red Sea Attacks with Explosive Drone Boats

Yemen’s Houthi group has intensified its attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea using explosive-laden drone boats, a notable shift in their tactics, maritime security sources report. Recently, three vessels were targeted by drone boats, including one contributing to the sinking of the cargo ship Tutor. In the past 24 hours, U.S. Central Command forces successfully destroyed two Iranian-backed Houthi radar sites in Yemen and two uncrewed surface vessels (USV) in the Red Sea. Maritime security expert Dimitris Maniatis noted that these drone boats enhance the Houthis’ precision and range, reducing their vulnerability to counterattacks. In response, the U.S.-led coalition has conducted at least six defensive strikes against drone boats since February.

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IRAN

  1. Iran Mobilizes Iraqi Militias, Reinforces Positions in Syria

Iran is bolstering its military presence in Syria through strategic movements and reinforcements. The deployment of the Iraqi “Sayyid Al-Shuhadaa” militia with weapons to a new headquarters in Al-Heri near the Syrian-Iraqi border shows Iran’s intent to strengthen its defensive and offensive positions in Deir Ezzor. Despite losing 37 fighters in June, primarily from Israeli strikes, Iran continues to mobilize recruits, establishing new military points along critical routes like the Euphrates River bed to ensure control over supply lines. The IRGC has issued directives to enhance operational security, such as prohibiting photos with military equipment, likely to mitigate intelligence leaks and counter surveillance. The IRGC’s logistical network efficiently coordinates weapon transfers through crossings like Al-Sikkah. Senior Iranian officials’ inspections indicate a structured resupply approach, ensuring operational readiness. The Iranian Cultural Center’s recruitment and indoctrination of children, alongside Hezbollah’s involvement, highlight a long-term strategy to embed ideological loyalty. Despite external threats, including Israeli attacks prompting Hezbollah to reposition, Iran’s activities reflect a comprehensive approach to maintain and expand its influence, anticipating potential conflicts with Israel by supporting Hezbollah with Iraqi factions.

  1. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Enhances Naval Power with New Ships

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) has expanded its fleet with heavily armed missile corvettes and converted container ships, enhancing its ability to operate on the high seas. This includes the Shahid Soleimani-class corvettes, armed with 28 missiles and various guns, designed for long-range anti-ship and anti-air missions. The IRGCN, known for its asymmetric warfare tactics, now aims to project power beyond the Persian Gulf, confronting adversaries like Saudi Arabia and the US.

  1. Iran Offers China-Style Strategic Deal to India

Iran has proposed a strategic cooperation agreement to India, similar to its 2021 pact with China. This offer aims to attract Indian investment in Iran’s energy and infrastructure sectors. The China-Iran deal involves a $400 billion Chinese investment in return for discounted Iranian oil over 25 years. Iran’s proposal to India follows this model, hoping to secure critical investments despite Western sanctions. 

  1. Iran and Iraq Compete for Shiite Leadership Post-Sistani

As Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the influential leader of Iraqi Shiites, nears 94, the competition for Shiite leadership intensifies between Iraq and Iran. Sistani’s pragmatic, democratic approach contrasts with Iran’s clerical rule. His refusal to endorse militias during crises solidified Najaf’s authority over Tehran. Despite Iran’s attempts to influence Najaf, Sistani’s legacy of advocating for people’s sovereignty and constitutional democracy is likely to endure. The future of Shiite leadership remains uncertain, but Sistani’s principles continue to shape the Shiite world. The deal could greatly benefit India, previously a major buyer of Iranian oil, by helping to manage high energy prices. Discussions are ongoing, with Iran highlighting its readiness to meet India’s energy needs.

  1. Iran Executes Four During Surge in Death Penalties

Iran executed four prisoners on drug-related charges, including two from Mashhad, one from Quchan, and an Afghan national. Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) identified two as Yaser Ghafoorian and Mohammad Hooshyar Alizadeh. Amnesty International reports Iran executed 853 people in 2023, the highest in eight years. Over half of these executions were for drug crimes, marking an 89% increase from 2022 and a 264% rise from 2021. The prisoners were hanged without a final family meeting, and no Iranian official sources reported these executions.

  1. Canada Moves to Deport Five Alleged Senior Iranian Officials

Canadian authorities are deporting five senior Iranian government officials. This action responds to the Iranian diaspora’s appeals to bar regime-affiliated individuals following Iran’s crackdown on the 2022 “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests. The Canada Border Services Agency alleges these officials held roles in Iran’s government. Despite adopting sanctions in 2022, this is the first major deportation effort. Hearings for the latest deportations are closed to the public. Canada has escalated its stance against Iran by designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization, impacting visa and residency decisions.

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IRAQ

  1. Barzani Advocates Considering Iraq’s Interests in Coalition Forces Decision

Masoud Barzani emphasized the importance of Iraq and regional interests in the decision on whether to retain U.S.-led coalition forces to combat ISIS. During a meeting in Baghdad with ambassadors from eight Arab countries, Barzani discussed Iraq’s political situation and his dialogues with political parties. He noted a positive political atmosphere that could lead to resolving differences and stabilizing Iraq and the region. Barzani called for a national consensus on the coalition forces’ presence. The Arab ambassadors expressed their support for Iraq’s security, stability, and political reconciliation efforts.

  1. Iran Ensures Iraqi Dependency on Its Energy Infrastructure

Iran has initiated a new agreement with Turkmenistan to supply natural gas to Iraq through an Iranian-constructed pipeline, severely impacting Iraq’s economy. The 77-mile pipeline, built by Iranian companies, will enable Turkmenistan to ship an additional 10 million cubic meters of gas to Iraq. This comes after Iraq faced severe gas shortages last year due to disruptions in Iranian shipments, which previously accounted for 40% of Iraq’s gas imports. The deal also includes Turkmenistan increasing its gas shipments to Iran to 40 million cubic meters, enhancing Iran’s export capacity. This strategy strengthens Iran’s economic influence over Iraq by ensuring Iraqi dependency on Iranian infrastructure for critical energy supplies. The financial terms of the contract remain undisclosed, but the move further proves Iran’s pivotal role in regional energy dynamics and its leverage over Iraq’s energy security.

  1. Iran Strengthens Grip on Iraq with 7 Million Free Entries

A political source revealed that 7 million Iranian visitors will enter Iraq for the Arbaeen pilgrimage on August 25, bypassing passport control with documents stamped by Iran’s Ministry of Interior. These visitors, protected by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and affiliated militias, will receive free accommodations, food, and drinks funded by the Iraqi religious authorities, costing Iraq’s budget at least $1 billion. The absence of a $50 entry fee per visitor means Iraq is losing an additional $350 million. This influx, occurring without entry fees, highlights Iran’s deepening control over Iraq and the economic strain on Iraq’s already challenged budget. The combined costs and lost revenue, totaling approximately $1.35 billion, proves the extent of Iran’s influence and the economic implications of this unregulated influx.

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SYRIA

  1. Explosive Device Targets Russian Forces in Quneitra

An explosive device targeted a military vehicle carrying Syrian regime and Russian forces in southern Quneitra, marking the first such attack since Russian redeployment to curb Iranian Guard group assaults on the Golan. Two soldiers were injured in the explosion on the Al-Jamousiyah-Abu Ghara road. Russian forces re-entered Quneitra in mid-May following increased Israeli strikes on Iranian and Hezbollah positions. They established points along the Red Hills and Mount Hermon to mitigate violations from Israeli and Syrian sides, following a UNIFIL request to replace Syrian regime forces with Russian troops.

  1. China Launches Solar Lighting Project in Syria

The Assad regime announced the opening of the Ghabaghib 66/20 kV substation with a capacity of 30 MVA, costing over 30 billion Syrian pounds. Despite government claims of self-sufficiency in engineering, the project highlights ongoing challenges in Syria’s energy sector. Concurrently, China has initiated a solar lighting project, illuminating six streets in Damascus with 105 devices. This collaboration raises questions regarding potential violations of the Caesar Act, which imposes sanctions on entities engaging in major financial transactions with the Syrian regime. As power shortages persist, electricity bills have soared, exacerbating public frustration.

  1. Iranian Influence Brings Assad $1.37M in Religious Tourism

The Assad regime’s Tourism Minister, Rami Martini, reported a 24% rise in Iraqi and Iranian tourist arrivals to Syria during Eid al-Adha, driven by “religious tourism” managed by private companies under regime supervision. From January to May, 13,700 visitors, who entered without prior security approval or visa, generated $1,370,000 from the $100 exchange fee imposed by the Assad regime since July 2020. Assuming a similar influx of tourists, this policy has likely generated approximately $21,920,000 over four years. This policy aims to boost the Assad regime’s economy but highlights the Iranian hegemony over both Iraq and Syria, where Iranians enjoy seamless access. However, travelers face dissatisfaction due to the exchange requirement, contrasting with the Iraqi government’s policy of waiving all fees for Iranian tourists.

  1. 54 Countries Urge Release of Unjustly Detained in Syria

A joint statement by 54 countries, including the US, UK, and Turkiye, condemned the Syrian regime’s treatment of detainees, highlighting deaths, torture, and ill-treatment in detention centers. During a dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, they called for a sustainable political solution per UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The statement emphasized the suffering of families with arbitrarily detained and missing members, urging all parties to cease such practices and cooperate with humanitarian organizations. They praised the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for exposing widespread and systematic abuses, and called for the release of unjustly detained Syrians and accountability for responsible parties. Commission head Paulo Pinheiro criticized the international community and the Syrian regime for perpetuating the status quo during the ongoing violence and fragmentation, warning of increasing risks for returning refugees due to property confiscations and destruction.

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 EGYPT

  1. Egypt Signs Billion-Dollar Agreements with EU

During the Egyptian-European Investment Conference, Egypt signed 35 agreements and MOUs worth approximately €70 billion ($75.63 billion) with European and non-European partners, exceeding initial expectations. These deals focus on renewable energy, green hydrogen, and infrastructure. However, past experiences, such as the 2015 Sharm El Sheikh conference, where many pledges were not realized, raise concerns about the feasibility of these new agreements. Experts suggest that geopolitical tensions and fears of illegal immigration may be driving European support, with a mix of binding and non-binding agreements casting doubt on immediate tangible outcomes.

  1. Egypt’s Fuel Import Bill Reaches $6.4 Billion in First Half of 2024

Egypt imported fuel worth $6.4 billion in the first half of 2024, up from $6.1 billion the previous year. Petroleum products accounted for over $3.6 billion of this bill. The increase is attributed to higher shipping and transportation costs. The Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum imports 20-25% of the country’s fuel needs through various contracts and aims for self-sufficiency by developing local production fields. Egypt produces about 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily, covering 75% of its fuel consumption, with the remainder met by imports from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

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 THE GULF

  1. Bin Farhan and Blinken Discuss Gaza Ceasefire and Regional Stability

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken discussed efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, ensure the release of hostages, and improve humanitarian access. They also addressed post-war governance, security, and reconstruction in Gaza to establish lasting peace. Additional topics included promoting regional integration, reducing tensions along Israel’s northern borders, and resolving the conflict in Sudan. Blinken condemned Houthi attacks on international shipping and called for the release of detained Yemeni UN and NGO employees.

  1. Gulf Countries Expand LNG Fleet to Meet Rising Global Demand

Gulf countries are substantially expanding their liquefied natural gas (LNG) fleets to meet the growing global demand for natural gas.

The UAE’s ADNOC awarded contracts to Korean companies for building 8-10 new LNG carriers. Qatar Energy signed a deal for 18 advanced tankers, aiming for a fleet of 136. Oman’s Asyad Maritime Transport Company is enhancing its fleet with two new tankers. These expansions are driven by the importance of LNG as a cleaner energy source and its increasing market demand, ensuring stable supplies and supporting global economic growth.

  1. Kuwait’s Push for Digitizing Government Transactions

Kuwait aims to eliminate paper transactions within 3 to 5 years, aligning with its “Kuwait Vision 2035” to become a financial and commercial hub. This move enhances efficiency, transparency, and service delivery via the “Sahl” application, reducing bureaucracy and costs. A strategic alliance with Google Cloud bolsters this transformation, emphasizing data, cybersecurity, and AI. Key steps include developing fast internet infrastructure, training personnel, and public education on digitization benefits. This digital shift supports Kuwait’s economic diversification and modernization efforts, creating high-skilled job opportunities and fostering a tech-driven ecosystem.

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 TURKIYE

  1. Erdogan Fails as Ukraine Mediator, Seeks Putin’s Help with Assad

During the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kazakhstan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ankara mediate to end the Russia-Ukraine war. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed this possibility, stating that Erdogan could not serve as a mediator. Following this, Erdogan sought Moscow’s support to mediate the normalization between Ankara and Damascus. Putin responded positively to Erdogan’s request, agreeing to assist in the mediation efforts between Erdogan and Assad. President Erdogan’s recent statements suggesting possible reconciliation with Assad have inflamed tensions on multiple fronts. Despite past efforts, Turkiye and Assad have failed to reconcile. In late 2022, photos of former Turkish officials with Assad regime officials in Moscow shocked the Syrian opposition. This round of statements was preceded by a critical military action from the Turkish army and the opening of the Abu al-Zandeen crossing. The unrest is also driven by the killings of Syrians in Turkiye by Turkish citizens, who act with impunity. This unrest recalls previous failed reconciliation attempts and reflects long-standing discontent with Turkiye’s management of Syrian issues.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX July 3, 2024

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX July 2, 2024

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX July 1, 2024

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