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A first look at today’s most notable stories from the Middle East, selected by ACLS experts

17 January 2023

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1. Cyberattack on Damascus Airport Delays Departure of Iranian Foreign Minister (Syria TV). The control tower at Damascus airport and other equipment were subjected to sudden technical malfunctions, likely caused by a cyber attack, which caused the delay of the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian’s plane.

2. Turkish Movements in Northern Syria Reveal the Divergence of Normalization with the Regime (Asharq AlAwsat). The Turkish forces and Syrian National Army factions continued their military escalation on the contact axes with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Assad regime, and bombed, with heavy artillery, a village controlled by SDF in the Manbij countryside, east of Aleppo, coinciding with the presence of Russian engineering and patrol vehicles in the village. 


3. Ankara Urges US to Preserve Balance in Ties with Türkiye, Greece (Anadolu Agency). Balance has begun to deteriorate in US relations with Türkiye,Greece and between Turkish, Greek Cypriots, says Turkish foreign minister.


4. Saudi Arabia Launches Program to Detect the Threat of Extremist Groups (Al Arabiya). The Grand Mufti of the Kingdom, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Al-Sheikh, gave the signal to launch an intellectual awareness program, aimed at strengthening the role of fatwas in the security of society, and pointing out the danger of extremist groups that adopt politics to implement their partisan plans.

5. Saudi Finance Minister:  We can “heal the rift” between the United States and China (Al Arabiya). Saudi Arabia can help be a channel of communication between the United States and China at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said on Monday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland .


6. Al-Sudani Meets with Biden’s Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk (Iraqi News). Amos Hochstein, the Special US Presidential Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security, and Alina Romanowski, the US Ambassador to Iraq, were also in attendance at the meeting in Baghdad.

7. Iraq Repatriates Dozens of Iraqi Families of ISIS Fighters Held in Syria (Syria TV). Iraqi media quoted an Iraqi security source as saying that the families entered the Iraqi border with a convoy of 25 large buses and seven American military vehicles, in the first batch of Iraqi returnees during the current year (2023).


8. British Police Arrest Man After Uranium Sent To UK-Based Iranians (Iran International). An unnamed British businessman has been arrested on suspicion of terrorism over an alleged attempt to import a deadly uranium package into the UK.

9. Angry People Hold Gathering In Northeastern Iran To Protest Gas Shortage (Iran International). Iranians in the northeastern city of Torbat-e Jaam held a rally in front of the governor’s office to protest government inefficiency amid natural gas shortage.

10. Trade Exchange Between Iran and the European Union Grew by 22% (Almayadeen). The European Statistical Center “Eurostat” announced that trade exchange between the European Union and Iran grew by 22% between January and November 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.


11. Egypt, China Agree to Develop Strategic Partnership (Asharq Al-Awsat). Egypt and China stressed their keenness to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership that brings them together in various fields. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received Sunday Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who is on an African tour that includes five countries.


12. Israeli Defense Minister: The Possibility of Escalation in Lebanon is always Present (Lebanon Files). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran will remain the biggest challenge to Israel and its army, at a ceremony marking the appointment of the new Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, Herzi Halevi. In turn, Netanyahu said, “In the face of the threats directed at us, primarily Iran and its terrorist proxies, we must show absolute determination,” according to Israeli media….In a related context, the Israeli Minister of Defense stressed that Iran’s nuclear threats are increasing and must be prevented. He stressed that “the possibility of escalation in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip is possible and always present, as well as the possibility of escalation in the West Bank.”

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