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THE EARLY PHOENIX

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

18 April 2023

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SUDAN

1. U.S. Diplomatic Mission Vehicle Targeted in Khartoum (Al Arabiya). Sources from the U.S. Embassy in Sudan informed Al-Arabiya on Monday evening that the Rapid Support Forces targeted an armored vehicle from the diplomatic mission. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries…Earlier on Monday, the White House announced that U.S. officials have communicated with Sudan’s military leaders, urging them to cease hostilities without delay.

2. Al-Burhan Offers Pardon to Disarming Rapid Support Forces Members (Al Hadath). Sudanese Army Spokesperson Nabil Abdullah stated that his country is facing an attempted coup to seize power, urging the Rapid Support Forces to lay down their arms…The UN envoy to Sudan reported that the death toll has risen to 185, including both civilians and military personnel, with over 1,800 individuals injured since the conflict’s onset.

GULF REGION

3. Lindsey Graham Advocates for U.S.-Saudi Arabia Mutual Defense Agreement (Arab News). US Senator Lindsey Graham said he “reserved the right to change course” on his opinion of Saudi Arabia following a visit to the Kingdom…Graham said US interest in Saudi Arabia was about “caution and opportunity,” adding that American firms can help develop the Kingdom’s plans for a nuclear energy program which, unlike Iran’s, would be for peaceful purposes.

4. Saudi Crown Prince Hosts Iraqi Shiite Leader Ammar Al-Hakim (Ammar Alhakeem Website). Al-Hakim voiced his support for any measure that aids in halting the violence and conflict in Yemen, a fraternal nation, and re-establishing its pivotal Arab and regional role and standing. Furthermore, he expressed his delight at the ongoing practical steps to reinstate Syria and secure its place at the forthcoming Arab summit. Finally, Al-Hakim emphasized that the diplomatic developments between Riyadh and Tehran will have positive repercussions throughout the region.

5. Market Value of Saudi Aramco Exceeds $2 Trillion (Al Khaleej Online). The stock’s increase followed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s announcement yesterday that 4% of the company’s shares would be transferred to Sanabel Investment, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund…Crown Prince bin Salman explained that the share transfer aimed to bolster the national economy long-term, diversify its resources, and create more investment opportunities.

6. Italy Lifts Embargo on Arms Sales to UAE (Al Arabiya). Italy halted the sale of missiles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in January 2021, citing its commitment to restoring peace in Yemen and protecting human rights. Since then, it had already loosened restrictions on arms exports to both Gulf states, according to sources, to ease diplomatic tensions.

7. Kuwait’s Crown Prince Announces Parliament Dissolution and Calls for New Elections (Al Jazeera).  The escalating tensions between the legislative and executive authorities in the country have led to the dissolution of the 2020 Parliament, the annulment of the 2022 Parliament, and the reinstatement of the former by the country’s Constitutional Court on March 19th. This turbulence has also resulted in the dismissal and resignation of two governments within a short timeframe.

ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

8. Lindsey Graham Tells Netanyahu U.S. Working for Saudi-Israeli Normalization (i24 News). “We want normalization and peace with Saudi Arabia. We view that as perhaps a giant leap towards ending the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Netanyahu told Graham. “This agreement could have monumental consequences, historic consequences both for Israel, Saudi Arabia, the region, and the world.”

9. China Ready to Facilitate Middle East Peace: State Media (Al-Monitor). China’s foreign minister told his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts his country is ready to help facilitate peace talks, state media Xinhua reported Tuesday.  

IRAN

10. Iran’s Exiled Prince Meets Netanyahu Amid Tensions With Tehran (Iran International). Pahlavi attended a ceremony held at the National Holocaust Memorial and Museum, Yad Vashem, as part of the Holocaust Remembrance DayThis is the first time a prominent Iranian political figure has visited Israel publicly. Before departing for Israel on Sunday, Prince Pahlavi tweeted that he wanted “to deliver a message of friendship from the Iranian people…and pay respects to the victims of the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah.” 

11. Iran Sentences 10 Low-Ranking Personnel Over Downing Of Ukrainian Airliner (Iran International). The judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported Sunday that a commander was sentenced to 10 years, while nine others were sentenced to between one and three years. However, the names of none of the senior military and government officials could be seen in the list. At the same time, victims’ families demanded to know which senior officers issued the order to fire at the plane.

12. US Not A Superpower Anymore: Iranian Spokesman (Tasnim News). The Iranian administration will not tie the economy and people’s livelihood to the fate of the JCPOA. However, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said it remains committed to the negotiating table, stressing that Iran has excellent capacities for promoting foreign relations in various fields.

13. Raisi Should Resign If He Cares About Iran – Lawmaker (Iran International). Mostafa Reza Hosseini Ghotbabadi said: “Unfortunately, there is no will on the part of Raisi’s government to curb inflation, and basically, they are not able to handle the situation.” On Monday, he added: “Secondly, the head of government and his first deputy does not have the necessary expertise to make the right decisions regarding inflation and economic issues.” Inflation is currently running at about 50%, with disastrous economic effects and leaving families struggling to survive.

YEMEN

14. Saudi Arabia Frees 104 Houthis, Aiming to Foster Yemeni Dialogue Atmosphere (Al Sharq Al Awst). The International Committee of the Red Cross (CRC) confirmed the transfer of prisoners from the group’s prisoners to the internationally recognized government. This is expected to involve releasing 700 individuals from the group’s prisoners in exchange for 700 detainees and prisoners from the internationally recognized government.

EGYPT

15. Sisi: Prepared to Mediate in Sudan and Ensure Security of Our Forces (Sky News Arabia). During a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces meeting on Monday evening, Sisi mentioned that he had informed his South Sudanese counterpart, Silva Kiir, of Cairo and Juba’s willingness to serve as mediators for their counterparts in Sudan, facilitating a ceasefire and negotiations. He emphasized that the Egyptian forces were present per a joint training protocol with Sudan rather than to support one party against another.

TUNISIA

16. Tunisian Islamist Leader Ghannouchi Detained, Party Offices Raided (Arab News). The reason for the detention was not made public. However, Tunisian media reported that Ghannouchi was to be questioned over an online video in which he purportedly warned of civil war. 

IRAQ

17. KRG Delegation to Meet with Talabani to Bridge Differences (Bas News). Several ministers across the political spectrum represent the KRG delegation. The political assassination of a PUK defector Colonel Hawkar Jaff in Erbil last year, along with PUK’s “mismanagement of government revenues” in Sulaymaniyah, complicated relations between Kurdistan’s ruling parties and also delayed parliamentary elections.

18. Iraqi PM Discusses Trade, Economic Ties with Ukrainian FM (Bas News). Prime Minister Sudani “emphasized the government’s openness to expanding the horizons of cooperation between the two countries, pointing to Iraq’s principled stance in rejecting wars and armed conflicts, and adopting dialogue to resolve global and regional problems.

19. Unknown Drone Falls at Baghdad International Airport (Al Hadath). A security source stated, “An unidentified drone fell at the Special Training School within Baghdad International Airport.” The source added that whether the aircraft carried explosive materials or was intended for photographic purposes remains to be seen.

TURKIYE

20. US State Department Greenlights Sale of F-16 Modernization Kits to Türkiye (Anadolu Agency).  Congress has the right to object to the State Department’s determination within 15 business days for sales approvals granted to NATO members, including Türkiye, a member of the alliance for over 70 years. The sales package includes equipment and engineering support to upgrade the Link-16 tactical data link system of Türkiye’s existing F-16 jets to the Block Upgrade-2 level and Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance Systems.

21. Türkiye says 10 YPG/PKK Terrorists ‘Neutralized’ after Northern Syria Attack (Anadolu Agency). Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar said the terrorists were “neutralized” in a retaliatory move after they attacked the Turkish military base. Turkish authorities use the term “neutralized” to imply that the terrorists surrendered, were killed, or were captured.

SYRIA

22.  U.S. Accuses Jamil Al-Hassan and Ali Mamlouk of Responsibility for the Execution of American Citizen Laila Shweikani (Zaman Al Wasl). The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) holds the two officers above accountable for killing an American citizen of Syrian origin, Laila Shweikani, in 2016 when she was executed in a Syrian regime prison.
This indictment marks the first of its kind within the American justice system, as it charges Syrian officials in a criminal case. The court has selected secret jurors to initiate proceedings.

23. Washington Post: Europe Struggles Amidst Rising Tide of Immigration (Syria TV). Upon the arrival of an Italian coast guard rescue boat three hours later [after a ship carrying migrants from Turkey had been wrecked], nearly half of the passengers drowned, with at least 34 being children. This year’s immigration wave, regarded as the worst in seven years, primarily consists of African migrants fleeing Tunisia to escape escalating repression and economic decline under the Tunisian government. This situation has prompted Italy to issue warnings.

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