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THE EARLY PHOENIX – August 12-14, 2023

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TOP HEADLINES:

TURKIYE

  1. Responding to Assad, Türkiye Says It Will Not Withdraw from Syria (Enab Baladi). Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler said it is inconceivable to leave Syria without ensuring the security of Turkiye’s borders, considering that his country has “sensitive points” regarding this issue…The minister added, according to the Turkish “Anatolia” agency’s translation of a televised meeting of the minister, on Saturday, August 12, that his country desires to establish peace in Syria, pointing out that “drafting and adopting a new constitution for Syria is the most important stage for establishing peace there.”
  2. Leap in Space Tech as Türkiye Launches Homegrown Probe Rocket (Daily Sabah). Türkiye has successfully tested its first domestically developed probe rocket, a significant advancement in its space exploration efforts. Developed by Roketsan, the missile was launched from Iğneada in Kırklareli province. This achievement aligns with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 10-year space roadmap, aiming for moon missions, sending Turkish astronauts to the International Space Station, and creating internationally viable satellite systems. The program includes plans for a spaceport, building domestic rocket technologies, and positioning Türkiye as a key player in space exploration. Currently, Türkiye has nine active satellites in space, with plans for further developments, including the launch of the domestically developed Türksat 6A satellite.
  3. Turkiye Rejects Idea of Accepting 3rd-Country Migrants from UK (Anadolu Agency). According to anonymous sources, Türkiye’s cooperation with the UK in migration doesn’t include accepting third-country nationals from the UK in Türkiye. Türkiye’s efforts against irregular migration are a core aspect of its humanitarian foreign policy, driven by regional instability, conflicts, and economic challenges. The country aims to prevent dangerous journeys and loss of life caused by migrant smugglers while promoting legal migration pathways. The UK supports establishing a “Center of Excellence” under Türkiye’s General Directorate of Security to combat irregular migration and organized crime networks. Additionally, the UK backs Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s proposal on migration within the G-20 and G-7 platforms.

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Saudi Arabia Appoints Ambassador to Palestinian Territories (France24). On Saturday, Saudi Arabia appointed a non-resident ambassador to the Palestinian territories, who will also assume the position of Consul General in Jerusalem, in a new place being announced amid increasing talk about efforts to achieve normalization between Israel and the Kingdom. The work was entrusted to the current Saudi ambassador to Jordan, Nayef Al-Sudairi…Traditionally, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Amman handles the file of the Palestinian territories…Al-Sudairy said in statements carried by the Saudi Al-Ekhbariya channel that this is an “important step,” stressing the desire of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to “strengthen relations with the brothers in the State of Palestine… and give them a boost of an official nature in all fields.”
  2. Israeli Foreign Minister Says Israel Won’t Allow Opening of Saudi Mission to Palestinians (National News Center). On Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said that Israel will not allow the opening of a Saudi diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority…”They don’t need to ask our permission,” Cohen said. They did not consult us and did not need to. But we will not allow the opening of any diplomatic mission,” noting that “the decision was prompted by progress in the normalization negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia…The Saudis want to clarify to the Palestinians that they have not forgotten them. But we do not allow countries to open consulates. This contradicts our positions.”
  3. Israel’s Lapid Warns Against Saudi Arabia Enriching Own Uranium as Netanyahu Pleads Normalization (Al-Monitor). Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid warns against Saudi Arabia’s ambition to enrich uranium on its soil, fearing it could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. Lapid, while supportive of normalization with Saudi Arabia, believes this move endangers regional and Israeli national security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, but Lapid’s opposition could challenge the Biden administration’s agreement approval.
  4. Netanyahu Criticizes US-Iran Deal Unfreezing Iranian Assets in Exchange for Release of Prisoners (Times of Israel). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the tentative US-Iran deal, which involves the release of American detainees in exchange for billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets. Netanyahu argues that any agreement that doesn’t dismantle Iran’s nuclear program will only provide funds for Iranian-sponsored terrorist groups. The deal would convert frozen Iranian assets in South Korea to Euros, which would then be held in restricted accounts in Qatar for humanitarian purposes. Iran’s slowing of uranium enrichment and reduction of its stockpile has been reported, though Tehran denies this. Critics liken the money transfer to ransom payments encouraging Iran’s behavior.
  5. West Bank ‘Apartheid’ is ‘Just Like Nazi Germany’ Says Former IDF Commander (Jerusalem Post). Former IDF Northern Command commander Amiram Levin has compared the situation in the West Bank to “absolute apartheid” akin to Nazi Germany during an interview with KAN Reshet Bet radio. He criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership, stating that the lack of democracy in the West Bank has led to a situation where the IDF is complicit in war crimes and rampant settler activity. Levin also expressed concern about the presence of criminals and draft dodgers in critical positions within the Israeli government. In the past, Levin has supported the Breaking the Silence organization, which publishes testimonies about abuse by Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  6. PA’s Abbas to Hold Three-Way Summit with Egyptian and Jordanian Rulers (Newstral). Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will attend a three-way summit in Egypt with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The meeting will address recent developments in the Palestinian cause and coordinate efforts to garner international support for Palestinian rights, freedom, and independence, with East Jerusalem as the capital…The summit coincides with US efforts to broker an Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization deal.

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Libyan Ministers Visit Iran to Consolidate Relations (Lywitness). The Chargé d’Affairs of the Iranian Embassy in Libya, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity, and the Minister of Health in charge, Ramadan Abu Jinnah, visited Tehran. They discussed cooperation mechanisms between the two countries in various fields, and the Iranian charge d’affaires invited Abu Jinnah to visit Iran and meet with officials of the Iranian Ministry of Health to discuss aspects of cooperation in the health sector and the provision of medical services. Abu Jinnah welcomed the invitation and promised to accept it, stressing the importance of establishing a solid relationship between the two brotherly countries and his keenness to open horizons of cooperation with Iran to achieve the higher interests of the Libyan state.
  2. Fighting Rages in Darfur, and Residents Flee their Homes (Al Arabiya). In a continuation of the raging tension in Darfur, western Sudan, the circle of clashes expanded in the city of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, today, Sunday, between the army forces and the Rapid Support Forces. The hits included five neighborhoods north and south of the city, in which heavy and light weapons were used, killing 13 civilians and wounding dozens.
  3. Sudanese Foreign Ministry Claims UN Envoy Peretz’s “Bias” Helped Cause Sudan’s War (Al Arabiya). A spokesman for the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed today, Friday, that the actions of the head of the United Nations mission to his country Volker Peretz is one of the reasons that led to the outbreak of the war, accusing him of cooperating with some parties and not others in a “biased manner.” Spokesman Khaled Al-Sheikh told the Arab World News Agency (AWP) that the UN envoy “excluded some parties in the country that are looking for solutions to the crisis and focused only on others who have intransigent opinions.”
  4. Sisi to Host Abbas and Abdullah II for Tripartite Summit in Alamein City (English Ahram). President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will host President Mahmoud Abbas “Abu Mazen,” due to arrive in Egypt on Sunday, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, both of whom are visiting Egypt to participate in the tripartite summit in Egypt’s New Alamein city. WAFA also stated that the conference demonstrates the continuity of consultation and cooperation between the three leaders on various Arab, regional, and international issues, adding that it aims to unify perspectives on dealing with these issues.  

GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Iran, Yemen Hold 1st Inter-Governmental Committee (IRNA). Head of Administrative and Recruitment Affairs Organization of Iran Meysam Latifi and Yemen’s Ambassador to Tehran, Ibrahim Mohammed al-Dailami, discussed cooperation in Tehran on Sunday. Latifi lauded good cooperation between Iran and Yemen, saying that grounds have been prepared for further collaboration in managing human resources, the structure of the government administrative system, and training government managers.
  2. Houthi Leader Says Muslim Countries Must Take Decisive Stance Against Desecration of Qur’an (Press TV). The leader of Yemen’s Ansarullah resistance movement has urged Muslim countries to take a definite position against the desecration of their sanctities and exceedingly sinful acts against the Holy Qur’an. Abdul-Malik al-Houthi made the remarks in a televised speech on Saturday following recurrent cases of insult to Muslims’ holy book in Sweden and Denmark…The Ansarullah leader said, “The Western governments oppose any criticism and slogan against Zionists, and this issue proves the influence of pro-Israeli lobbies” within those governments.
  3. Saudi Customs Thwarts Smuggling of 2.2 Million Captagon Tablets Hidden in a Consignment of Baklava (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority at Jeddah Islamic Port thwarted an attempt to smuggle 2,242,560 Captagon pills after finding them hidden in a consignment that came to the Kingdom through the port…The authority stated that a shipment of sweets containing “baklava” was received, and when it was subjected to customs procedures and inspected through security techniques, that quantity of grains was found hidden under the “baklava” layers.
  4. US Navy Deploys Two Advanced Drones in the Gulf (Middle East News). The US deployed two MQ-9 Reaper drones in the Gulf region…According to the US Department of Defense, the deployment aims to “deter aggression, enhance awareness of the maritime domain, and strengthen the commitment to our regional partners.”…Recently, the United States has intensified the deployment of military forces in the Gulf region. On August 7, the US Fifth Fleet announced the arrival of more than 3,000 US sailors and soldiers to the Middle East as part of a plan previously reported by the US Department of Defense.
  5. UN Completes Unloading of Derelict Oil Tanker off Yemeni Coast (BBC). The UN said an oil tanker, a “floating time bomb” in the Red Sea, has been successfully unloaded…The Safer tanker, with more than a million barrels of oil on board, was left off the coast of Yemen in 2015 after a devastating civil war broke out in the country…There were fears that the decline in the safety and maintenance systems of the Safer tanker would lead to its explosion or its sinking, and thus an oil spill disaster…The United Nations said an environmental catastrophe had been averted. However, it is not yet clear how the agreement between the conflicting parties in Yemen will take place on the sales of the oil that was on board the tanker.
  6. Yemen:  5 UN Security Personnel Released 18 Months After Being Kidnapped (Al Hadath). On Friday, the United Nations announced the release of 5 of its security personnel after they were kidnapped in Yemen 18 months ago…Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for the United Nations, said in a statement that the Secretary-General of the international organization, Antonio Guterres, welcomed the release, and “reaffirmed that kidnapping is an inhumane and unjustified crime and called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.”…The United Nations did not identify the kidnappers of the five security men.

IRAN

  1. Shippers Warned to Stay Away from Iranian Waters Due to Threat of Seizure (Associated Press). Western-backed maritime forces in the Middle East have issued a stark advisory for shippers to stay away from Iranian territorial waters in the strategic Strait of Hormuz due to the risk of being seized. This warning comes amid escalated tensions between Iran and the United States. Earlier this year, a similar warning was issued before Iran took two tankers near the strait, a critical passage for 20% of global oil trade. Despite ongoing negotiations between Iran and the U.S. to unfreeze Iranian assets and release detained individuals, the advisory highlights the persistent maritime tensions. The U.S. also considers placing armed troops on commercial ships in the strait to deter potential Iranian actions.
  2. Iran Reportedly Slows Accumulation of Enriched Uranium (Al Arabiya). According to sources, Iran has reportedly slowed the pace of accumulating near weapons-grade enriched uranium and has diluted some of its stockpiles. This development comes shortly after the US and Iran reached a deal to release American detainees and unfreeze Iranian funds. While the Biden administration has emphasized that the prisoner exchange and efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal are separate, there seems to be a connection between the two. The Wall Street Journal noted that Iran has diluted a small amount of its 60 percent enriched uranium and has reduced the accumulation rate. Despite recent developments, the US has deployed military forces to the Middle East after Iran attempted to seize commercial tankers.
  3. OPEC Figures Contradict Iran’s Oil Production Claims (Iran International). Recent figures released by OPEC have revealed a significant inconsistency between Iran’s claims about its oil production and actual data. Iran’s National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Managing Director stated that the country’s daily oil production would reach 3.5 million barrels by the end of summer. Still, OPEC statistics indicate an output of 2.828 million barrels, a difference of 422,000. While Iran’s oil production grew by 11% in the first seven months of the year, the country’s oil price dropped by over 24%. Iran’s oil exports to China have increased, but US banking sanctions challenge revenue collection.
  4. Iran to Use $6 Billion in Unfrozen Funds to Purchase Commodities Exempted from US Sanctions: Central Bank Head (Yeni Safak). Iran’s Central Bank head, Mohammad Reza Farzin, announced the release of frozen funds from South Korea following a prisoner swap deal with the US. The released amount, approximately $6 billion, will be deposited into Iranian bank accounts in Qatar and used to purchase commodities exempted from US sanctions. The prisoner exchange deal, mediated by Qatar and Oman, ended two years of negotiations and involved the release of five prisoners from each side. The funds will be transferred to Iran’s accounts in Qatar before American prisoners are freed from Evin Prison. The White House stated there would be restrictions on using the funds, ensuring transparency.

SYRIA

  1. Israel Strikes Iran-Backed Militia Missile Depots in Syria (New Arab). According to reports, Israeli strikes on Sunday targeted missile depots of Iran-backed militias east of Syria’s capital, Damascus. The strikes caused repeated blasts in the region and hit warehouses belonging to pro-Iran militias. It is unclear whether the explosions resulted from an airstrike or a ground operation, and the extent of casualties is still unknown. Israel has been conducting attacks on Iran-linked targets in Syria since 2017 to prevent Iranian forces from getting closer to its northern borders and to hinder weapons transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon. 
  2. Turkish Drone Bombards Syrian Army Near Manbij (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported today (Sunday) that a Turkish drone targeted three military points of the Syrian army in the village of Pokhara near Manbij, east of Aleppo governorate, amid information about casualties. The Observatory also said that a Turkish drone targeted a checkpoint of the Manbij Military Council of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
  3. Russian Warships Bomb ISIS Sites in Syria (24). Today, Sunday, Russian warships bombed with long-range missiles ISIS positions in the Syrian Desert, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…The Observatory, which is based in London, said in a press statement today: “During the past hours, the Russian warships stationed on the Syrian coast fired several high-explosive missiles as they crossed the Drakeesh and Safita areas in the Tartous countryside towards the Syrian desert.”
  4. Jordan Shoots Down Drug Smuggling Drone Coming from Syria (Al Hadath). On Sunday, the Jordanian Armed Forces announced it had shot down a drone carrying narcotics from Syria. A military source said that the drone shot down inside Jordanian territory was carrying a quantity of “crystal” material, according to what was quoted in a statement by the Jordanian forces posted on its Facebook page.

IRAQ

  1. America Hopes for Security Partnership with Iraq, Despite Challenges (Al Arabiya). The Americans hope that Iraq will become part of the structure of American-Arab cooperation to protect the airspace, lands, and waters from any aggression, whether by a state or by terrorist organizations…Last week, the American capital witnessed the first Iraqi-American “joint security cooperation” meeting. The title appears to repeat slogans, but it is a turning point in US-Iraqi relations.
  2. Ministry of Planning Announces Joint UN-Iraq Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (Al Iraq News). Today, Sunday, the Ministry of Planning announced the formation of a joint committee between Iraq and the United Nations to follow up on work in achieving sustainable development goals. A ministry statement stated: “Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Planning, Muhammad Ali Tamim, received the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations In Iraq, Ghulam Ishaq Zai, and his accompanying delegation.” The statement added, “The meeting witnessed a discussion of several issues related to cooperation between Iraq and United Nations organizations.”

LEBANON

  1. Nasrallah Receives Iranian Delegation for Discussion of Situation in Lebanon and Palestine (Al Nahar). The Secretary-General of “Hezbollah,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, received a delegation from the Foreign Policy and Security Committee of the Islamic Consultative Assembly in Iran, headed by the official of the committee, Jalalzadeh, and several deputy members of this committee, in the presence of Iran’s ambassador, Mojtaba Amani, where they reviewed the latest developments and situations in Lebanon, Palestine, and the region. 
  2. Crashed Hezbollah Truck Believed to Have Carried Iranian Anti-Tank Missiles (Times of Israel). According to security sources from an unidentified Middle Eastern country, a Hezbollah truck that overturned near Beirut is estimated to have been carrying Iranian anti-tank missiles. The accident sparked clashes with residents, and the Lebanese army seized the truck’s cargo. The incident is said to have caused embarrassment for Hezbollah, which has downplayed the situation. The attempted arms smuggling is believed to have been orchestrated by Hezbollah’s 4400 unit, and tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have been escalating recently, with threats exchanged between the two sides.
  3. Hezbollah: Next War Will Be in Israel’s Galilee, IDF Posts Will Become Graveyards (Times of Israel). The next war between Israel and Hezbollah will occur in Israel’s Galilee region, a senior commander in the Lebanese terror group warned on Saturday, the latest threat in an escalating war of words between the two sides. “Our battle will be in the Galilee, and if the enemy and its tanks enter Lebanon, they will not be able to leave,” the commander said in an interview with the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar TV network, which identified him as Hajj Jihad but blurred his face for the broadcast.

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