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THE EARLY PHOENIX – August 19-21, 2023

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TOP HEADLINES:

Turkiye

  1. Erdogan’s Chief Advisor:  No Chance of Near-Term Meeting with Assad (Shaam). Akif Chagatay Kilic, a senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ruled out the possibility of holding a meeting between the Turkish president and the terrorist “Bashar al-Assad” in the near future, in light of great tensions and conflicting statements about the possibility of holding meeting between denial and confirmation, which some considered as propaganda before The last Turkish elections.
  2. Tensions in Cyprus Amid Turkish Cypriot Plans to Build Controversial Road (Al Monitor). Tensions have escalated in Cyprus as Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar affirmed plans to build a controversial road within the disputed island, despite opposition from UN peacekeepers and the Republic of Cyprus. The road would connect the Turkish Cypriot village of Arsos to the conflicted zone village of Pyla, encroaching on the United Nations buffer zone. A confrontation between Turkish Cypriot forces and UN peacekeepers occurred, resulting in injuries to peacekeepers. Tatar insists the road is a “humanitarian issue,” facilitating transportation for Turkish Cypriots, but the situation complicates Turkey’s relations with Cyprus. 
  3. Erdogan to Visit Hungary for Talks (Yeni Safak). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to visit Hungary for a one-day trip to attend the country’s founding day celebrations and the World Athletics Championships in Budapest. The visit comes upon the invitation of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban…Erdogan is also expected to hold talks with other counterparts attending the celebrations, including Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. The relationship between Turkey and Hungary was elevated to a strategic partnership level in 2013, and the ties between the two countries have been strengthening in various fields in recent years.
  4. Istanbul’s European Side Reaches its Critical Point of Water Scarcity (Daily Sabah). The Istanbul Water and Sewage Administration (ISKI) has issued a call for heightened water conservation on the European side of Istanbul due to severe water scarcity. The deputy general manager of ISKI, Bülent Solmaz, highlighted the challenge of addressing the evaporation of over 65 million cubic meters of water this year, exacerbated by minimal precipitation forecasts. The occupancy level of dams in Istanbul is at 33.18%, prompting measures to combat water scarcity. 

ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Iron Dome Activated to Intercept Gaza Drone (Jerusalem Post). Israel’s Iron Dome was activated near the Gaza border on Sunday morning in response to a drone heading toward Israel from Gaza, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. Israel’s Air Force followed its route and used the Iron Dome to intercept the drone, which according to the IDF did not pose a threat to Israeli citizens near the Gaza border and therefore did not trigger any national alerts.
  2. Hamas Leader Calls for Efforts to Confront Israeli Settlement Expansion Plans (Press TV). Hamas has called for efforts to confront Israel’s plans to expand the construction of settlements across the West Bank, saying the schemes aim to displace Palestinians and relocate them to Jordan.  “The Israeli plans seek to purge the West Bank of Palestinians, and impose Israeli Judaization plans in al-Quds,” Khaled Meshaal, head of the Palestinian group’s office in the diaspora, said in a recorded speech on Saturday evening as he addressed rallies in support of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Meshaal warned of the grave danger threatening al-Aqsa Mosque, adding that Jewish settlers have been escalating their incursions into the sacred site. 
  3. 1,000 Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails Go On Hunger Strike (Taghrib News). One thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have initiated a collective hunger strike to protest the Israeli prison service’s aggression against prisoners. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club announced the strike and began following Israeli forces’ raids on Palestinian inmates’ cells in the Negev prison. The move came unexpectedly without prior preparation, reflecting the situation’s urgency in the occupation jails. 
  4. Egypt Intel Officials Visited Israel to Discuss Security and Economic Cooperation (New Arab). An Egyptian intelligence delegation recently visited Israel to discuss security matters, economic cooperation, and the potential for Saudi-Israeli normalization. The panel included high-ranking officials, one from the intelligence agency and another from the North Sinai security sector. Topics of discussion encompassed security concerns, specifically addressing new measures following the killing of three Israeli soldiers by an Egyptian conscript. Economic cooperation, energy collaboration, and Gaza Strip reconstruction were also raised…This visit aligned with Egypt’s hosting of a tripartite summit involving Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. 
  5. After Israeli Raids, Palestinian Police Struggle in Militant Hotbed, Reflecting Region on the Brink (Associated Press). After a significant Israeli military raid on a Palestinian refugee camp, Palestinians expressed anger at their security forces and protested the Palestinian Authority’s failure to protect them. The Palestinian Authority’s cooperation with Israel to suppress militant groups and maintain power in the West Bank has led to resentment. Palestinian security forces are struggling to restore order and regain trust, especially in areas like Jenin that have seen a rise in militant attacks. The Palestinian security forces are caught in a delicate balance between maintaining law and order and dealing with the broader political and security challenges posed by Israeli military actions and radical elements.
  6. Israeli Cabinet Okays $843M Development Plan for East Jerusalem, While Other Funds Withheld (Times of Israel). The Israeli cabinet has approved a $843 million development plan for East Jerusalem over five years, aimed at infrastructure development, housing, healthcare, education, transportation, welfare, and cultural programming. This plan replaces a $680 million plan that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich froze due to objections regarding funding for an academic preparatory program for Arab students. However, Smotrich still withholds $55 million earmarked for Arab towns nationwide. In response to the ongoing budget freeze, local authorities plan a two-hour strike in solidarity with Arab villages. The plan for East Jerusalem is seen as an attempt to reinforce Israeli sovereignty over the area, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed it as a step towards uniting Jerusalem.
  7. 150 Arab Victims of Violence Since Start of 2023: Two Men Shot dead in Latest Killings (Times of Israel). Since the beginning of 2023, 150 Arab individuals have been victims of violence, according to the Abraham Initiatives organization, which tracks statistics on killings in the Arab community. This marks a significant increase from the same period last year when 68 Arabs had been killed in violence…These incidents are part of a broader wave of violent crime that has affected the Arab community, and community leaders often blame the police for failing to crack down on influential criminal organizations and ignoring the violence. Despite recent police raids and arrests, authorities have struggled to curb the violence. 
  8. Lapid Says Saudi Uranium Enrichment Endangers Israeli Security (Jerusalem Post). Opposition leader Yair Lapid warned that Saudi Arabia’s uranium enrichment, even for civilian purposes, would endanger Israel’s security. Lapid responded to Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer’s statement about not opposing a civilian Saudi nuclear program, pointing out that Iran is the only Middle Eastern country enriching uranium as part of a nuclear program. Lapid emphasized the need for an agreement that strengthens Israel’s national security without endorsing uranium enrichment in the region. He previously warned that allowing Saudi Arabia to enrich uranium could trigger an arms race in the region, with other countries following suit. Former national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat also cautioned against concessions related to nuclear matters in the Middle East.

Egypt & North Africa

  1. Libyan Parties Hail Unification of the Central Bank of Libya (DW). The Governor of the Central Bank of Libya announces, after nearly a decade of division into two branches, the return of the bank as a “unified sovereign institution”, and the step is welcomed by Benghazi and Tripoli Governor of the Central Bank of Libya and his deputy regarding the unification of the institution of the Central Bank of Libya. .
  2. Life Returns to Normal in All Places of Clashes in Tripoli (Sputnik Arabic). Life has returned to normal after opening roads in all places of clashes that took place in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Friday. The Libyan News Agency quoted the General Services Company in Tripoli as a notice confirming the opening of roads and the return of life to normal in all places of clashes that recently took place in the capital, Tripoli.
  3. Clashes Continue in Khartoum and Kordofan, and International Accusations Against the Rapid Support Forces (Arabia News 24 ). Clashes continue between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces in the capital, Khartoum, and the cities of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, and Al-Fula, in West Kordofan state, while the United Nations has accused the “Rapid Support Forces” of sexual violence. Al-Jazeera correspondent monitored the flight of army fighters in the sky of the cities of Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North, in conjunction with heavy weapons fire from the Rapid Support Forces, in different directions in the capital.

The GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Emir of Qatar Begins Official Visit to Hungary to Enhance Cooperation Between Doha and Budapest (Al Seyassah). The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, began an official visit to the Hungarian capital, Budapest, yesterday, at the invitation of Hungarian President Katalin Novak. The visit and meetings discussed strengthening cooperation between the two countries in various fields, in addition to discussing the most important regional and international issues of common concern.
  2. Saudi Arabia and Iran Discuss Future Opportunities (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, discussed with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian opportunities for the future, relations between Riyadh and Tehran, and means of cooperation between the two countries and its development, in a meeting held in Jeddah on Friday. The meeting witnessed a discussion of developments in the situation on the regional and international arenas, and the efforts exerted towards them. 
  3. Including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt… 8 Arab Countries Request to Join “BRICS” (Anahar).Several Arab countries are awaiting the BRICS summit, which South Africa will host between August 22 and 24, to discuss requests to join the group, which seeks to break the hegemony of the West. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt, in addition to Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco and Palestine, submitted official requests to join BRICS, among the 23 countries that took the same step.
  4. Saudi Arabia Launches $200 Million Fund to Invest in High Tech (The National News). Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched a $200 million fund to invest in local and international high-tech companies as part of the kingdom’s economic diversification plan. The Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday that the fund comes within the framework of the new strategy of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The report said the strategy focuses on “increasing the likelihood of transforming research into economically beneficial innovation” through three main drivers. Initiatives include the launch of the National Transformational Applied Research Institute (NTI) to advance technology development and commercialization. Restructuring research centers to align with national priorities for research, development and innovation; and the creation of a new fund.
  5. Yemen:  World Food Program Set to Reduce Aid (Al Jazeera). The United Nations World Food Program announced that it will have to further reduce its aid to millions of people across Yemen, starting at the end of next September, due to a “severe funding crisis” for its humanitarian operations. The UN program said – in a statement today, Friday – that “this downsizing will affect all major programs that the program is implementing at the country level.” He stressed that in the absence of new funding, it is expected that about 3 million people will be affected in the north of the country under the control of the Houthis, and about 1.4 million people in the southern regions. The World Food Program stressed its need for $1.05 billion over the next six months to support its humanitarian operations in Yemen, and said that only 28% of these required resources have been secured so far.
  6. UN to Form a Joint Oil Management Committee in Yemen (Al Khabar Al Yemeni). On Sunday, the United Nations revealed arrangements for the formation of a joint committee between Sana’a and the Hadramout authority to manage the oil file.The UN envoy dispatched a special team to Hadramout, one of the most important oil provinces, in eastern Yemen. The office of the Governor of Hadramout stated that the meeting was devoted to discussing efforts to activate the armistice and seeking to form a coordination committee with Sana’a to establish the expected peace.

IRAN

  1. Iranian President Meets Diplomat Convicted of Bomb Plot, Freed by Belgium in Swap (Times of Israel). Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has met with diplomat Assadollah Assadi, recently freed by Belgium in a high-profile prisoner swap case in May, the presidency’s site said Saturday. “The claimants of human rights have shown once again that they do not adhere to any law,” Raisi said in reference to Western countries during the meeting, which took place on Friday. They “breached the international rules, regulations and principles by violating the diplomatic immunity of the Iranian diplomat in a clear and unprecedented manner,” he added.
  2. Iran Claims to Have Produced Key Engine for Supersonic Missile Tech (Al Monitor). Iran’s defense minister, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, announced the country’s successful development of “ramjet” engines for supersonic cruise missiles. These engines can boost a missile’s speed to five times the speed of sound. Iran claims to be able to mass-produce these engines domestically, a development that could enable the mass-production of cruise missiles. This announcement follows Iran’s recent claim of acquiring the capability to produce supersonic missiles named “Fattah”…Additionally, the minister noted a doubling of production in solid-fuel ballistic and cruise missiles and a 45% growth in missile air defense systems. 
  3. Iran Says Natural Gas Exports Rise by 16% (Tehran Times). Iran’s natural gas exports have increased by 16% in the current Iranian calendar year compared to the previous year, as the managing director of the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) reported. The country’s annual liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) exports also rose 22% this year. Over 5,297 villages and 41 cities have been connected to the national gas network, and over 98.6% of the urban population and 86.3% of the rural population now enjoy natural gas through the national grid. The NIGC has invested about $1.4 billion in various gas industry areas and sectors.
  4. Amid Fuel Crisis, Iranian Government Likely to Raise Price of Gasoline (Bayan Media). The Iranian Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Commission has indicated that the Iranian government may increase the price of gasoline due to a situation similar to that of 2018. Hamidreza Salehi, the head of the commission, pointed out the parallels between the current situation and that of 2018, when the government tripled the price of gasoline to compensate for reduced income during international sanctions. Salehi emphasized the need for gradual adjustments to fuel prices to avoid negative social impacts and discussed the mismatch between gasoline consumption and production in Iran and the lack of investment in the country’s refineries and automobile industry.
  5. Iran and Brazil to Launch Direct Shipping Line to Bolster Ties: TPOI Chief (Tasnim News Agency). Iran and Brazil are set to establish a direct shipping line to enhance their trade relations, as announced by the head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization (TPOI). Iran’s commercial envoy to Brazil has been chosen and will soon be stationed in São Paulo. The TPOI is committed to participating in specialized exhibitions in Brazil to promote trade between the two countries further. This move marks Iran’s first commercial envoy to Brazil, with hopes for significant growth in business and economic ties.
  6. US-Seized Iranian Oil Offloaded Near Texas (Iran International). A tanker, the Suez Rajan, seized by the US for carrying sanctioned Iranian crude oil, is currently offloading its cargo near Galveston, Texas, despite threats from Iran against shipping companies. The tanker-tracking data indicates that the oil transfer is taking place off the coast of Texas. The Los Angeles-based private equity firm Oaktree Capital Management, owners of the Suez Rajan, has yet to provide immediate comments regarding the ship-to-ship transfer. A bipartisan group of US lawmakers had recently urged the Biden administration to address Iran’s tactics that hindered American firms from unloading the confiscated oil. The seized Iranian crude had yet to be offloaded due to challenges in auctioning it off, with an estimated value of $56 million. Concerns about potential Iranian reprisals, including threats from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, have made US companies hesitant to unload the oil. The US Navy has been increasing its presence in the Middle East amid these developments.
  7. Iran’s Ultraconservatives Gear Up To Win Parliamentary Elections (Iran International). Iran’s ultraconservatives are poised to strengthen their control over the country’s political system in the upcoming parliamentary elections, given their dominance in both the presidential administration and the parliament since 2021. The traditional conservatives, including the Islamic Coalition Party, find it challenging to compete against the ultraconservatives. The political landscape is marked by a confrontation between the ultraconservatives, particularly the Paydari Party advocating for a religious state, and the neo-cons around Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who have a background in the Revolutionary Guard and academia. The elections are anticipated to have a low voter turnout due to disillusionment amid the economic crisis and protests.

SYRIA

  1. Jordanian Army Thwarts Major Drug Smuggling Operation Across the Syrian Border (Al Jazeera). Today, Saturday, the Jordanian army announced that it had thwarted the smuggling of large quantities of narcotic substances coming from Syria, through an operation it described as “qualitative”, during which a number of smugglers were shot. A statement by the army, published by the Jordanian News Agency (Petra), said that the Border Guard forces, in coordination with the Anti-Narcotics Department and the military security services.
  2. UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Chair Says Assad Uses Captagon for Blackmail (Syria TV ). The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the British Parliament, Alicia Cairns, accused the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, of using Captagon as a means of blackmail and achieving his interests, calling for not allowing these narcotic pills to reach the United Kingdom. Cairns told the Daily Mail that she was seriously concerned that Captagon could pass through “large trade networks” into the UK.
  3. Syria in the Balance of the US Elections (Al Mustaqila). Recently, there has been a lot of speculation about a new American project in Syria that aims to control the Syrian border from Iraq by controlling Al-Bukamal and the strategic Al-Qaim border crossing, thus linking the “SDF” control area in northern Syria all the way to Al-Tanf, as well as from Al-Tanf to Ain Al-Assad in Iraq to extend a cordon. The siege of the Syrian state and the cutting off of all supply routes with Iraq and, of course, with Iran applies to the cutting off of supplies to the resistance in Lebanon and occupied Palestine through the establishment of a buffer security zone along the Syrian-Iraqi border.

IRAQ

  1. World Bank:  Iraq is a Failed State, its Economy is Fragile, and the Country’s Debts Exceed $152B (Al Iraq News). The World Bank announced that the Iraqi economy is fragile and that the country’s debt has increased to $152 billion, noting that the central bank auction caused the redirection of hard currency to the parallel market, which led to a decrease in the value of the dinar against the dollar. The World Bank said in the report issued on the economy in Iraq Iraq and its debts, under the title: “Renewed Pressures: Iraq’s Recovery is in Danger,” that “Iraq’s economy suffers from stagnant non-oil GDP.

 

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