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THE EARLY PHOENIX – August 23, 2023

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TOP HEADLINES:

TURKIYE

  1. Türkiye to Unify Administration of Areas it Controls in Northern Syria (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Turkey plans to unify the administration of the areas under the control of its forces and the factions of what is known as the “Syrian National Army” loyal to it, in northern and northeastern Syria, by appointing one governor to assume the powers of managing those areas instead of 7 governors who were appointed to coordinate there, with the aim of preventing confusion in managing these areas. Sources familiar with the plan revealed that work is currently underway to develop a new system for coordination between Ankara and the local councils in 13 different regions, primarily Azaz, Jarabulus, Al-Bab, Afrin, Tal Abyad, and Ras Al-Ain.
  2. Erdogan Says UN Peacekeeping Force’s Intervention in Northern Cyprus Road Construction ‘Unacceptable’ (Yeni Safak). The UN peacekeeping force’s intervention in Northern Cyprus road construction was “unacceptable,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. “The physical intervention of UN peacekeeping force soldiers on the territory that falls under the sovereignty of the TRNC is never acceptable to us,” Erdogan said after the Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara. Erdogan’s remarks came after the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) last week intervened in road construction work to link the Turkish Cypriot village of Pile in the buffer zone with the rest of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The road expansion is strategically important for residents as it will give them more options to reach Pile, where Turks and Greek Cypriots live together.
  3. FM Urges EU to Grab ‘Opportunity’ for Türkiye’s Accession (Daily Sabah). Türkiye and European Union will likely give another shot at the former’s full membership to the continental body in the coming months as a summer recess in EU bodies end. For Türkiye’s top diplomat, this is a window of opportunity for the EU. Speaking at a news conference in the capital Ankara with his Bulgarian counterpart, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said that their membership offered “new opportunities both for EU and Türkiye’s region.” “I recommend EU leaders to use this window,” Fidan said. He highlighted that Türkiye’s membership would reinforce the EU’s position as a global actor but it was apparent that most EU member states did not view it that way or “preferred not to.”
  4. France names first female envoy to Ankara (Daily Sabah). France has named Isabelle Dumont as its first female ambassador to Türkiye on Monday. Dumont, fluent in Turkish, served at the French Embassy in the capital Ankara from 2011 to 2013. She was also ambassador to Ukraine and the Greek Cypriot administration in 2015 and 2019, respectively. Following these assignments, she became an adviser for European and Turkish relations at the Elysee Palace in 2020. She provided counsel to French President Emmanuel Macron on European and Turkish relations. Her new role is likely to have a positive impact on Türkiye-France relations. She is expected to be in Türkiye this week and will assume her duties after presenting her letter of credentials to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Iranian-Funded Wave of Terror in  West Bank Is ‘Just the Beginning’ (Jerusalem Post). Israel expects recent terror attacks across the West Bank to be “just the beginning” as Palestinian terror group Hamas appears emboldened by internal divisions within Israel, security establishment sources assessed on Tuesday morning, according to Army Radio. The defense sources also linked tensions in Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and Hezbollah to recent attacks, the latest of which claimed the life of an Israeli mother near Hebron on Monday. The link, as per the sources, is the Iranian funding of terror activities by Hezbollah, as well as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. 
  2. Israel and Jordan Inch Closer to Water-for-Energy Deal (Jerusalem Post). Jordan will build a massive solar farm in the desert that will generate clean energy to be sold to Israel in return for desalinated water. “This is going to be the flagship example of bilateral relations and also of the Israeli integration into the region,” said Oded Eran, a senior research fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies and former Israeli ambassador to Jordan. In return, Israel would provide the water-scarce kingdom with 200 million cubic meters of desalinated water from the Mediterranean.
  3. Israeli Missiles Hit Three Iran-Linked Targets In Syria (Iran International). Israel launched missiles at suspected Iranian and Hezbollah targets in the vicinity of Syria’s capital Damascus. The attack left one Syrian soldier injured and “caused some material damage,” the Syrian state news agency SANA reported, citing a military source. A London-based Syrian group (SOHR) monitoring the conflict in the war-stricken country reported that three areas were hit that contain warehouses and military positions of Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian militias, but said no casualties were reported.
  4. Israel Bombs Vicinity of Damascus for Third Time During August (Enab Baladi). A soldier of the Syrian regime forces was injured in an Israeli bombardment that targeted points in the vicinity of the capital, Damascus. This is the third such attack this August. The official Syrian News Agency (SANA) said that a soldier was wounded, in addition to material damage, as a result of an Israeli aggression that targeted points in the vicinity of Damascus, at around 23:05 on Monday, August 21.

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Algeria Denies Passage for French Military Aircraft to Niger (New Arab). Algeria has reportedly denied passage to the French military aircraft heading to Niger, as the North African state stands by its rejection of military intervention in the conflict-torn region. in line with the Algerian position that strictly rejects any military intervention in Niger as an option to force the putschists to give up power and return President Mohamed Bazoum to office,” the official Algerian radio quoted reliable sources. Niger’s President, Mohamed Bazoum, was elected two years ago in the first peaceful, democratic power transfer since independence in 1960.
  2. Russian Army Officials Visit Libya at Haftar’s Invitation (France 24). Russian military officials, including the Deputy Minister of Defense, arrived in Libya on Tuesday, after receiving an invitation from the pro-Moscow strongman, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Haftar, who supports the government in eastern Libya, is close to the private Russian Wagner Group, whose forces guard the military and oil infrastructure in the country.
  3. Egypt Announces New Oil Discovery in Gulf of Suez (Annahar). The Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources announced a new oil discovery in the Jessum and Tawila West concession area in the Gulf of Suez today, Tuesday. From 2,500 barrels per day, she added, “The well is the fourth well to be completed through early production facilities…Three more wells can be drilled” in the current exploration phase.

GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Qatar Says Prisoner Exchange Agreement Between America and Iran Entered Into Force (Al Khaleej Online). The official spokesman for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majid Al-Ansari, confirmed that the prisoner exchange agreement between Washington and Tehran, which was mediated by the State of Qatar, has entered into force. Al-Ansari explained in the weekly media briefing, today, Tuesday, that the Qatari role is still continuing, as communication is underway with various parties to implement the agreement, release prisoners, and lift the freeze on Iranian funds in banks.
  2. Qatar and Hungary Agree on Strategic Partnership (Kuwait). The State of Qatar and the Republic of Hungary announced raising the level of bilateral relations between them to the level of strategic partnership, yesterday, Monday, following an official visit by the Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to Budapest. The visit witnessed the signing of an agreement between the two countries in the fields of youth and sports, and a number of memorandums of understanding and cooperation, including environmental protection, diplomatic training and agricultural cooperation.
  3. Yemeni Minister Says Houthis Have Detained Two UN Employees Since 2021 (Al Sharq Al Awsat).Yemen’s Minister of Legal Affairs and Human Rights Ahmed Arman confirmed, on Monday, that the Houthi group is holding two UN staff working in the humanitarian field, one of whom is an employee of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the other of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Arman said in statements to the “Arab World News Agency” (AWP), that the period of detention of these two employees exceeded a year and a half after the group detained them in November (November) 2021, returning that this is “a big problem and we are seeking to solve it in cooperation with the United Nations.”
  4. Government of Yemen Approves Joint Telecom Company with UAE (Al Khaleej Online). The Yemeni Cabinet approved a draft agreement to establish a joint telecommunications company between a Yemeni institution and an Emirati institution to provide mobile and Internet services in the country. According to the Yemeni news agency “Saba”, the ratification of the draft agreement was discussed yesterday, Monday, “in light of the draft signed between the Yemeni Public Telecommunications Corporation and the Emirati company “NX”, and what it includes in terms of granting a license to provide mobile services and operating and licensing frequency spectrum.”
  5. US, UK, and EU Call on Houthis to Release Baha’i Detainees (Al Mahrah Post). The United States of America, Britain and the European Union called on the Houthi group to immediately release members of the Baha’i minority detained in their prisons. This came in tweets by the American and British embassies and the European Union mission to Yemen, on their accounts on the “X” platform, on Tuesday, on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration of Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, which falls on August 22 of each year. “We call for the immediate and unconditional release of members of the Baha’i minority detained in Sana’a, and an end to the persecution of religious minorities in Yemen,” the embassies said.

IRAN

  1. Iran Unveils Armed Drone, Claims It Could Reach Israel (Times of Israel). Iran’s Defense Ministry unveiled a drone on Tuesday resembling America’s armed MQ-9 Reaper, claiming that the aircraft is capable of staying airborne for 24 hours and has the range to reach the country’s archenemy Israel. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency published a photograph of the drone, called the Mohajer-10, on display at a conference marking Defense Industry Day with what appeared to be smoke-machine fog underneath it. “Mohajer” means “immigrant” in Farsi and has been a drone line manufactured by the Islamic Republic since 1985.
  2. Iranian Banks Liquidating as Regime Seeks to Avert Panic (Iran International). Islamic Republic’s officials are in damage control mode over the Central Bank of Iran’s decision to dissolve several banks and financial institutions by October. The liquidation of Tosse-eh (Development) Credit Institution is in its final stages while the order to dissolve Ayandeh (Future) Bank was given to the Central Bank earlier this week. There are several other financial institutions, such as Caspian and Nour, that are set to dissolve or merge with other banks. Reports of the liquidation of the unprofitable banks have been circulating in recent years, with Tosse-eh sending messages to its customers asking them to close their accounts until mid-March 2022. The institution has 30 branches all over Iran.

SYRIA

  1. On 10th Anniversary of Ghouta Massacre, US Calls on Syrian Regime to Destroy Chemical Weapons, While France Pledges Accountability (Al Jazeera). Secretary of State Blinken stressed, in a statement yesterday, Monday, that there should be no impunity for those who committed these atrocities, noting that the United States honors the victims and survivors of the nine chemical attacks launched by the Syrian regime and confirmed by the investigation team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in cooperation with the United Nations.

IRAQ

  1. Iraq Denies Rumors of American Military Deployment on Iraqi-Syrian Border (Enab Baladi). The Prime Minister’s advisor for Iraqi security affairs, Khaled al-Yaqoubi, denied the presence of US forces inside Iraqi territory, stressing that there is a replacement rotation for US forces deployed in Syria. Al-Yaqoubi told the Iraqi News Agency (INA) today, Tuesday, August 22, that a meeting took place between an Iraqi security delegation and an American one to discuss security coordination issues in Iraq, and indicated that Washington did not mobilize its forces in the region, but rather a change of military equipment took place.
  2. Sources Say No Iraq-Türkiye Agreement to Resume Northern Oil Exports (Al Naharar). Two sources familiar with the energy sector said that the Iraqi oil minister and his Turkish counterpart did not reach an agreement on the immediate resumption of oil exports from northern Iraq, but they agreed to hold more talks in the future. Turkey cut off the oil flows on March 25 after an ICC arbitration panel ordered Ankara to pay Baghdad nearly $1.5 billion in damages caused by the KRG’s illegal oil exports between 2014 and 2018.
  3. Turkish Exports to Iraq Reached $15 billion During 2022 (Al Iraq News). The volume of Turkish exports to Iraq amounted to more than 15 billion dollars during 2022, according to the trade map website, which provides a trade map for countries for exports, imports, international demand, alternative markets, and competitive markets. The site mentioned in the statistics it published on its website; “The value of Turkish exports to Iraq amounted to 15,172,268 dollars,” and added, “Iraq imported 101 commodities from Turkey during the past year. It is noteworthy that Turkey is behind the scarcity of water in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.”
  4. Iraq Ready to Receive Electricity from Jordan (Al Hadath). The head of the local government administration in the city of Rutba in Anbar Governorate, Imad Meshaal, said that Iraq has become technically ready to receive electric power from Jordan. Meshaal added that the competent authorities have set up all the stations, and the conveyor line has been fully wired to the secondary Rutba station. He pointed out that the supply of electricity from the Jordanian side to the Rutba district will begin at the end of the current month of August, indicating that the line is technically ready and awaiting the implementation of agreements with the Jordanian side, according to the Jordanian “Petra” news agency.

LEBANON

  1. Lebanese Army Facing Fuel Shortage (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The Lebanese army stands a month away from depleting its fuel stocks and expending the Qatari and American aid funds that contribute to reducing the living burdens imposed on the military as a result of the deterioration of the purchasing power of the national currency. This requires the government to move quickly to meet the army’s needs, especially since its tasks have expanded beyond protecting civil peace and border control to include responsibilities that are not within its normal competence, such as combating drug and contraband trafficking,
  2. Lebanon Starts Gas Exploration in “Block 9″ (24). Total Energies and its partners Eni and Qatar Energy announced the launch of exploration activities in the ninth block in the southern Lebanese territorial waters. “Today, exploration activities were launched in Block No. 9 in Lebanon, during a visit to the Transocean Barents drilling rig, in the presence of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and Minister of Energy and Water Walid Fayyad,” Total Energy and the two partners said, in a press statement.

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