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THE EARLY PHOENIX – August 24, 2023

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TOP HEADLINES:

TURKIYE

  1. Erdogan Says Ankara Does not Recognize Russia’s Annexation of Crimea (Anadolu Agency). Türkiye does not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continues to see it as illegitimate, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed on Wednesday. “Ensuring the security and well-being of our Crimean Tatar kin, who are one of Crimea’s native peoples, is among our priorities,” Erdogan said in a video message to the Third Crimea Platform Summit, which is being held in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
  2. Türkiye calls on Iraq to recognize PKK as terror group as FM visits (Daily Sabah). Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan urged Baghdad to recognize the PKK, still hiding out in the country’s north, as a terrorist group as he embarked on a three-day visit to Türkiye’s southeastern neighbor on Tuesday…As Türkiye strives to improve ties with Iraq, top diplomat Hakan Fidan made his first visit to the country since his appointment as foreign minister earlier this summer. Starting his three-day visit to the country, Fidan was blunt in his call to Baghdad for recognition of one of Türkiye’s primary security concerns: the PKK terrorist group.

ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Palestinian Factions Fear Israeli Assassinations After Security Cabinet Meeting (Jerusalem Post). Palestinian factions raised their level of alert in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and warned Israel against conducting targeted assassinations a day after the Prime Minister’s Office said the security cabinet had decided to “attack terrorists and those dispatching them.” Sources in the factions told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the leadership of the factions in Gaza and abroad has taken “unprecedented” security measures amid concerns that they could be targeted by Israel. The factions are taking recent threats by Israeli officials “seriously,” according to the report, with the factions in Gaza evacuating their main positions due to the concerns. The sources added that a heightened presence of reconnaissance drones has been noticed above Gaza.
  2. Arab Local Officials Are Under Threat, Criminologist Warns as Violence Skyrockets (Times of Israel). The unrelenting violent crime wave battering Arab Israeli society is seeping into the political sphere two months ahead of countrywide local elections, putting municipal officials under threat, an expert warned, as a municipal leader and mayor candidate were killed this week. Abdul Rahman Kashua, director general of the Arab municipality of Tira in central Israel, was shot dead on Monday evening in unclear circumstances. According to the Abraham Initiatives anti-violence advocacy group, 156 members of Israel’s Arab community have been killed since the start of the year, mostly in shootings. Over the equivalent period last year, 68 were killed.
  3. IDF Prepares to Demolish Homes of Alleged Terrorists Behind Deadly Hebron Attack (Times of Israel). Israeli troops operated in the West Bank city of Hebron early Wednesday morning to prepare to demolish the homes of two Palestinians accused of killing an Israeli woman in a terror attack. Batsheva Nigri, a 42-year-old mother of three, was shot dead in front of her daughter in the attack near Hebron on Monday morning. Another man was seriously wounded in the attack. Israeli security forces arrested two men, reported to be brothers, suspected of carrying out the shooting the following day.

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. UN Special Rep Confirms the Presence of Wagner in Libya and Warns of the Consequences of Destabilizing Niger (Al-Wasat). The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Abdullah Batelli, warned of the consequences of destabilization in Niger for Libya, confirming the presence of the Russian “Wagner” group in Libya, despite the absence of documented data on their numbers and equipment. Batelli said in a press briefing on…Tuesday: “We are concerned about the situation in Niger.”
  2. Egyptian Official Says Restoration of Egypt-Iran Relations Depends on Syrian and Lebanese Files (Syria TV). The head of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, Muhammad al-Orabi, said that the return of relations between Cairo and Tehran is linked to many files, including Syria and Yemen. Al-Orabi indicated in an interview with the Arab World News Agency (AWP) that diplomatic relations between Egypt and Iran exist and have not been interrupted, but the determinants of the return of full relations between them have a special nature. He pointed out that Iran is an active state in the region, and sometimes it is harmful, and the return of relations is linked to other files such as Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.
  3. Majority Party in Egyptian Parliament Supports Sisi’s Candidacy for a New Term (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat). The “National Future” party, which holds the parliamentary majority in the Egyptian Parliament (316 seats out of a total of 596), announced today (Wednesday) its support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s candidacy for a new term in the upcoming presidential elections, so that “Nation’s Future” will join the “Free Egyptians” and “Hamat Al-Watan”, which announced the same position last month. This coincided with intensive preparations by the National Elections Authority in Egypt to announce the timetable for the next presidential elections.
  4. Kuwait’s KUFPEC Announces an Oil Discovery in Egypt that Increases Production (Sputnik Arabic). The Kuwaiti company “KUFPEC” announced that it had made a new oil discovery in the Egyptian Suez Canal area through its subsidiary “KUFPEC Egypt.” The Kuwaiti Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company stated that the new oil discovery is in the Egyptian concession area, “Jesum and West Tawila”, according to the Saudi “Argaam” portal, today, Wednesday.

GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. America Rules Out an Imminent Announcement About Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Program or Normalization (Maan News).The US National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, has ruled out achieving normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, or issuing an announcement soon regarding the Kingdom’s acquisition of peaceful nuclear capabilities. Sullivan confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that the United States seeks to clarify the position of the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding the possibility of granting Saudi Arabia peaceful nuclear capabilities. Sullivan explained the importance of normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel, noting that this “will represent an important event capable of achieving greater regional stability and enhancing integration in the Middle East region.”
  2. Qatar Most Likely Candidate to Manage 3 Airports in Pakistan (Al Sharq). The Center for International Aviation “CAPA” confirmed that the State of Qatar has the best chances to win the tenders offered to manage three airports in Pakistan, namely: the capital Islamabad airport, and the airports of the cities of Karachi and Lahore. Today, Wednesday, the center attributed the possibility of Qatar winning the bids to the fact that it was the first to announce its intention to take over the tasks of managing the three airports in Pakistan, at the beginning of 2022. Qatar announced its intention to invest $3 billion in Pakistan in several sectors, including tourism and food security, which reflects the good relations between Doha and Islamabad. 
  3. Saudi Arabia Thwarts Smuggling of 38 Tons of Narcotics (Al Khaleej Online).The official spokesman for the General Directorate of the Saudi Border Guard, Colonel Misfer Al-Quraini, announced that attempts to smuggle narcotic substances have been thwarted in a number of regions of the Kingdom. And according to what was reported by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), on Wednesday, Al-Quraini said that the land patrols of the border guards in the regions of Najran, Jazan, Asir, Tabuk and the Eastern Province thwarted 36 tons and 481 kilograms of the narcotic khat plant, one ton and 472 kilograms of narcotic hashish, and 29 thousand and 572 regulated tablets.
  4. IMF Says Kuwait’s Economic Recovery Faces Great Risks (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The International Monetary Fund announced, on Wednesday, that the economic recovery in Kuwait is continuing, but the risks to its future are “still great,” and that the stalemate between the government and the National Assembly could lead to continued delays in reforms. The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund said, in an assessment following “Article IV” consultations with the Kuwaiti government, that real gross domestic product is expected to slow to only 0.1 percent this year after growth of 8.2 percent in 2022, mainly due to oil production cuts. Last May, the International Monetary Fund predicted a slowdown in real GDP to 0.9 percent. Despite the expected recession, the Fund on Wednesday expected real non-oil GDP to grow 3.8 percent this year from 4 percent in 2022.

IRAN

  1. Iran Boosts Oil Production and Exports Despite Sanctions (Iran International). Iran’s crude oil output will reach 3.4 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of September, the country’s oil minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday, despite US sanctions remaining in place. “Our current crude oil production is 3.3 million barrels per day and by the end of September this amount will increase to 3.4 million,” Javad Owji said. The increase in crude production coincides with a steady rise in Iran’s exports. TankerTrackers.com, which monitors global oil shipments, reported that in the initial 20 days of August, Iran dispatched an average of over two million barrels of oil daily, marking a more than 30-percent surge compared to the past few months.
  2. Iran Sentences 8 to Prison Over Paramilitary’s Death During Last Year’s Nationwide Protests (VOA). Iran sentenced seven men and a woman to prison after their convictions over allegedly aiding two men who were earlier executed for killing a paramilitary volunteer during the nationwide protests last year that followed Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody, state media reported Wednesday. The sentences come just ahead of the one-year anniversary of Amini’s Sept. 16 death, as authorities have been rounding up activists and others in an apparent attempt to tamp down any dissent ahead of it…The defendants were found guilty of committing “warfare” and of “corruption on Earth,” a term often used to describe attempts to undermine the Iranian government.
  3. Iranian Politicians Blame ‘Infiltrators’ for Obstructing Foreign Relations (Iran International). A former senior official of Iran’s Foreign Ministry and a lawmaker have warned that “infiltrators” in the upper echelons of the government pose a threat to national interests. A former Director General for the Middle East, Mohammad Ali Sobhani, has said in an interview with Entekhab website last week that “a radical group of infiltrators are furthering measures that prevent the Iranian government from normalizing its relations with other countries.” In April 2021, former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had said that Russia interfered in Iran’s domestic affairs particularly by dictating ideas to the top-level commanders of the revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Zarif said that Russia summoned former IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani to Moscow on a few occasions.

SYRIA

  1. CENTCOM Commander Visits ISIS-linked Families in Syrian Camps (The National News). The US Central Command says Gen Michael Kurilla traveled to Syria where he visited Al Hol and Al Roj displacement camps that house tens of thousands of people with suspected links to ISIS. Centcom said the visits this week were to “observe first-hand the current humanitarian conditions … rehabilitation and reintegration efforts to return residents to their countries of origin”.
  2. Lebanon Hands Over 350 Syrians to the Assad Regime’s Fourth Division (Orient). The Lebanese authorities continue to hand over Syrians who enter their territory through smuggling to Assad’s militia without regard for the fate that awaits them, despite repeated warnings by human rights and international organizations for fear of being arrested or killed in Assad’s prisons. A private source, who preferred not to reveal his name, told Orient Net that about 3 days ago, large numbers of Syrian families began leaving the areas of Asad towards Lebanon via Wadi Khaled, to escape the deteriorating living situation.

IRAQ

  1. Al-Sudani Says Iraq Will not Allow PKK to Stage Attacks Against Turkiye from Iraqi Territory (Elaph). Iraq affirmed to Turkey on Wednesday its seriousness not to allow any party or organization under any name to tamper with security or use Iraqi lands as a starting point for attacking neighboring countries, in reference to the Workers’ Party. Iraq called on Turkiye to release more waters of the Tigris and Euphrates to its lands. During a meeting held by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan today with Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia’ al-Sudani, relations between the two countries were discussed.

LEBANON

  1. Lebanon Investigates How Israeli Goods Ended Up on Shop Shelves (New Arab). Israeli goods have been confiscated from shop shelves and warehouses in Lebanon, the country’s national security ministry announced. The ministry said the products had been removed and “relevant parties had been summoned for questioning”, according to local reports. Israel and Lebanon have no official diplomatic ties, and the sale of Israeli goods is banned in the country.
  2. Concern in Lebanon About Expanded Role for International Forces in the South (Al Sharq Al Asawt). Lebanon is engaged in a difficult and unequal diplomatic battle at the United Nations, linked to amending the mission of the international emergency forces operating in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL). Influential countries seek to expand UNIFIL’s tasks and free their hand by moving in their area of operations without coordination with the Lebanese army, which raises concern. Hezbollah is apprehensive about UNIFIL’s role, which puts the international forces in the face of civilians in southern Lebanon who represent the incubating environment for Hezbollah, and warns of a recurrence of incidents of collision with it.
  3. Hezbollah Official Says Zionist regime must be wiped from the region (IRNA). “The Israeli entity must be wiped off the region completely, because this regime is not only a danger to the earth, but also a danger to humanity and the future,” Sheikh Naim Qassem said, according to Al-Manar news network cited by the IRNA. He also said Hezbollah managed to change the equations in the region. The remarks came after Israel Hayom argued in an article that the Zionist regime’s army is incapable of taking any decision to confront the growing power of Hezbollah due to its domestic problems.

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