May 16, 2023
- Erdoğan Wins Over 49% of Vote in Turkish Elections (Daily Sabah). The Supreme Election Council (YSK) announced on Monday that all ballot boxes were opened in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections while a small number of overseas ballots were still not available. The council announced President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won 49.51% of the vote and confirmed a runoff vote, scheduled for May 28.
- Oğan ٍSeeks Assurances to Support Candidates in Türkiye’s Runoff (Daily Sabah). Sinan Oğan, a minor presidential contender who surprised Türkiye with his performance in the country’s groundbreaking elections on Sunday, seeks firm assurances to endorse a candidate in the upcoming runoff vote… Oğan said he is “very comfortable” with playing the role of kingmaker and that he was confident he would get the 2.8 million people who voted for him to support the candidate he endorses.
- Türkiye’s Stock Market Declined Sharply as the Opportunity for a Rerun of the Presidential Elections Advances (Bloomberg). As a result, the BIST 100 stock index fell by 6.4%, marking the most significant drop since early February, as the country appears headed for a runoff of its presidential elections. Traders at the Istanbul Stock Exchange described the runoff elections as one of the “worst results for the financial market.” The index fell 6.4% at 9:55 am Istanbul time before trading was halted.
- Waiting for An Agreement with Türkiye… The File of Kurdistan’s Oil Exports is Still Pending (SNA Business). In a statement on Sunday, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Masrour Barzani, said , “The Kurdistan Regional Government has fulfilled all its obligations based on the agreement, and is awaiting a final agreement between the federal government and the Turkish government to resume exporting the Kurdistan Region’s oil.”
- Over 200 Foreign Companies from 13 Countries to Participate in Iran Oil Show 2023 (Tehran Times). Foreign companies participating in the exhibition are from Russia, China, Belarus, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Spain, India, UAE, Oman, and Turkey…[T]he number of foreign participants in this year’s event has doubled compared to the previous year. At the same time, the number of Iranian companies that will participate in the event has also increased by 35 percent.
- Ukraine Downs Four Iranian Drones (Iran International). Ukraine’s Air Force Command says it brought down the Shahid pilotless vehicles overnight, along with a Russian-made Orlan-10 drone. The crash took place in the air in the northeast of Ukraine.
- Baghdad, Tehran Sign MoU to Fight Illegal Drugs (Bas News). Iraq’s ministry of health on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran’s Secretary-General of the Anti-Narcotics Authority to combat the making, transit, and possession of illicit drugs.
- Iran & Qatar Meet on the Sidelines of the International Middle East Rail Conference (Tasnim Agency). During the meeting, the two sides stressed the need to implement the memoranda of understanding (MoUs) inked previously between the two countries to remove barriers on the path of bilateral trade.
ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Israeli Officials Visited Russia, Discussed Iran on Rare Trip (Al Monitor). Israel is trying to have it both ways by increasing its assistance to Ukraine while preserving its security ties with Russia… Israel’s Hayom newspaper first reported Friday on the May 3 visit to Moscow, the first such senior-level ministerial encounter since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022… The ministry noted that the encounter focused on strategic affairs, a term often used by Israeli diplomats when the Iranian file is discussed. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the parties held a comprehensive discussion on regional issues currently on the table of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Neither of the sides referred to the war in Ukraine.
- Netanyahu Vows Contentious Jerusalem Flag March Will Again Go Through Muslim Quarter (The Times of Israel). National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has a history of ties to nationalist far-right groups, is expected to attend the rally this week. Last year, security services kept the then-MK away from the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City, a site of frequent conflict between Palestinians and Israeli police in the Muslim Quarter.
- Palestinians Remembered the Day of the Nakba in Light of the Raids and Arrests (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The day of the Palestinians on the 75th anniversary of the Nakba passed, as usual, in an atmosphere of Israeli incursions, confrontations, killings, and arrests, in light of the continuation of the tragedy, and stands and calls for an end to the historical injustice that those who lived through it did not forget, not even their children and grandchildren who inherited from their fathers the keys to their homes in the villages and towns displaced in 1948. They raised it high (Monday) confirming they did not give up their right to return.
- Lawmakers Scuffle in Knesset Over Municipal Tax Plan as Arab Communities Join Strike (The Times of Israel). Angry lawmakers sparred with each other on Monday in a volatile Knesset committee meeting over a controversial move to redistribute tax income between municipal authorities, with at least two participants forcibly ejected.
- King Charles Changes his Mother’s Approach and Decides to Make the First Royal Visit to Israel (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Senior political sources in Tel Aviv confirmed the news published in London that King Charles would make the first visit of a British Crown bearer to Israel. It revealed that President Isaac Herzog, who participated in the coronation ceremony of King Charles, last week, was the one who initiated the invitation for this visit.
- Syrian Opposition Praises American Efforts to Stop the Normalization of Assad (Zaman Al Wasel). The Syrian National Coalition welcomed the American efforts to issue a law to prevent normalization with the Assad regime, expand the Caesar Act, and not recognize any government headed by the war criminal Bashar al-Assad, pointing to the importance of approving the decision so that it enters into force as soon as possible in light of the acceleration of normalization and restoring relations with the Assad regime.
- The Failed Monetary Policy of Assad’s Central Bank Improvishes Those Who Receive Remittances in Syria (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Since the early years of the war, and in light of the continued deterioration of the economic and living conditions throughout the country, foreign remittances from Syrian refugees in neighboring and Western countries, whose number is estimated at five and a half million refugees, constituted an essential source of livelihood for hundreds of thousands of families in regime-held areas. According to statements recently circulated by the local media to the director of the government’s “Real Estate Bank,” Ali Kanaan, the reason for the high rate of remittances is the Central Bank’s adjustment, several months ago, of the exchange rate of remittances, and raising it to approach the parallel market price, after the difference between them was about 50%. The percent indicates that the remittances amount to 10 million dollars daily, and “this figure will secure the national economy with the possibility of financing basic imports.”
- Sanctions, Revenues Impede Algerian Gas Import to Syria (Enab Baladi). The visit of Firas Kaddour, the newly appointed Minister of Oil, to Algeria on April 26, which lasted for three days, did not result in the export of Algerian gas to Syria. According to the statement of the Algerian Ministry of Energy and Mines, which was issued at the end of the visit, the opportunities for cooperation between the two countries included the fields of hydrocarbon exploration and seismic survey, marketing of petroleum products, electrical maintenance, and spare parts, and the exchange of expertise in the mining field.
- Iraqis Banned from Dealing in US Dollars (The National). The Iraqi Interior Ministry has banned people from dealing in US dollars in the latest move by authorities to control a fluctuating black market exchange rate. The surprise announcement on Sunday reflects an attempt to close the gap between the official exchange rate and that on the black market, which has fuelled high prices and caused anger.
- Maliki’s Coalition Wants to Dismiss Parliament Speaker Halbousi After Approving the Budget (Al Iraqi News). On Monday, the leader of Al-Maliki’s coalition, Saad Al-Muttalbi, accused Parliament Speaker Muhammad Al-Halbousi of using all his powers and adapting them to remain in his position, indicating that Al-Halbousi is awaiting dismissal during the approval of the budget.
- Prime Minister Sudani Authorized the Al Maliki Coordination Framework Leaders to Replace any Minister (Iraq News). The Prime Minister authorized the leaders of the coordination framework with the power to replace any negligent minister. “The evaluation of the work of ministers in the government of Muhammad Shia’ al-Sudani is a professional evaluation, far from any political motives, pointing out that the Prime Minister authorized the coordination framework with the power to change any minister who is marked as deficient in work and performance,” stated Hassan Al Jabouri, the leader of the Wisdom Movement.
- American Mediation to Solve the Problem of Crossings Between the SDF and Iraqi Kurdistan (Syria TV). The US envoy to the regions of northeastern Syria, Nicholas Grainger, intends to visit the Kurdistan region of Iraq, to try to reach an agreement that reopens the crossings closed by the regional government with the areas controlled by the “Self-Administration” in northeastern Syria.
- Qais Khazali Raises a Storm Among Iraqis by Claiming Mossad Killed Imam Ali (Al Arabiya). Many Iraqis circulated on social media during the past hours a video of Khazali speaking during a lecture on “Mahdawi thought” about “Imam Ali,” claiming that “the owners of the red flags and the Mossad are behind his assassination.” [Editor’s note: the killing of Imam Ali took place in the 7th century A.D.]
THE GULF REGION & YEMEN
- Saudi Arabia Thwarts Smuggling of 1.4 Million Captagon Pills (Enab Baladi). On Monday, May 15, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) stated that the “Agency of Zakat, Tax and Customs” in the Islamic port of “Jeddah” managed to thwart the smuggling of one million and 395 thousand and 90 “Captagon” tablets, hidden in a consignment coming through the port…These drug smuggling operations continue at a high rate with the developments of the Arab rapprochement with the Syrian regime, which is accused of exporting drugs to the countries of the region, leading to the thwarting of almost daily smuggling operations, whether on the Jordanian land borders with Syria or through the land and air ports of Saudi Arabia.
- German Foreign Minister Visits Saudi Arabia (Al Nahar). Baerbock expressed her country’s “thanks and appreciation for the Kingdom’s evacuations of German nationals from Sudan,” noting the “high efficiency of the Saudi authorities in the success of these operations”…The German Foreign Ministry said earlier that Baerbock, who will also visit Qatar, will discuss bilateral issues and regional crises with her Gulf counterparts. “In light of the many challenges in the region, from the acute crisis in Sudan, the protracted conflicts in Syria and Yemen, to the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan, a reliable dialogue with partners in the Gulf is essential for Germany and Europe,” the ministry added.
- Gulf Markets Decline as Risk Appetite Recedes (SNA Business). Most stock markets in the Gulf closed lower on Monday as analysts see an easing risk appetite among investors. At the same time, global issues and energy uncertainty continue to weigh on sentiment. The main index in Saudi Arabia fell 1 percent, affected by a 1.8 percent drop in Saudi Aramco. Data from the General Authority for Statistics showed, on Monday, that the annual inflation rate in Saudi Arabia amounted to 2.7 percent in April, unchanged from the previous month, and the authority attributed this to the rise in housing, water, electricity, gas, and fuel prices by 8.1 percent. According to the data, food, and beverage prices also increased by 1.0 percent.
- Secret Prisons: The Houthis’ Tool of Repression and Settling Internal Differences (Al Sharq Al Awsat). While preparations are underway for a new round of consultations between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels on prisoners and abductees, informed sources in Sana’a confirmed the increase in the number of secret prisons used by the putschists as they turned the headquarters of government institutions and humanitarian and human rights organizations into basements, in addition to the homes of Houthi leaders and other political and social figures who fled to the liberated areas or outside the country.
- Egypt’s Economy Braces for New Hit from Sudan Conflict (Al-Monitor). Egypt fears a prolonged conflict across the border in Sudan, a significant export market, will complicate its economic hardships. Egypt’s trade exchange with Sudan hit $1.4 billion in 2022, up from $1.2 billion a year earlier, including $929.2 million in Egyptian exports and $504.4 million in imports, according to the state-run Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.
- Egypt Sells 9.5% of Telecom Egypt’s Shares for 3.7 Billion Pounds (SNA Business). The Financial Supervisory Authority had approved the Ministry of Finance, as the main shareholder in Telecom Egypt, to sell 10 percent of the company’s shares on the stock exchange, according to a statement published on the Egyptian Stock Exchange website…The two-stage sale deal will reduce the government’s share in Telecom Egypt to 70 percent from 80 percent, while the remaining share will be traded on the stock exchange.
- Latest Developments in Sudan (Sky News). Kuwait announces that the residence of the head of its military office in Khartoum has been stormed…The storming of the Jordanian embassy in Khartoum…and the kingdom reveals the status of its mission. Daglo denies the “rumors” of his death…and Al-Burhan freezes RSF accounts.