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THE EARLY PHOENIX May 21-22, 2023

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May 21-22, 2023

IRAN

  1. Iran Might Restore Ties If US Apologizes (Iran International). A member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee says Washington has suggested holding talks with Tehran without the presence of other JCPOA partners. The lawmaker, Shahryar Haidari, did not name his source, but said face-to-face negotiations is the new US approach. He added that Washington wants to get more concessions from Tehran during direct negotiations. Haidari said: “Iran’s condition for taking part in direct negotiations with the United States is that Washington should apologize to Tehran for its mistakes during the past 44 years.” He added that “Iran might restore its ties with Washington if America offers the apology.”
  2. Iranian Military Delegation in Afghanistan for Talks (Tasnim News). A high-ranking Iranian military delegation has traveled to Afghanistan for talks with the Taliban rulers about border issues and cooperation.
  3. Iran’s Intelligence Minister Reveals the Arrest of a “Terrorist” Group Linked to Israel (Al Jazeera). Iranian Intelligence Minister Ismail Khatib revealed that the security services recently arrested a “terrorist” group linked to Israel on the country’s western border.
  4. Five Iranian Border Guards Killed in Southeastern Iran (Tasnim News). The spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry denounced a fatal terrorist attack on the country’s border guards at a post near Pakistan as a targeted action against the security and interests of the two neighbors.
  5. IRGC Releases Photos of US Destroyer in Hormuz Strait (Tasnim News). The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy released the photos of the US Navy’s USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60) destroyer, which it has been monitoring in the Strait of Hormuz south of Iran.
  6. Iranian Expats Hold Rallies to Slam Regime’s Execution Spree (Iran International). Iranians at home and abroad staged protests Saturday against the Islamic Republic execution spree, the latest victims of which were three people hanged Friday.
  7. IRGC Urges Iraq to Honor Commitment on Expulsion of Terrorists (Tasnim News). The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Ground Force warned that its strikes against the Kurdistan region-based terrorist groups would resume if the Iraqi government failed to meet its commitment to disarm and evict the terrorists. Speaking to Tasnim in Iran’s western city of Sanandaj on Saturday, IRGC Ground Force Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said the Baghdad government has undertaken, under an agreement, to disarm and expel the terrorist groups that act against Iran along the border regions. “We are waiting for the government of Iraq to honor its commitments and have given them some time (to evict the terrorists). Otherwise, and if nothing happens, the IRGC’s attacks will go on,” the commander warned. Asked if the Baghdad government has a deadline of months or days, the general said the Iraqi government itself knows the given time.
  8. Iranian Supreme Leader Describes Nuclear Agreement As “Taqiyya” [Dissimulation] and Stresses “It Is Necessary to Be Flexible Sometimes” (Iran International).  Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated during a meeting with several senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the “heroic flexibility” he mentioned about the nuclear agreement was “misunderstood” domestically and internationally…In his remarks today, the Iranian leader alluded to accepting the nuclear agreement under the “taqiyya,” a term that means being wary of revealing one’s true intentions to others…Khamenei explained, “Taqiyya means that when you are walking on a path, and you encounter a rock…you should look for another path next to the rock to cross it…This does not mean that we avoid continuing the path and resort to retreat.”

TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye’s New Parliament:  50 Shades of Nationalism, Conservatism (Al Monitor). Turkiye’s new parliament after the May 14 elections may look more diverse and colorful, featuring members from 18 parties. However, nationalist and conservative forces on either side of the aisle have gained unprecedented weight in the legislature…Nationalist and conservative parties on either side of the aisle hold more than 400 seats. Women won 121 seats, the largest number thus far, but in another landmark, candidates who openly target women’s rights made it to Parliament inside Erdogan’s alliance.
  2. PKK /YPG Seeks ‘Revenge’ Against Erdoğan In Turkish Elections (Daily Sabah) If President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is defeated in May’s presidential election, the PKK/YPG terror group will have taken its revenge for Turkish military operations in Syria, a member of the terror group has declared. Speaking to a propaganda network based outside of Türkiye, Salih Muslim, one of the key leadership figures in PKK’s Syria affiliate YPG, revealed the terrorists’ discomfort over Turkish counterterrorism operations that have been ongoing against PKK/YPG and Daesh in northern Syria since 2016. “The Turkish army has been in the field since 2016,” Muslim recalled, and referring to the runoff vote on May 28, he added, “Now we have an opportunity in our hands. It’s the first time we have such a thing happening in elections.”
  3. Umit Ozdag Loses His Parliamentary Seat, and His Party Is “Under the Limit” (Enab Baladi). The head of the extremist Turkish nationalist “Victory” party, which is hostile to Syrian refugees, Umit Ozdag, lost his seat in parliament after being his party’s candidate from the state of Gaziantep. The “Victory” party obtained 2.25% of the votes in the Turkish parliamentary elections, and could not pass the 7% threshold to enter parliament, according to the unofficial preliminary results.
  4. Erdogan: We Will Return a Million Refugees and Reject Assad’s Request to Withdraw from Syria (Syria TV). In an interview with CNN Turk, President Erdogan of Turkiye unequivocally stated that Turkiye “will sustain its presence in northern Syria.” Furthermore, he responded to Bashar al-Assad’s request for withdrawal by declaring that it “will not be accepted. This is because we share over 900 kilometers of borders, and a constant threat of terrorism emanates from these borders to our country. Therefore, our sole motivation for maintaining a military presence at the borders is to combat terrorism.”

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israelis Keep up Protests against Judicial Reforms (Al Monitor). Israeli protesters thronged the heart of Tel Aviv Saturday for a 20th straight week, keeping up their campaign against the hard-right government’s controversial judicial reform plans which they view as a threat to democracy.
  2. Ben-Gvir Storms Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, Says Israel ‘Is In Charge Here’ in Latest Provocation (New Arab). Israel’s extreme-right security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir stormed Jerusalem’s sacred al-Aqsa mosque compound early on Sunday, The New Arab’s Arabic language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported, citing a source from the Islamic Waqf Department in Jerusalem.
  3. Saudi Arabia Condemns Israeli Official’s Storming Of Al-Aqsa Mosque (Al Sharq al Awsat). In a statement, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that these systematic practices are a flagrant violation of all international norms and covenants and a provocation to the feelings of Muslims around the world, and the ministry holds the Israeli occupation forces fully responsible for the repercussions of the continuation of these abuses.
  4. Netanyahu Meets With His Government in a Tunnel Under Al-Aqsa Amid Palestinian Warnings Against Igniting A Religious War (Al Jazeera). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with members of his government in a tunnel under the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a few hours after one of his ministers stormed the courtyards of the Noble Mosque, which sparked widespread Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic condemnation.

SUDAN

  1. Sudan:  Army, RSF Agree to Seven-Day Ceasefire Following Talks in Jeddah (New Arab). Sudan’s warring factions have agreed to enact a seven-day ceasefire, US and Saudi officials confirmed in a statement late on Saturday following talks in Jeddah.
  2. Renewed Bombing in Khartoum as Rapid Support Forces Say They Will Abide by the Ceasefire (Al Hadath). Hours after announcing the agreement on a 7-day cease-fire, Al-Arabiya sources reported the renewal of aerial bombardment in Khartoum today, Sunday. Simultaneously, an Al-Arabiya correspondent reported hearing explosions and heavy artillery in the south and center of Omdurman. For its part, the Rapid Support Forces announced today, Sunday, their “total” commitment, starting tomorrow evening, to the ceasefire agreement concluded with the Sudanese army in Jeddah, mediated by Saudi Arabia and the United States.
  3. After Khartoum Objected To The Visit Of Dagalo’s Delegate… Juba Confirms Its Neutrality (Al Arabiya). On Friday, the South Sudanese government stressed that it plays a neutral role in stopping the fighting in Sudan after Khartoum protested against hosting an envoy from the Rapid Support Forces. In a statement published on Thursday, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry announced that it had sent an “official protest note” to the Juba government to express its “strong protest and astonishment” at a visit made by one of the advisors to the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, “Hemedti” this week to South Sudan.

SYRIA

  1. G7 Countries Link Normalization and Reconstruction in Syria With a Political Solution (Enab Baladi). The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) said that normalization with the Syrian regime and reconstruction in Syria is linked to actual and real progress toward a political solution, according to a statement issued at their meeting in the Japanese city of Hiroshima…the G7 final communique said they are still firmly committed to a comprehensive political process facilitated by the United Nations and consistent with Security Council Resolution 2254 in Syria.
  2. Qatari-Turkish Efforts to Develop A Residential City North of Aleppo – Syria (AlHadath Syria). During a joint meeting, the Qatar Fund for Development and the Presidency of the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD) discussed the start of procedures for developing a residential city that will benefit 50,000 Syrian refugees.
  3. In Preparation for Raising Prices, Assad Regime Estimates Ministry Of Electricity Will Need 3,500 Billion Pounds During 2023 (Shaam News). Assistant Minister of Electricity Adham Ballan said that the ministry this year needs more than 3,500 billion Syrian pounds and claimed that filling this deficit will be from the government’s budget. In contrast, the regime’s preparations continue to raise the prices of the absent electricity service.
  4. UNHCR Calls on Lebanon to Grant Residency and Work Permits to Syrian Refugees (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights). As the Syrian refugee crisis continues in Lebanon, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called on the Lebanese authorities to grant more than 1.6 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, including permanent residency and work permits, in return for providing the Lebanese Ministry of Interior and municipalities with data for Syrian refugees in Lebanon who are not pursued by the security authorities.
  5. “Assad’s Executioners” Live their Lives in the Netherlands… What are the Difficulties that Prevent their Trial? (Syria TV) A Dutch journalist’s investigation revealed that dozens of executioners of the Syrian regime live in the Netherlands after practicing torture and committing crimes against many in the regime’s detention centers. Despite this, “it turned out that it was tough to bring them to trial.”
  6. Relative Improvement of the Syrian Pound…and Stability of the Turkish Currency (Halab Today). The exchange rate of the Syrian pound against the US dollar and the rest of the foreign currencies recorded a relative improvement after its recent decline, and the price of gold stabilized at high levels, driven by the collapse of the Syrian pound, with the stability of the exchange rate of the Turkish lira…[On Friday,] the exchange rate of the Syrian pound against the dollar amounted to about 8,550 Syrian pounds for purchase, and 8,650 Syrian pounds for sale, in both Damascus and Aleppo.
  7. Syrian Student Enrolls in German University, Not Yet Fifteen Years Old (Zaman Alwsl). German media celebrated the Syrian student “Joseph Milad,” who could reserve a seat at “Heinrich Heine” University in Dusseldorf, western Germany, to study physics, which he had been fond of since childhood, even though he was only fifteen.
  8. Organization for Prohibiting Chemical Weapons Struggles to Establish Roadmap (Syria TV). For the second consecutive time, profound rifts between Western nations, Russia, and the Assad regime led to the inability of the member states of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to reach a consensus on a five-year roadmap. OPCW member states meet every five years to assess progress made in the 1997 agreement aimed at ridding the world of toxic chemical weapons. However, the 193 countries were unable to reach an agreement after a meeting that took place during the past week in The Hague, during which the Western countries exchanged accusations with Russia and its allies.
  9. Intra-Kurdish Tensions Paralyze Northeast Syria’s Main Border Crossing (AlMonitor). Iraqi Kurdish authorities closed their only border crossing with Syria on Wednesday, disrupting trade, travel, medical trips, and diplomatic visits in and out of northeast Syria. The sudden closure also prompted many humanitarian organizations to withdraw their international staff from the region.

LEBANON

  1. Hizballah Conducts Military Maneuvers in Southern Lebanon, Saying They Will Rain Down on Israel with Precision Missiles (Al Nahar). Hizballah official Hashem Safi Al-Din, in his speech at the end of a military maneuver conducted by the party in southern Lebanon, addressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, saying: “If you think about expanding your aggression to undermine the equations that we made with our blood and our ability, then we will be ready to rain down on you, and you will witness dark days that you have not seen before…the Israelis should know well that we mean what we say.”
  2. Prominent al-Qaeda Leader Apprehended in Lebanon (Al Nahar). A particular unit from the Lebanese Intelligence Directorate has apprehended a citizen known as (T.M.) in the town of Deir Ammar in the North…(T.M.) is one of the most prominent leaders of the “Al-Qaeda” organization and a founder of its cells in Lebanon. Additionally, he played a significant role in aiding the establishment of the terrorist organization “Fatah Al-Islam.”

THE GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Houthi Government Inks Agreement with China for Oil Field Investment (Al Mayadeen). The Ministry of Oil and Minerals under the Houthi government has signed a memorandum of understanding with “Anton Oil” and a representative of the Chinese government aimed at investing in oil exploration in Yemen…The Houthi Ministry of Oil warned foreign companies, cautioning them against conducting business with the Saudi-appointed Presidential Council’s government or entering into contracts with them.
  2. Germany and Italy Seek Stronger Energy Ties with Saudi Arabia and Qatar (Al Monitor). Italy is looking for capital from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund for a new fund Rome is setting up to help domestic companies in strategically important sectors…Germany Foreign Minister Baerbock met with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani on Wednesday, and the two officials signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing a strategic dialogue between the two countries.
  3. Bahrain Resumes Diplomatic Ties with Lebanon (Al Ahram). Bahrain’s foreign ministry on Sunday announced that it had renewed diplomatic representation with Lebanon at the level of ambassadors, Bahrain’s state-run news agency reported.
  4. United Nations Says Landmines Continue to Claim Civilian Lives in Yemen (Al Arabiya). The United Nations confirmed that civilian deaths and injuries continued due to mine explosions in Al-Hodeidah Governorate, western Yemen…Human rights reports indicate that the Houthi militia has planted over two million mines, killing and injuring more than 20,000 civilians.
  5. Israeli Media Says Saudi Arabia Set to Approve Direct Hajj Flights from Israel (i24). According to a report by the Hebrew newspaper “Maariv,” the negotiations that began a year ago have recently led to a breakthrough, noting that these trips will be intended only for Muslims living in Israel and for pilgrimage.

NORTH AFRICA

  1. Omani Sultan’s Visit to Egypt Heralds New Era of Relations (Arab News). During the visit, the Omani-Egyptian Business forum would be organized “to showcase the investment potentials available in the Sultanate, the regulations and the basic structures attractive to investors in many areas, including renewable energy and green hydrogen.”
  2. Morocco’s Economy to Benefit as EU Drops It from Money Laundering List (AlMonitor). Morocco’s removal from the European Union’s watchlist of countries under surveillance for money laundering and terrorist financing will benefit the country’s economy and facilitate capital flows in and out of the country, a global anti-money laundering expert has said.
  3. Demolition of Italian-era Buildings in Benghazi Seen as Attack on City’s Heritage (Middle East Eye). The destruction of Italian colonial-era buildings in the old city of Benghazi in Libya has triggered warnings of the consequences for the city’s architectural heritage.
  4. Tunisia’s Salvation Front Calls for Release of Political Detainees and Denies the Charge of Plotting Against the State (Aljazeera). On Saturday, the Tunisian opposition Salvation Front demanded the immediate release of all political detainees since mid-February in what is known as the case of conspiracy against state security.

IRAQ

  1. Saddam Hussein’s Former Lawyer Claims US Offered Saddam Conditions for a Pardon (Iraqi News). In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, the attorney representing Saddam Hussein at his trial, Khalil Al-Dulaimi, revealed that the United States set out conditions to have the late President pardoned. Al-Dulaimi explained that the US suggested the appointment of a Vice President with no key authorities to pardon the former President. The Iraqi attorney explained that the Americans asked Saddam Hussein to stop the fight against the American forces in Fallujah, where they faced some of the heaviest combat since their war in Vietnam in 1968. The lawyer clarified that the Americans also requested Saddam Hussein to leave the country after his release, but the late President refused their requests, noting that he transferred those conditions to Saddam himself.
  2. Iraqi PM Meets with Ukrainian President in Jeddah (Iraqi News). The discussion focused on bilateral ties between Iraq and Ukraine and methods to strengthen collaboration in areas of mutual interest.
  3. Iraq and Russia Commit to OPEC+ Oil Production Cuts (Iraqi News). During a phone call on Friday, the Iraqi Minister of Oil, Hayan Abdul-Ghani, and the Russian Minister of Energy, Alexander Novak, confirmed their countries’ commitment to oil production cuts and the OPEC+ agreement, according to a statement issued by the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

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