May 23, 2023
- EU Slaps More Sanctions on Iran After G7 Warning (Iran International). The European Union imposed new sanctions on Iranian officials and entities for their role in the violent crackdown on widespread protests…The sanctions included the Revolutionary Guards’ Cooperative Foundation, the body responsible for managing the IRGC’s investments and funneling money into the regime’s repression machine.
- Ali Shamkhani, Architect Of Iran-Arab Relations, Quits (Tehran Times). Ali Shamkhani, the former secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, announced on Sunday that he was leaving his top job after ten years…In January this year, Shamkhani’s reputation was overshadowed by the noisy execution of one of his close aides as defense minister. Ali Akbar Ahmadian, an IRGC commander, was appointed on Monday by the Iranian president as the new secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
- Iran Faces Huge Budget Deficit It Tries to Conceal (Iran International). Rahim Mombeini, the deputy head of Iran’s Planning and Budget Organization, said Saturday that Iran’s budget deficit for the previous Iranian year –which ended on March 20 – was about 8,000 trillion rials (about $16 billion in today’s exchange rates).
- 26 Iranian Vessels Prepared for Transporting Cargo to Russia (Tasnim News). Signing an agreement to buy ships from the North-South Corridor Convergence Club in Russia is in line with the Rasht-Astara railway construction agreement, the CEO of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) said. Mohammad-Reza Modaress Khiabani added that 26 vessels, with 3,600 TEU capacity, are ready to transport cargo to Russia.
- Iran Rocked By Fresh Wave Of Street Protests Over Hangings (Iran International). The execution of three political prisoners in Iran has sparked a resurgence of nationwide street protests…The Tehran neighborhoods of Tehransar, Shahrak Ekbatan, Sattarkhan, and Aryashahr were rocked by demonstrations Saturday evening that continued until the early hours of Sunday.
- An Iranian Nuclear Facility So Deep Underground that US Airstrikes are not Likely to Reach (AP News). Near a peak of the Zagros Mountains in central Iran, workers are building a nuclear facility so deep in the earth that it is likely beyond the range of a last-ditch U.S. weapon designed to destroy such sites, according to experts and satellite imagery analyzed by the Associated Press.
- Third-place Sinan Ogan Backs President Erdogan In Türkiye’s Runoff Vote (Anadolu Agency). Speaking to reporters on Monday, Ogan said: “I declare that we will support the candidate of People’s Alliance, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the second round of the presidential election.” He called on his supporters to back Erdogan in the runoff: “We had all kinds of consultations before making the last decision. We have taken this decision because we believe that our decision is the right decision for our country and nation.”
- Over One Million Turks Voted Abroad in Türkiye Runoff Election (Daily Sabah). A total of 1,153,842 people voted abroad for Türkiye’s presidential election runoff within two days, according to the Supreme Election Council (YSK).
- Founders of Turkish Future Party Resign Amid Allegations of Racism Against Refugees (Syria TV). Eleven founding members of the Turkish opposition “Future Party” (Gelecek) declared their resignation, citing discrepancies between the party’s “objectives” and its involvement in policies perceived as racist against refugees. Turkish media reported on Monday the news of these resignations from the “Future” Party, led by former Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
- Türkiye Working to Repatriate Syrians to Assad-Controlled Cities (Daily Sabah). Ankara and Damascus are starting talks for the return of Syrian refugees to areas under the Assad regime’s control, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu said, as anti-refugee rhetoric takes over opposition circles ahead of Türkiye’s presidential runoff.
ISRAEL & PALESTINE
- Ben-Gvir: We are Making Changes on the Temple Mount Slowly, Quietly (Jerusalem Post). National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir stated that the government was making changes on the Temple Mount “slowly and quietly” during a Sunday festive meal for Jerusalem Day the Temple Mount Administration.
- Defense Ministry to Invest Heavily in AI in Bid To Improve Intel on Iran (Times of Israel). On Monday, Defense Ministry Director Eyal Zamir hinted that Iran would be the primary focus of Israel’s military force design in the coming years, announcing the ministry’s new “Depth Multi-Year Plan.”
- As Inflation Persists, Bank of Israel Hikes Interest Rates to 4.75% (Times Of Israel). The Bank of Israel on Monday raised its benchmark interest rate for a tenth consecutive time, lifting borrowing costs by 25 basis points to 4.75% as it struggles to tamper with inflation growth in recent months.
- After Closing its Borders, Iraqi Kurdistan Halts Oil Imports From Syria (Syria TV). An informed source told Syria TV that the Syrian Democratic Forces export over 10,000 barrels of crude oil daily to the Kurdistan region of Iraq at a price fluctuating between 30 and 40 US dollars per barrel. This arrangement generates more than 10 million dollars in monthly revenue for the SDF’s treasury and the Autonomous Administration of Northeast Syria. The source emphasized that Iraqi Kurdistan’s halting of oil imports from areas controlled by the SDF would subject both the latter and the Autonomous Administration to considerable financial strain.
- Assad Regime Hardens Stance Towards Turkiye: No Normalization Without Turkish Military Withdrawal From Syria (Syria TV). Syrian Foreign Minister Feisal Miqdad reiterated the necessity for foreign forces to withdraw from Syria, including areas in the northwest, such as Idlib, the entire region between Syria and Turkiye, and the American troops stationed in the northeast and at the Rukban base. He added that a potential meeting between Assad and Erdogan hinges solely on one issue – Turkiye’s withdrawal from Syrian territories.
- Public Protests Persist Against ‘Tahrir al-Sham’ in Idlib (Zaman Al Wasl). Numerous demonstrations against Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham have erupted in several villages and towns under the control of Syrian opposition factions in northwestern Syria. The protesters denounce the group’s repressive policies towards the region’s residents and demand the release of detainees.
- Fistfight in Kurdistan’s Parliament Over Election Law (Iraqi News). On Monday, the Kurdistan Parliament in northern Iraq witnessed a violent fistfight between MPs belonging to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) due to a dispute over the election law. MPs of the PUK objected to the reactivation of the electoral commission to hold the elections, considering the move illegal. In contrast, MPs of the KDP thought that the failure to activate the electoral commission was an obstacle to keeping the parliamentary elections on time.
- Iraq Loses 1000 Megawatts of Electricity Due to Reduction of Iranian Gas (The New Arab). Iraq depends on Iranian gas to fuel its power plants. In May of last year, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Oji confirmed the extension of Iran’s gas exports to Iraq for the subsequent five years. This announcement followed a delay of more than two months in the gas delivery, attributed to “gas pipeline maintenance,” resulting in a decrease in Iran’s gas exports to Iraq.
- Threats and Pressures Delay Basra-Aqaba Pipeline Project (The New Arab). Two Iraqi officials based in Baghdad disclosed to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the government of Prime Minister Muhammad Shia’a al-Sudani had deferred any concrete steps towards implementing the Basra-Aqaba pipeline project, a collaborative venture agreed upon between Iraq and Jordan. This postponement is due to substantial pressure exerted by armed factions and political forces aligned with Iran.
THE GULF & YEMEN
- Grand Celebration Marks the Arrival of the First Saudis at The International Space Station (Al Khaleej Online). Stem cell researcher Bernawi has made history as the first Saudi and Arab woman to venture into space, joined by her colleague Al-Qarni, a combat pilot in the Kingdom’s Air Force and the first Saudi astronaut bound for the International Space Station.
- Saudi Arabia Inks Agreements to Construct World’s Largest Green Hydrogen Plant (Al Khaleej Online). Saudi’s “NEOM” company has signed agreements with 23 local, regional, and international banks and investment firms to establish the world’s largest green hydrogen production plant, valued at $8.4 billion…This project results from an equal partnership with the Saudi firm “Aqua Power” and the American company “Air Products.”
- Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim Awaits Manchester United’s Decision as West Ham Rumors Swirl (Al Monitor). Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani is still awaiting a decision from the Glazer family about whether his offer to buy British soccer club Manchester United will succeed, as a report emerged saying that the Qatari royal may think about trying to buy English Premier League rival West Ham if he fails in his Man U takeover attempt.
- UN Envoy to Sudan: Both Conflict Parties Have Breached Humanitarian Law (Al Arabiya). Volker Peretz, the UN Special Representative in Sudan, affirmed both conflict parties’ breaches of international humanitarian law, emphasizing that the army and rapid support leaders have it within their power to cease the violence…Peretz reported that the UN had received accounts of home and bank lootings and instances of enforced disappearances. In addition, he indicated that the conflict had incited tribal and ethnic tensions, particularly in Darfur.
- Sudan War Threatens to Stop International Companies (Al Arabiya). Sudan accounts for about 70% of the global gum trade. Before the war, 5 million people lived on gum Arabic, the main ingredient in soft drinks and chewing gum. However, the gum prices in Sudan have fallen by half, and the foreigners who used to buy it have left the country.
- Egyptian Court Refers Muslim Brotherhood Leader and 7 Others to Mufti for Execution Approval (The New Arab). The Egyptian Supreme State Security Criminal Court…referred the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Muhammad Badi, and seven others to the Grand Mufti of the Republic for his legal opinion on their execution. This concerns the case commonly referred to as “Platform Events.”
- Egypt Discusses Naval Cooperation With Saudi, Qatar (Middle East Monitor). The Commander of the Egyptian Naval Forces, Ashraf Atwa, discussed with his Saudi counterpart, Fahd Al-Ghofaily, and Qatari counterpart, Abdullah Hassan Al-Sulaiti, the improvement of military cooperation and support of capabilities in the military-naval field.