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A first look at today’s most notable stories from the Middle East, selected by ACLS experts


May 9, 2023


  1. Iran Executes Two Men for ‘Insulting Islam’ (Al-Monitor). The judiciary’s Mizan news agency said in a report that Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli Zare were hanged in Arak prison in central Iran over crimes including insulting the religion of Islam and the prophet and promoting atheism. According to the report, the duo ran several anti-religious social media accounts, and both men had “clearly confessed to their crimes.”
  2. Iran Says It’s Possible to Revive Nuclear Deal if US Doesn’t ‘Procrastinate’ (Times of Israel). An agreement “is possible both in terms of the technical and political aspects,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said on Monday…Kanani said Iran’s policy “is not to allow issues related to Iran’s peaceful nuclear activity to become an obstacle in the process of Iran’s cooperation” with the UN nuclear watchdog.
  3. Tehran-Riyadh Détente Throws Cold Water on The Abraham Accords (Tehran Times). The Saudi-Iranian normalization deal brokered by China has sent shockwaves throughout the region. Regional actors did not expect China to seek a political role in the Persian Gulf. Others were skeptical of Beijing’s diplomatic capacity and skills. Few, however, were surprised by the United States’ actions and missteps that created the opportunity for Beijing to mediate and the environment that compelled regional actors to sue for peace.
  4. How Iran Turned Regional Hourglass Upside Down (Tehran Times). Israel was on a normalization spree in the West Asia region only two and a half years ago, touting anti-Iranian alliances with some of the region’s countries. However, that trend is bucked with Iran’s rapidly improving ties with many countries, including those that forged relations with Israel.
  5. Sudden Fall in Tehran Stock Market Stops Trading on Monday (Iran International). A five-percent fall in Iran’s stock market index in two days has led to a ban on trading. Media reported that the index fell by more than two percent on Monday alone. Following a similar fall on Sunday, the decline led to most shares being locked and traders forming long lines to sell unwanted stocks.


  1. IDF Bombs Gaza, Killing Top Islamic Jihad Terrorists; Southern Israel Girds for Reprisals  (Times of Israel). Explosions ripped through Gaza early Tuesday morning as Israeli forces assassinated three senior members of the Islamic Jihad terror group, days after a short-lived but fiery flareup of violence set the restive region on edge.
  2. EU Nixes Diplomatic Event over Ben Gvir Attendance to Avoid ‘Offering him Platform’ (Times of Israel). A day before it was to take place, the European Union said Monday that it was canceling a Europe Day diplomatic reception over National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s plans to attend the event and deliver an address.
  3. Lebanon Terror Groups Directed Bus Bombing Attempt in Israel – Shin Bet (Jerusalem Post). Six members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attempted Beitar Illit bus bombing on March 9. In addition, for allegedly planning a series of future explosive attacks, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Monday.


  1.  Exclusive: Jordan’s Raids in Southern Syria Coordinated with Assad Regime and US Approval (Syria TV).  According to the sources, the area granted to Jordan for operating in Syrian airspace to combat drug smuggling spans about 50 kilometers deep along the entire border strip. It includes large portions of the Daraa and As-Suwayda governorates, extending to the Al-Tanf area – which houses the American base – east of Homs… Meanwhile, on Monday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi stated that the drug issue poses a significant threat to Jordan and the region. He noted that his country has agreed with the Syrian regime to form a “political security team” to address drug smuggling threats.
  2.  Iran Plans to Set Up Military Factories in Syria (Enab Baladi). Iranian Defense Minister Ashtiani stated that Tehran is prepared to collaborate with the Syrian regime to initiate strategic defense equipment production lines. He asserted that Iranian weapons “have been able to play an effective role in the field.” Ashtiani’s remarks came weeks after a Reuters investigation that suggested Iran aims to establish a network of Iranian-made air defense systems.
  3.  Iran and China Welcome Syrian Regime’s Reinstatement in Arab League (Syria TV). Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani stated, “Resolving differences among Islamic countries and fostering rapprochement and synergy between them leads to positive outcomes in terms of stability and the establishment of comprehensive peace.”… Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters that China said, “We believe that Syria’s re-entry into the League will help Arab countries strengthen their unity and self-improvement, and expedite development and reconstruction in the Arab world.”


  1.  Türkiye Says Meeting on Syria at Level of Heads of State Likely This Year (Anadolu Agency). In a televised interview, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said in the next stage after Wednesday’s quadrilateral meeting on Syria between Ankara, Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus, “it plans to hold a meeting at the level of heads of state.” “That will very likely be done in 2023,” he added.
  2.  Turkiye Elections: A Kilicdaroglu Election Win Could Overhaul Syria Policy (Al-Monitor). Imdat Oner, a Jack D. Gordon Institute policy analyst, told Al-Monitor that Turkiye’s Syria policy would change under Kilicdaroglu. “Turkiye’s Syria policy would largely depend on dialogue and diplomacy with Assad,” he said. “The opposition aims to partially withdraw from Syria to address the security situation and stabilize the region while ensuring the safety of border areas. 
  3. Çavuşoğlu Says US Can’t Save Terrorists in Syria and Iraq (Daily Sabah). Some opposition parties pledged to end military operations in Syria and Iraq… Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu lashed out at the opposition over the pledge on Monday and said neither the United States nor any other country would be able to save terrorists in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. gives military equipment and training to the PKK terrorist group’s Syrian wing, the YPG, under the pretext of assistance to fight against Daesh, another terrorist group.
  4.  Turkish Lira Experiences World’s Highest Fluctuations a Week Before Elections (Al Sharq Business). Currency traders anticipate a high probability that the lira will decline 25% to 26% against the dollar by the end of the third quarter, as per Bloomberg calculations based on the prices of options for purchasing and selling contracts.


  1.  UAE Seizes 2.25 Million Captagon Tablets Hidden in Fruit Boxes (Arabian Business). Adhering to all legal procedures, the anti-drug team arrested the suspects and seized boxes of Captagon narcotic tablets. The plan was to market some drugs within the country and smuggle the rest to a neighboring country. The team praised the professionalism of the controlling personnel, which led to the thwarting of the suspects’ scheme and the seizure of approximately 2.25 million Captagon pills, along with the tools used for the preparation, processing, and packaging of narcotic substances for trafficking and distribution.
  2.  Bashar al-Assad May Visit Riyadh Before May 19 Arab Summit (Al Khaleej Online). The Russian “TASS” agency said that the possibility of the Syrian regime’s President Bashar al-Assad visiting Riyadh increased significantly after the Arab League Council restored Damascus to its full membership in this regional union.
  3.  Gulf Countries Reach Historic Trade Surplus of $602.4 Billion (Al Khaleej Online). The Saudi Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper reported that the trade balance surplus of the Gulf countries reached $602.4 billion, compared to a surplus of $313.2 billion in 2021. The surplus recorded the highest growth rate since 2018, at approximately 92%, with a difference of $289.25 billion.


  1.   Airstrikes Rock Sudan as Truce Talks Yield No Breakthrough (The New Arab). Air strikes again shook Sudan’s capital on Monday. At the same time, the latest truce talks in Jeddah have yielded no progress – with a Saudi diplomat saying both sides consider themselves “capable of winning the battle.”


  1.   Iraq Agrees with Turkiye and Iran to Hold Meeting on Water Issue (Iraqi News). The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources announced it agreed with the Turkish and Iranian sides to hold a technical meeting imminently to discuss the issue of water shortages. Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Sudani confirmed that Iraq is continuing regional economic cooperation in the energy sector and in developing plans to confront climate change and its environmental and economic effects, the statement added.
  2.  After a Century, Iraq Recovers 6,000 Artifacts from Britain (Iraqi news). A statement by the Iraqi Presidency mentioned that a ceremony took place in the Iraqi Embassy in London, attended by Iraqi President Rashid, to receive 6,000 artifacts Britain had borrowed from Iraq for study purposes since 1923.


  1.  UAE Plans to Announce New Yemen Peace Agreement (Sahafaa). Sources said the regional and international sponsors have agreed on the details of the first phase of the peace roadmap in Yemen…which will include a six-month cease fire.

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