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THE EARLY PHOENIX

THE EARLY PHOENIX

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

6 April 2023

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ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

1. IDF Chief: ‘We can carry out an attack on Iran even without the USA’ (i24 News). IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said Wednesday that Israel can – and is ready to – carry out a preemptive attack on Iran, even without the help of the United States, in an interview with the IDF’s army radio. “We are ready to act against Iran. The Israeli army has the ability to strike both in distant countries and near home. In the coming years, the IDF will significantly strengthen its capabilities for a [pre-emptive strike on Iran] and, despite the distance, such a strike will be overwhelming,” he said.

2. Clashes Reported Between Palestinians and Police in al-Aqsa (Jerusalem Post). For the second night in a row, Palestinians clashed with police on the Temple Mount, while riots erupted at multiple protests across Israel. In addition, Al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of the Islamic Jihad terror group, took responsibility for launching two rockets against Israel from Gaza during Passover Seder.

3. For the Second Night, Israeli Forces Assaulted Worshipers (Al Jazeera). On Wednesday evening, for the second night, Israeli forces stormed the courtyards of the Al-Aqsa mosque before the end of Tarawih prayers, assaulted the worshipers, and began to evacuate those in retreat forcefully.

TURKIYE

4. Political Tensions Escalate as Turkiye’s May 14 Elections Approach (Sharq al Awsat). The head of the opposition “Good Party,” Meral Aksener, accused President Erdogan of being responsible for a shooting at the headquarters of her regional party in Istanbul last week after he threatened her not to mess around with him during a television interview.

GULF REGION

5. CIA Director Visited Saudi Arabia to Reinforce US Commitment to Intelligence Cooperation (Al Arabiya English). The head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Bill Burns was in Saudi Arabia this week to meet with officials and reinforce Washington’s commitment to intelligence cooperation…The CIA director’s quiet trip comes on the heels of a surprising agreement signed between Riyadh and Tehran, brokered by China, to restore diplomatic ties, reopen embassies and exchange ambassadors in the next month.

6. Saudi, Iranian Top Diplomats to Hold Rapprochement Talks in China (Daily Sabah). The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran will meet in Beijing Thursday as the two countries work to hash out their China-brokered diplomatic rapprochement. The meeting between Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, will be the first formal meeting between Saudi Arabia and Iran’s most senior diplomats in more than seven years.

7. Lionel Messi, Argentine’s Top Soccer Player, Will Likely Join Saudi Club Al-Hilal, Potentially Facing Cristino Ronaldo, who plays for Rivals Al-Nassr (ESPN). The move aims to rekindle the fabled rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo, who spent most of their careers at fierce rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively, in Spain’s La Liga.

8. Saudi Arabia Resumes Flights between Jeddah and Erbil (Sharq al Awsat). Flights resumed between the airports of Jeddah and Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on Wednesday, as a Saudi plane arrived at Erbil airport coming from Jeddah, [while another plane] today arrived in Jeddah, western Saudi Arabia, the first plane coming from Erbil in several years.

IRAQ

9. French Energy Giant TotalEnergies Signed a $10 Billion Agreement with Iraq After Long Delay (Daily Sabah). The contract – which includes investments in oil, gas, and solar production – was signed in September 2021, but a new government took office in Iraq last year, and its demands did not please TotalEnergies. Baghdad sought a 40% stake in the Gas Growth Integrated Project (GGIP), but Iraqi officials said in February that TotalEnergies wanted Iraq to have a smaller stake. Iraq’s cabinet said in a statement late Tuesday that it had accepted to reduce its demands to 30% “because of the importance of resolving the issue.”

10. Turkey Suspends Sulaymaniyah Airport Flights Amid PKK Activities (Bas News). Turkey has announced the closure of its airspace to flights to and from the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaymaniyah airport from April 3 to July 3, citing increased activities by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the region.

IRAN

11. Iran Probing Reports of Foiled Drone Attack on Military Facility (Anadolu Agency). Iran is probing reports about an overnight attack on a defense facility in the central city of Isfahan that was reportedly thwarted. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a weekly cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said he could not confirm the attack and that it needed further investigation…Earlier on Wednesday, the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported that micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) tried to approach a defense complex in Isfahan but were shot down by the air defense system.

LEBANON

12. European Investigators to Return to Lebanon in Central Bank Governor Fraud Case (English Al Arabiya). European investigators will return to Beirut in April to question two key people who have been charged in Lebanon in a case involving alleged fraud by Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh, two sources with direct knowledge of the probe told Reuters.

13. Iran Wants Lebanon on Agenda of Talks with KSA (Naharnet). “Iranian diplomacy has asked that the Lebanese file be placed on the agenda of the upcoming meeting between the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers,” the Nidaa al-Watan newspaper quoted informed sources as saying.

SYRIA

14. Associated Press Reveals the Reasons for the Intensification of Israeli Strikes in Syria (Nedaa Post). The Associated Press revealed, in a report, that the recent intensification of Israeli strikes in Syria reflects Israel’s fears of the spread of Iranian militia fighters near its borders. According to the newspaper, there are fears of transferring advanced weapons and guided missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

15. Syrian Adviser to the Russian Foreign Ministry Says Syrian Regime’s Demands During Moscow Quartet Meeting Were Media Material Aimed at Local Consumption (Nedaa Post). Adviser to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Rami Al-Shaer, said that…[Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister] Dr. Ayman Soussan’s speech, in which he [demanded] an “official and unambiguous Turkish announcement” to withdraw forces from all Syrian lands, as an “entrance to re-establish communication between the two sides,” is nothing but media material aimed at local consumption only, and did not affect the progress of the quartet meeting in preparation for the meeting of the ministers.

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