ACLS

Syria:1 US Dollar = 14,000 SYP
Iran:1 US Dollar = 50,550 IRR
Iraq:1 US Dollar = 1,309 IQD
Egypt:1 US Dollar = 30 EGP
Saudi Arabia:1 US Dollar = 3 SAR
Türkiye:1 US Dollar = 28 TL

The Region October 23-2023

Table of Contents

The Region October 23-2023

Rania Kisar

Executive Summary: In today’s edition of the Region, we offer an in-depth analysis that navigates the complex geopolitical terrain of the MENA region, a subject of critical importance to U.S. foreign policy. The report focuses on pivotal actors such as Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, providing a multi-faceted view that goes beyond military and diplomatic actions to include the internal dynamics shaping each country’s foreign policy. For instance, Iran continues to escalate its confrontational stance against the U.S. and Israel, both overtly and covertly. This is paralleled by a regime crackdown on internal dissent, a factor that could influence Iran’s external strategies. Similarly, the U.S. is undergoing a strategic recalibration in the Middle East, emphasizing rapid response capabilities and a unified political stance to deter potential threats like Iran.

The report also offers actionable recommendations tailored for legislative decision-making. Among these, consider targeted sanctions against Iran’s internal repression mechanisms, which could indirectly affect its external aggressions. Bipartisan support is advised to streamline and unify America’s Middle East policy, particularly concerning rapid response capabilities. Reevaluation of U.S. advisories concerning Israel’s military actions is also recommended, given the multi-front challenges the country faces. Monitoring Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification efforts and reassessing NATO’s approach to Turkey are also advised, given their long-term implications for U.S. relations with these countries. Overall, this edition serves as an invaluable resource, equipping American leaders with the nuanced insights needed to make informed legislative decisions on matters of national and international importance. Your full briefing is below: 

The Region October 23-2023

USA In The Region

Analysis: The U.S. is recalibrating its Middle East strategy, as evidenced by the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s diversion to Israel and a bipartisan Senate delegation’s regional tour. The Marine unit, known for rapid deployment and high-impact capabilities, enhances U.S. readiness against potential threats, particularly from Iran. This aligns with the Pentagon’s activation of regional air defense systems. On the legislative front, the Senate delegation, led by Lindsey Graham, emphasized a unified U.S. approach to complex regional issues, meeting key players like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli officials. Both military and legislative actions signify a shift in U.S. foreign policy, focusing on rapid response capabilities and a unified political stance. These moves could deter potential aggressors like Iran, while opening avenues for diplomatic negotiations. However, the effectiveness of these strategies will depend on the evolving geopolitical landscape.

Intercepts: 

  1. Elite 26th Marine Corps Unit Diverts to Israel: An Overview of Their Versatile Capabilities. The compact U.S. Marine force, known for its adaptability in military missions, possesses swift deployment and high-impact capabilities, enhancing U.S. strategic presence in volatile regions. While complementing broader U.S. efforts, its primary strength lies in rapid initial responses. Analysts highlight the 26th MEU’s course change from Kuwait to Israel as a significant shift in U.S. regional strategy, capable of showcasing a swift American response to potential threats from Iran and its proxies against Israel. Watch the Fox News video translated to Arabic by ACLS. Additionally, the Pentagon has activated air defense systems across the Middle East in response to recent actions by Iran and its proxies. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated that the move aims to enhance regional deterrence and protect US and Israeli interests. The decision follows consultations with President Biden and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
  2. U.S. Senate Delegation Visits Middle East Amid Rising Tensions. The U.S. Senate delegation led by Lindsey Graham was bipartisan, featuring lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Among those who made the trip were Senators Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Katie Britt, Ben Cardin, Susan Collins, Chris Coons, Jack Reed, Dan Sullivan, and John Thune. This diverse group aimed to present a united front from the U.S., emphasizing bipartisan support for engagement in the Middle East. The delegation’s composition underscores the importance that the U.S. places on a unified approach to complex regional issues, including the ongoing conflict in Gaza. In Saudi Arabia, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and bipartisan officials met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss U.S.-Saudi ties and the Gaza conflict. The Crown Prince emphasized the need for Gaza de-escalation and restarting the peace process. In Israel, Senator Graham accused Iran of involvement in recent Hamas attacks and warned of consequences if the conflict escalates. He stressed the immediate goal of defeating Hamas for Israel’s security and Palestinian well-being, crucial for normalizing Israel-Saudi relations and regional peace (Al Arabiya, Israel Hayom).

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The Region October 23-2023

IRAN

Analysis

Iranian officials appear to be parroting a unified confrontational rhetoric of defiance, threats, and criticism while showcasing alleged military advancements to imply their preparedness for any regional escalations. Iran, however, is not just trying to make vocal noises, rather it is preparing and strategizing on its next moves in the region and towards Israel. 

After Egypt excluded Iran from the Cairo Summit, Iranian media questioned the summit’s effectiveness without the presence of the Mullah regime and its regional proxies, Assad and Lebanon’s Hizbollah representatives. 

Internally, the Iranian regime continues its repression, hitting against the wall all the international condemnation it received over the death of Mahsa Amini. The two female journalists who first reported on the incident of Mahsa Amini were sentenced to 25 years in jail over alleged U.S. collaboration. Concurrently, Iranian opposition media reported that Armita Geravand, the 16-year-old girl who was brutally beaten in one of Tehran’s metros by the Hijab police, is now said to be ‘brain dead,’ demonstrating the Iranian regime’s relentless and defiant stance in all issues. 

It is very important to know that Iran is not standing by the sidelines, rather strategizing which of its proxy fronts it will deploy next against Israel and the United States. As you will read in today’s edition of the Region’s analysis and news intercepts, not only will you identify Iran’s regional proxies but you will also gain perspective into Iran’s next possible extortion operations. 

Intercepts:

  1. Iranian Security Minister Warns of ‘Devastating Revenge,’ Says Israel’s Power Will Collapse. Minister Hojjat al-Islam Khatib issued a stern warning against Israel, stating that its actions in Gaza will lead to “devastating revenge” and a “serious strategic change” in the region. He dismissed the effectiveness of modern military technology against “those who practiced injustice,” and predicted the collapse of Israel’s power, both internally and abroad (Fars News).
  2. Iranian Spokesman Says Israel Has ‘Crossed the Point of Madness,’ Calls for Terrorist Classification. Nasser Kanaani, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, stated that Israel has “crossed the point of madness” and should be classified as a “terrorist identity.” He accused Israel of committing a range of crimes in Gaza, including attacks on hospitals and religious sites, and called for the prosecution of “Zionist war criminals.” (Fars News). 
  3. Iranian Foreign Minister Accuses Israel of Waging Proxy War for U.S. in Gaza.  Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian accused Israel of acting as a U.S. proxy in its attacks on Gaza, targeting civilians under the guise of combating Hamas. He criticized President Biden for supporting Israel and warned that the region is a “powder keg,” cautioning that any miscalculation could lead to “heavy and bitter consequences.” (Tasnim Agency). 
  4. Iranian Deputy Defense Minister said Hamas Demonstrated the Impotence of Israel.  Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Mahdi Farahi praised Hamas for challenging Israel’s military capabilities through “innovation and creativity.” Speaking at Malek Ashtar Industrial University, Farahi emphasized that Hamas’ homemade missiles have exposed the limitations of Israel’s advanced military systems (Islam Times). 
  5. Iran Equips ‘Karrar’ Drone with Adapted Surface-to-Air Missile, Says Top Commander.  Brigadier General Alireza Sabahifard announced that Iran’s Air Defense Force has equipped its Karrar drone with a modified “Majid” surface-to-air missile. The missile, now air-based, has a range of 8 kilometers and can target various aerial objects. The Karrar drone has previously set a service ceiling record of 47,000 feet and is designed for advanced interception capabilities (Tasnim Agency) .
  6. Iran Expresses Outrage Over Exclusion from Cairo Peace Summit. Iran criticizes its absence from the Cairo Summit for Peace, questioning the event’s effectiveness without key regional players. The summit, aimed at deescalating Israel-Palestinian conflicts, included various global powers but excluded Iran, Israel, and Hamas, raising doubts about its potential impact (Tehran Times).
  7. Journalists Sentenced to 25 Years for Reporting on Mahsa Amini’s Tragic Story. Iranian journalists Elaha Mohammedi and Nilofar Hamidi have received 25-year prison sentences for their role in reporting on the tragic case of Mahsa Amini. The Tehran Revolutionary Court cited charges such as collaborating with the US government and spreading propaganda. Their arrest followed nationwide protests over Amini’s death in custody, triggering calls for reforms in Iran (Bas News).
  8. Iranian Teenager Armita Geravand Declared ‘Brain Dead’ After Alleged Hijab Law Incident. A 16-year-old Iranian girl, Armita Geravand, has been declared “brain dead” after reportedly falling into a coma following an encounter with authorities over alleged violations of Iran’s hijab law. Rights groups initially publicized her hospitalization, raising concerns about her fate similar to Mahsa Amini’s case, which triggered nationwide protests. Iran denies harm during the incident enforcing the Islamic dress code (The Guardian).

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The Region October 23-2023

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Analysis: Israel is confronting escalating tensions on multiple fronts, with Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Assad in Syria—all under the proxy control of Iran. The situation is further complicated by international calls for humanitarian aid and the formation of specialized Israeli units targeting elite Hamas commandos.The recent attack on Israeli troops near the Gaza border has led to increased airstrikes in northern Gaza and preparations for a ground offensive. This escalation has been met with reciprocal rocket attacks from Hamas, straining Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Concurrently, Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat’s warning about a potential military strike on Iran if Hezbollah joins the conflict indicates Israel’s willingness to broaden its military engagements. Israel’s formation of a special operations unit, “Indigo,” aimed at neutralizing elite Hamas commandos, underscores a tactical shift towards targeted operations. Meanwhile, the Al-Qassam Brigades’ evolving naval capabilities pose another layer of security concerns. International calls for humanitarian aid and conflict resolution, led by figures like Pope Francis, add diplomatic pressure. On one hand, Israel is dealing with the urgency of deterring internal security risks; on the other, it faces constant international pressure for humanitarian aid and a ceasefire. Reports suggest that the Biden administration is advising Israel to delay a ground incursion into Gaza, potentially causing internal political rifts between Prime Minister Netanyahu and his war cabinet. This volatile, escalating situation, with Iran having multiple fronts from which to attack Israel, underscores the necessity of a strong American presence in the region. The people of Israel have never needed the United States as much as they do today.

Intercepts: 

  1. Soldier Killed, Tensions Rise in Gaza as Israel Reacts to Hamas Attack. A soldier was killed and three injured as Hamas attacked Israeli troops near the Gaza border. This incident occurred during Israel’s efforts to search for missing Israelis and prepare for an upcoming ground offensive. Israeli forces have increased airstrikes in northern Gaza in preparation for the offensive. In response, Hamas continues to launch rockets at Israeli cities. Additionally, Israel accidentally fired a tank shell at an Egyptian border post, causing minor injuries. Humanitarian aid to Gaza remains a contentious issue, with Israel demanding the release of hostages before allowing fuel into the enclave (Times of Israel).
  2. He threatened to cut off the “head of the snake”… Israeli Minister: We will destroy Iran if Hezbollah joins the war. Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat warned of a potential military attack on Iran if Hezbollah initiates a war against Israel. He emphasized that Israel would not limit its response to Hezbollah but would also target Iran directly. Barkat stated, “If our enemies attack us, we will eliminate them. The ayatollahs in Iran will not sleep peacefully at night, and we will make sure that they will pay a heavy price if they open the northern front (Al Jazeera). 
  3. Pope Francis Pleads for End to Hamas-Israel Conflict and Urges Humanitarian Aid for Gaza. Pope Francis called for an end to the Hamas-Israeli conflict, emphasizing the destructive nature of war and the need for human fraternity. He urged the opening of spaces for humanitarian aid delivery and the release of hostages. The ongoing conflict, which began with a Hamas attack into Israel, has led to significant casualties and a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza (Khaleej UAE).
  4. Israeli Raids Continue in Gaza, Al-Qassam Launches Rockets Toward Israel. Israeli airstrikes persist in Gaza, causing casualties and straining medical resources in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. The Al-Qassam Brigades respond with rocket attacks on Ashkelon, while the Israeli army intensifies artillery shelling in northern Gaza. The death toll surpasses 400 in a single day of Israeli raids, with growing calls for aid to enter the besieged Strip. Israel maintains its siege on Gaza and prepares for a possible ground invasion, aiming to eliminate Hamas control, despite international concerns about an escalating conflict (Al Hadath).
  5. Al-Qassam Brigades Retaliate with Rocket Attacks on Ashkelon.  In response to renewed Israeli air raids on Gaza, the Al-Qassam Brigades launched a series of rocket attacks targeting Ashkelon. At least 20 missiles were fired, some successfully bypassing Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. The escalation marks a continuation of hostilities in the region (Al Hadath).
  6. Israel Forms Special Unit to Target Elite Hamas Commandos. Israel’s intelligence agencies, Mossad and Shin Bet, have established a special operations center aimed at eliminating members of an elite Hamas unit responsible for a major attack on October 7. The unit, named “Indigo,” is tasked with tracking down and neutralizing key figures in the Hamas commando unit that led the attack, which resulted in significant civilian casualties and hostages taken to Gaza. Israel warns that top Hamas leaders are primary targets, while Hamas remains defiant (Times of Israel). 
  7. Arab Media Chronicles Al-Qassam Brigades’ Naval Operations: Key Milestones and Impact. Arab media sources provide a detailed account of the Al-Qassam Brigades’ evolving naval capabilities, tracing back to their first naval attack in 2000 against an Israeli gunboat. The report emphasizes key operations, most notably the 2014 storming of the Zikim military base, which marked the first operational appearance of the Brigades’ frogmen units. Israel’s countermeasures, such as the construction of a sea wall in 2018 and advanced sensing systems, are also discussed. The article culminates with a 2023 operation where the Brigades reportedly took control of multiple military sites and settlements in the Gaza envelope. This operation is portrayed as a significant breach of Israeli defense systems, challenging the effectiveness of Israel’s countermeasures (Al Jazeera).

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The Region October 23-2023

IRAQ

Analysis: The recent increase in attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, notably the drone strikes on Ain al-Asad airbase, highlights Iran’s strategy of using proxy groups to exert influence and escalate tensions. While avoiding direct military confrontation, Iran remains relentless in its aggression, as seen in the frequency of these attacks and the U.S. decision to evacuate non-essential staff. This indirect approach allows Iran to engage without the diplomatic and military costs of direct involvement. The situation is further complicated by the presence of the Islamic State and internal tensions between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army. Additionally, the rising drug crisis in Kurdistan suggests a broader strategy on Iran’s part, potentially implicating Tehran in drug trafficking operations in Iraq. This serves as another proxy method to destabilize the region and divert attention and resources, thereby weakening U.S. and coalition efforts. In summary, Iran’s multi-faceted use of proxy warfare and covert operations in Iraq presents a persistent and complex threat that requires a comprehensive response.

Intercepts:

  1. Drone Strike Targets Ain al-Asad Airbase in Iraq. Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq, hosting US and international forces, repelled a drone attack by the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq.” No casualties or damage were reported. This incident is one of five attacks on bases used by the US-led coalition in the past week. Tensions in the region have escalated, with “Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance” (JAMI) claiming responsibility for the latest drone strike (Bas News).
  2. U.S. Mandates Staff Evacuation from Iraq Facilities. The United States has mandated the evacuation of non-essential staff from its embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Erbil, citing heightened security threats. Katyusha missiles targeted the Ain al-Asad air base, housing American and international forces, while two drones were intercepted near the base in Anbar Governorate, western Iraq (Khaleej Online).
  3. Iraqi Forces Capture “Notorious” IS Fighter in Kirkuk Operation. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense’s Intelligence and Security Directorate apprehended a “notorious” member of the Islamic State in Kirkuk’s Dibis district. This arrest follows the recent capture of IS members in Nineveh and other provinces as part of expanding anti-terror operations. IS maintains a dispersed presence in Iraq, often hiding in marshlands, caves, and remote areas, particularly in the disputed Kurdish territories, where security challenges persist since 2017 (Bas News).
  4. Kurdistan Region Confronts Drug Crisis in the Midst of Security Concerns. The Kurdistan Region grapples with a surging drug crisis, intensifying security and political tensions with Popular Mobilization Forces. Prime Minister Masrour Barzani warns of a grave threat from drug trafficking, while officials outline how drug mafias exploit the region’s geography. Recent months have seen heightened tensions, hindering relations. Accusations include obstructing the Sinjar Agreement and supporting armed groups, impacting international routes and border security. Security sources hint at a broader strategy behind the drug influx, potentially stoking long-term regional conflicts (Al Nahar). 
  5. Clashes Erupt Between Peshmerga and Iraqi Army Over Abandoned PKK Outposts. Sunday saw clashes between Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army in Makhmur as tensions rose over military outposts previously held by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Qarachugh mountain. Peshmerga requested control of these outposts within their territory, leading to violence when the Iraqi army refused to vacate. Negotiations are ongoing to resolve the situation. The PKK recently left Qarachugh mountain after UN pressure to evacuate the vicinity of a Makhmur camp (Bas News).

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The Region October 23-2023

SYRIA

Analysis: Iran’s strategic foothold in Syria, grew stronger after the 2018 Kerry-Lavrov agreements and was further solidified by the U.S.’s withdrawal of support for Syrian opposition fighters in Syria’s southern borders. This policy misstep by the Obama administration allowed Iran to capitalize on the U.S.’s absence, paving the way for Hamas to reconcile with Assad. Despite Israeli airstrikes on Syrian airports aimed at severing Iran’s supply lines to Hamas and Hezbollah, their efficacy remains questionable. Iranian militias continue to transfer weapons into Syria, and the Assad regime has been non-confrontational, possibly under Iranian influence. Delaying assessments of the Iran-Syria battlefront could be a grave mistake for both Israel and the U.S. Iran is aware that Israel would decisively counter any threats, and values Lebanon’s Hezbollah more than Assad. As attention diverts, the Iran-Syria battlefront risks unpredictable escalation.

Intercepts:

  1. Iran’s Syrian Battlefront: The Golan Heights. Iran has a significant military and political presence in Syria, especially along the Syria-Golan Heights border. Through its militias, Iran has established numerous military sites in southern Syria. The Syrian regime, in consultation with Iran, has been non-confrontational towards Israel despite bombings in Damascus and Aleppo airports. Assad’s responses have been limited to official messages of solidarity, suggesting a level of restraint possibly influenced by Iran. Iran could activate the Golan front against Israel, particularly if the situation in Gaza deteriorates, but is cautious not to risk its long-term strategic gains in Syria (Enab Baladi).
  2. Israeli Strikes on Syrian Airports Continue, Damaging Damascus and Aleppo Facilities. The Israeli airstrikes on Aleppo and Damascus airports are reportedly the most comprehensive since the beginning of the war in Syria. Israeli media suggests that these attacks are driven by concerns about the arrival of forces and weapons from Iran and Iraq into Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli government has stated that it aims to prevent the transfer of strategic weapons from Iran to Syria, particularly in an effort to open a northern front. However, the effectiveness of these strikes in achieving their declared goal has been questioned by analysts, as Iranian militias continue to transfer weapons and elements despite the repeated attacks. (SHAAM News).
  3. Syrian Foreign Affairs Ministry Denounces Ongoing Attacks on Airports, Calls Israel ‘Defeatist. Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns Israel’s repeated attacks on Damascus and Aleppo airports, viewing them as signs of Israel’s desperation and defeatism. The recent airstrikes led to the death of a civilian worker, injuries, and damage to airport runways. Syria maintains its commitment to supporting the Palestinian cause and recovering the occupied Syrian Golan, despite Israel’s aggression and Western sanctions. The ministry warns of the escalating violence’s regional consequences, emphasizing the violations of international law and humanitarian norms in these attacks (Zaman Al Wasl).
  4. Iranian Companies, with Regime Support, Seize Farmers’ Lands in Tartous, Syria. Iranian companies, reportedly supported by the Syrian regime, have initiated the seizure of lands belonging to farmers in Tartous, Syria. According to Syrian journalist Kenan Waqaf, a significant security force attempted to pressure landowners near Maqbara Zahid in Tartous’ countryside to hand over their lands to an Iranian investment company. However, the farmers’ collective resistance and threat of escalation prevented this seizure. The situation highlights ongoing concerns about land rights and investments in the region, with Iranian companies making claims related to agricultural usage of the lands (Syria TV).
  5. Iranian Investment in Syrian Insurance Sector Grows to 60% Share. Syria and Iran are accelerating efforts to establish two insurance and reinsurance companies in Syria, with Iran holding a 60% share in both. The move comes as part of Iran’s increasing influence in various Syrian sectors. Many foreign reinsurers have pulled out of Syria due to economic sanctions, leading to strategic collaborations with Iran in an attempt to bolster the Syrian insurance industry. This development reflects Iran’s broader economic engagement in Syria over the past decade (Syria TV). 
  6. Syrian Regime Restricts Demonstrations Near Golan in Solidarity with Gaza. The Syrian regime has prevented Palestinian factions on Syrian territory from organizing demonstrations near the Golan Heights in solidarity with Gaza. The regime issued strict instructions to avoid such actions, citing security and political assessments that indicated potential anger from Israel and the United States. The regime aims to avoid direct confrontation with Israel, especially after Israel threatened military intervention if movements occurred near the Golan border. While Palestinians demonstrated in solidarity with Gaza in various parts of Syria, they refrained from approaching the Golan for fear of regime security forces’ response (Syria TV).
  7. Suwayda Demonstrators Mock Bashar’s Response to Israeli Airport Bombings. Demonstrators in Suwayda, Syria, mocked Bashar al-Assad’s response to Israeli airstrikes on Damascus and Aleppo airports. Protests in Karama Square demanded political change, regime overthrow, and Assad’s departure. Banners ridiculed Assad for reserving the right to respond while highlighting his military actions against Syrians. Solidarity with Gaza was expressed, condemning Israeli bombings. In Salkhad, protesters reinstated a picture of Sultan al-Atrash, denouncing Assad’s regime and declaring, “Long live Syria, down with Bashar al-Assad.” The engagement of a young couple was also celebrated during the demonstration (Orient).
  8. European Court of Justice Issues Absentee Rulings Against Assad’s Authority to Collect 30 Million Euros.  The European Court of Justice has approved two absentee rulings against Assad’s authority in response to lawsuits filed by the European Investment Bank. The rulings require Assad’s regime to pay 28.7 million euros for unpaid loans related to a project to strengthen the electricity distribution network in Syria. Another case involves a demand for 652 thousand euros for unpaid installments related to a water supply project in Suwayda Governorate. These rulings were issued after Assad’s authority failed to defend the cases in court (Aleppo Today).
  9. Turkish Airstrikes Cause Over $1 Billion in Damages to Syrian Infrastructure. Turkish air attacks on northeastern Syria have resulted in more than $1 billion in direct damages to the region’s infrastructure. The attacks, which targeted vital energy, fuel, and gas stations, have left a significant impact on the region’s stability. The Autonomous Administration in northern Syria has called for international intervention to rehabilitate the destroyed facilities and ensure the continuation of essential services (Sharq Awsat).
  10. Iran’s Syria Proxy Intensifies Attacks on US Bases in Deir ez-Zor. Arab tribal fighters, backed by Iran’s proxy militias, have increased their attacks on American bases in Deir ez-Zor, Syria. The Al-Omar oil field and Conoco gas field have been targeted repeatedly, causing fear among US occupation soldiers. The attacks coincide with tribal forces targeting SDF militants, leading to casualties. Despite US reinforcements, missile attacks persist, creating panic among American forces. This escalation underscores Iran’s influence in the region and the ongoing instability in Deir ez-Zor (Al Watan).
  11. Syrian Army Bombardment Claims Lives of Six Children in Northwest Syria. In a heartbreaking incident, six innocent children lost their lives in northwest Syria as their home was struck by a bombardment conducted by regime ground forces. The attack occurred in the village of Al-Qarqour in the Al-Ghab Plain, northwest of Hama (Sharq Awsat).
  12. Boat Carrying Refugees Capsizes Off Syria’s Coast, Dozens Dead. A tragic incident unfolded off Syria’s coast as a boat carrying refugees and migrants from Lebanon capsized, resulting in dozens of casualties. Lebanon’s transport minister reported 71 deaths in the disaster. The Syrian government initially stated that 20 survivors were receiving treatment in a hospital in Tartous. The boat, reportedly carrying between 120 and 150 people, left Lebanon’s Minyeh region and encountered difficulties due to rough seas and strong winds. This incident is among the deadliest as many Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians attempt perilous journeys by sea to escape the crises in Lebanon, marked by economic turmoil and lack of opportunities (Al Jazeera).
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The Region October 23-2023

LEBANON

Analysis: The recent disclosures by the Israeli National Security Research Center on Hezbollah’s military strength indicate a growing concern over the group’s capabilities. With an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 fighters and a substantial missile arsenal, Hezbollah poses a significant security challenge not only to Israel but also to the broader stability of the region. The presence of specialized forces like the “Al-Radwan Force” and advanced missile systems adds layers of complexity to the threat. On the ground, the situation remains tense but relatively calm along the southern Lebanese border following Israeli airstrikes. The Lebanese Red Cross and UNIFIL’s involvement in recovering bodies suggests a humanitarian aspect that cannot be ignored. The death toll among Hezbollah and Lebanese Resistance Brigades indicates that military operations are far from over. Israel’s continued reconnaissance and targeting of Hezbollah assets show a proactive approach to neutralize the threat. However, this also risks escalating the conflict further, potentially drawing in other regional actors. The situation necessitates careful monitoring and diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions and address the root causes of the conflict.

Intercepts:

  1.  Israeli Center Reveals Hezbollah’s Military Strength. The Israeli National Security Research Center disclosed details about Hezbollah’s military capabilities. Hezbollah is estimated to have 50,000 to 100,000 fighters, including the “Al-Radwan Force,” numbering 2,500. Their missile arsenal comprises 150,000 to 200,000 missiles, including accurate ones with high destructive potential. Notable missiles include Grad, Fajr 3 and 5, Zelzal, Al-Fateh 110, and Chinese-made C802. Hezbollah also possesses self-produced drones for offensive missions up to 400 kilometers. Israel considers increased vigilance and monitoring necessary given Hezbollah’s capabilities (Al Nahar).
  2. Cautious Calm Prevails on Southern Border, Lebanese Red Cross Retrieves Bodies. Cautious calm prevails on the southern border after Israeli airstrikes near Aitaroun. Israeli reconnaissance planes continue flying, targeting missile launchers and Hezbollah cells. Lebanese Red Cross, army, and UNIFIL recover bodies of civilians. Lebanese Resistance Brigades mourn two members, while Hezbollah mourns another casualty, totaling 27 since the south’s military operations began. Western sector villages remain calm with occasional flares as UNIFIL monitors tense areas (Al Nahar). 

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The Region October 23-2023

THE GULF REGION & YEMEN

Analysis: The recent developments stemming from the Houthis in Yemen indicate Iran’s deployment of its regional proxies in the Gulf. In addition to Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq as Iranian battlefronts against Israel, the recent Houthi missile aimed at Israel and intercepted by the U.S. Navy was merely an Iranian show of force to exert influence without direct military engagement with the U.S. or Israel. What is clear now is that the Houthi militia is indifferent to whether it is listed or delisted from American designations, and that diplomacy and even sanctions are not effective deterrents against terrorism and aggression. What is also crystal clear is that all the overtures of appeasing Iran have not only proven to be failures but may also have prolonged the empowerment of what transpired on October 7, 2023. Isolationism has proven to be another failure, even for those who may not care about Israel. This is not just Israel at war; it is also a daring test of American will and resolve. How the United States chooses to correct policy mistakes will have a significant impact on Israel’s destiny. 

Intercepts: 

  1. Yemen’s Iran-Backed Proxy Threatens Israeli Ships in Red Sea. Abdul Aziz Saleh bin Habtour, a prominent figure in the Houthi militia stated, “The Americans intercepted missiles and drones en route to the occupied territories, shooting down some of them.” He emphasized, “Sanaa will use all its capabilities to respond to the Gaza massacres,” warning that “continued attacks on Gaza could expose Israeli ships in the Red Sea to potential threats.” Hebrew media commented on Habtoor’s threat, stressing the need for a serious response to the Houthi threat against Israeli ships crossing Bab al-Mandab (Al Nahar).
  2. Qatar and U.S. Cooperate on Gaza Prisoner Release Efforts. Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani confirmed ongoing coordination with the United States and international partners to release prisoners and de-escalate tensions in Gaza. They discussed bilateral relations, the situation in Palestinian territories, and efforts to reduce the conflict’s intensity. The U.S. Secretary of State thanked Qatar for helping secure the release of two American citizens held in Gaza. Qatar’s mediation efforts have been instrumental in facilitating these releases, with potential for more in the near future (Al Jazeera).
  3. Saudi Arabia and South Korea to Sign $15.6 Billion Agreements. Saudi Arabia and South Korea are set to sign 52 agreements and memorandums of understanding, totaling $15.6 billion. These deals will encompass various sectors, including crude oil, energy, hydrogen, statistics, food, and medical products, strengthening their cooperation on the 50th anniversary of construction collaboration (Sky News Business). 
  4. UAE President and Singapore Prime Minister Strengthen Partnership. UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the latter’s official visit. They discussed enhancing their comprehensive partnership, which includes economic, trade, and cooperation in various sectors such as trade, industry, transportation, logistics services, and more. Both leaders expressed a commitment to deepen cooperation and build on their strong economic and trade relations (Khaleej Online). 
  5. Gulf Stock Markets Decline as Fed Interest Rate Fears and Middle East Tensions Persist. Gulf stock markets experienced declines as concerns mounted over the possibility of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments about stricter borrowing conditions to control inflation weighed on sentiment. Monetary policy in Gulf Cooperation Council countries often follows US Central Bank decisions due to their currency pegs to the dollar. Additionally, escalating Middle East tensions, with the US sending military assets to the region and recent events involving Israel, added to market unease (Sky News Arabia).

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The Region October 23-2023

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

Analysis: The Cairo Peace Summit convened a high-profile array of international leaders from countries including Egypt, Palestine, and the European Union. Notably absent were representatives from Israel and Iran, countries that wield significant influence in the Middle East. UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly, speaking after more than 100,000 pro-Palestinian protesters marched through London, emphasized his direct talks with the Israeli government about adhering to international law and exercising restraint. This suggests that not just Arab leaders, but Western representatives like Cleverly, were also attuned to their domestic audiences. The summit concluded without issuing a joint statement, highlighting not just a divergence of opinions but also an apparent absence of concrete, unified objectives to resolve the crisis and halt ongoing violence. On a lighter note, the summit also had its share of photo-op drama. Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa al-Sudani opted out of the group photo, refusing to stand in the second row behind the Emir of Qatar. This wasn’t al-Sudani’s first time dodging the camera; he pulled a similar move at the 32nd Arab Summit in Jeddah. If leaders can’t even agree on a photo formation, it adds a layer of complexity to the already intricate diplomatic dance. 

Intercept:

  1. “Showboating” at Cairo Summit, Says Expert. Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East studies at Doha’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University, noted significant “political grandstanding” in the opening remarks of Arab leaders at the Cairo Summit. These leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Much of this is aimed at bolstering domestic legitimacy, especially for el-Sisi, who faces a restless population demanding action on the Palestinian issue,” Jones told Al Jazeera. Despite the posturing, Owen Jones believes the summit’s real-world impact will be minimal, ranging from “a ceasefire at most, to slightly increased humanitarian aid at least.” Jones added that without Israel’s participation, the summit lacks the political influence needed to halt Israel’s bombing of Gaza (Al Jazeera).

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The Region October 23-2023

TURKIYE

Analysis: Türkiye’s recent diplomatic activities reveal a nation adept at balancing its relationships with both regional and global powers. The recalibration of its stance on Hamas, under pressure from the United States, indicates a strategic shift aimed at maintaining balanced ties with key players like Israel. Türkiye’s call for a “guarantee mechanism” in the Israel-Hamas conflict further underscores its desire to act as a mediator while advocating for responsible international behavior. The country’s humanitarian aid mission to Gaza highlights its commitment to humanitarian causes, even as it navigates complex diplomatic relations with Egypt and Israel. Türkiye’s involvement in the upcoming Ukraine peace talks showcases its unique position as a mediator with open channels to both Russia and Ukraine. Its joint military exercises with Azerbaijan signify a commitment to regional security and a willingness to display military cooperation openly. The country’s role in addressing irregular migration to Europe is increasingly recognized, as evidenced by Greece’s call for cooperation. Finally, the significant decline in the number of Syrian refugees in Türkiye indicates the country’s efforts to manage its internal challenges. Overall, Türkiye’s diplomatic moves in the past week demonstrate a nation keen on playing a constructive role on the international stage.

Intercepts: 

  1. Turkiye Cools Ties with Hamas While Navigating Diplomatic Tightrope. Turkiye is recalibrating its stance regarding Hamas after the recent conflict with Israel. President Erdogan, seeking normalization with regional powers, has restrained his rhetoric to avoid damaging relations with Israel. While Turkiye has cooled its ties with Hamas, it remains a potential mediator for Western nations. Pressure to sever ties with Hamas primarily comes from the United States. Turkiye’s efforts focus on securing a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and a two-state solution. Domestic factors and energy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean contribute to Turkiye’s cautious approach (Al Monitor).
  2. Turkish FM Calls for Guarantee Mechanism in Israel-Hamas Conflict. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has urged the implementation of a “guarantee mechanism” to oversee the obligations of parties in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Fidan emphasized the need for responsible international behavior and warned against unconditional military aid to Israel or unrealistic plans. He advocated for a two-state solution and called for a humanitarian ceasefire in a Cairo summit attended by various leaders, where a clear agreement was not reached (Hurriyet).
  3. Turkish Presidential Aircraft Carries Medical Aid and Experts for Gaza via Egypt. A Turkish presidential aircraft loaded with medicines and medical supplies, accompanied by a team of 20 expert healthcare professionals, has departed from Ankara to Cairo, Egypt. The team, including doctors, will conduct feasibility studies for field hospitals to be established in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Rafah border crossing, as part of cooperation with the Egyptian Health Ministry. This humanitarian effort aims to provide much-needed medical assistance to Gaza during the ongoing crisis (Daily Sabah).
  4. Türkiye to Join Ukraine Peace Talks, Says President Zelenskyy. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Türkiye will participate in the upcoming peace discussions aimed at resolving the Russia-Ukraine war. The talks will take place in Malta on October 28-29, with the involvement of national security advisers from Ukraine’s allies. Türkiye’s role as a mediator and its open communication channels with both Russia and Ukraine have garnered praise for its efforts to achieve a permanent ceasefire in the ongoing conflict (Daily Sabah). 
  5. Türkiye and Azerbaijan Commence 3-Day Joint Military Exercises. Türkiye and Azerbaijan have initiated the three-day Mustafa Kemal Ataturk-2023 joint military exercises, involving 3,000 military personnel from both nations. The drills are taking place in multiple locations in Azerbaijan, including Baku, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, and areas liberated following the 44-day conflict with Armenia in 2020. The exercises feature the use of armored vehicles, artillery, aviation, small boats, and aim to enhance combat readiness, command and control, and personnel professionalism (Anadolu Agency).
  6. Greece Seeks Türkiye’s Cooperation to Address Irregular Migration to Europe. Greece’s Migration and Asylum Minister, Dimitris Keridis, highlighted the importance of Türkiye’s role in dealing with the issue of irregular migration to Europe. Keridis emphasized the ongoing rapprochement between Greece and Türkiye and the increasing flows of irregular migration. He underlined the need for cooperation between the two countries and within the EU to tackle this critical problem, which threatens stability, security, and democracy across Europe. Keridis mentioned that concrete ideas would be discussed in upcoming discussions between Türkiye and Greece (Anadolu Agency). 
  7. Turkiye Sees Significant Drop in Syrian Refugee Numbers, Hits 7-Year Low. New statistics from the Turkish Immigration Department indicate a significant decline in the number of Syrian refugees under temporary protection in Turkiye. The figures show a decrease of 247,143 people since the beginning of the year, with a further decline of 19,127 registered refugees in October compared to September. The total number now stands at 3,288,755 Syrian refugees, the lowest in seven years. Turkiye has recently intensified efforts to address illegal immigration and residency violations (Sharq Awsat).

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