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THE REGION: Weekend Briefing, 1-3 July 2023

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TOP HEADLINES:

TÜRKIYE 

  1. Turkish Foreign Minister and Saudi Counterpart Discuss Burning of Quran in Sweden (Anadolu Agency). Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, had a phone conversation discussing various issues, including the recent burning of the Quran in Sweden. They also talked about the preparations for an extraordinary session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s executive committee, which aims to address the consequences of the desecration…The burning of the Quran in front of a Stockholm mosque during the celebration of Eid al-Adha has sparked widespread outrage and condemnation in the Islamic world.

ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1.  Mossad Says its Agents in Iran Busted a Plot Against Israelis in Cyprus (Associated Press). Israel’s Mossad spy service announced that its agents inside Iran apprehended the leader of an alleged Iranian hit squad planning to assassinate Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus. The Mossad claims the man provided a detailed confession, and the information led to the dismantling of the cell by Cypriot security services. The validity of the Israeli claim has yet to be independently verified, and there has been no immediate response from Cyprus or Iran. Israel has long accused Iran of planning attacks against Israeli targets worldwide.
  2.  Israel to Procure Third F-35 Squadron from the United States (Times of Israel). Israel announced the procurement of a third squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets from the United States. This additional purchase of 25 aircraft will bring the Israeli Air Force’s F-35i fleet to 75 in the coming years. The deal, estimated at $3 billion, will be financed by US military aid to Israel. Israel is the second country to receive the F-35 from Lockheed Martin, and the agreement also involves the participation of Israeli defense industries in the production of aircraft components. 
  3. Israel Strikes Syrian Anti-Aircraft Battery After Syrian Missile Explodes Over Israel (Times of Israel). The Israeli military has announced conducting airstrikes on a Syrian air defense battery in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria that exploded in Israeli airspace…Shrapnel from the Syrian missile landed in the southern Israeli city of Rahat, causing minor damage.
  4. Partners in Israel’s Leviathan Gas Project Will Invest $568 Million in Third Gas Pipeline (Reuters). Partners in Israel’s Leviathan offshore gas project have announced a $568 million investment to build a third pipeline to increase natural gas production and exports. The new pipeline will connect the Leviathan field to a production facility off Israel’s Mediterranean shore and is expected to be operational by the second half of 2025. The project aims to expand production capacity and supply more natural gas to local, regional, and global markets, including Europe. The Leviathan consortium includes Chevron, NewMed Energy, and Ratio Energies.
  5. Israeli National Security Advisor Says Israel No Closer to Attacking Iran Nuclear Sites (Reuters). According to Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel is not currently on the verge of attacking Iran’s nuclear sites. Talks between Iran and the United States have been taking place to ease tensions and find a solution to limit Iran’s nuclear program. Hanegbi emphasized that any agreement between the US and Iran would not bind Israel, which sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Egyptian-Iranian Normalization Talks Won’t Need to Rely on Iraq in Future (Elaph). In Tehran, on Sunday, Egyptian-Iranian understandings were announced to restore severed diplomatic relations between them and the dispensation of Iraqi mediation in this field. The Iranian Air Travel and Tourism Services Syndicate said that the first batch of Iranian tourists would head to Egypt within the next 45 days, and the first direct flight between Tehran and Cairo will be launched soon…after the opening of the Iranian consulate in Cairo, Iraq will not be used as a mediating country because it increases time and cost.
  2. Tunisia Will Put Thousands of Former Jihadis on Trial (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Security reports revealed the arrests of “former Salafists again” after being tried and released by the courts specialized in hearing cases of terrorism and thousands of young people returning from hotbeds of tension in Libya, Syria, and Iraq…Those who had previously traveled to hotbeds of tension in Syria, Iraq, and Libya when Western capitals and several regional capitals encouraged them to (jihad) and (support the revolutions to overthrow the rule of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Bashar al-Assad in Syria and to fight foreign forces) in the Levant and Iraq.
  3. Syrian Regime Seeks to Win Over Morocco by Withdrawing Its Recognition of The Polisario Front (Syria).Moroccan media sources said that the Syrian regime is in the process of withdrawing its recognition of the Polisario Front, with the aim of winning over the Kingdom of Morocco and restoring diplomatic relations with it. On Sunday, the local “Fez News” website said that this decision will affect the course of relations between the two sides.

THE GULF & YEMEN

  1. Kuwait Summons Swedish Ambassador in Protest Against Qur’an Burning (Elaph). The foreign ministry ministry expressed Kuwait’s protest against the continued permission of the Swedish authorities to grant permits to burn copies of the Holy Qur’an and called on the Swedish government to take responsibility for stopping the granting of these permits and to take immediate action to prevent the recurrence of these abuses targeting the symbols and sanctities of Muslims and to hold the perpetrators accountable.
  2. Iran Says it Reached Agreement with Saudi Arabia to Develop Joint Oil Fields (Al Khaleej Online). An Iranian official revealed an agreement between Tehran and Riyadh on plans to develop joint oil fields between the two countries, leading to increased production after the recent reconciliation between them. A plan was defined for all fields shared by Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the necessary approvals were obtained to carry out various operations, including increasing production, maintenance, and new development.
  3. Iranian Diplomat Reveals Negotiations Between Tehran and Washington, Mediated By Oman with Help of Qatar and UAE (Al Mustaqila). The Chargé d’Affaires of Iran’s Embassy in Britain, Mehdi Hosseini Mateen, announced that the Omani authority is mediating the indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington, with the assistance of Qatar and the UAE…Hosseini Mateen confirmed to USA Today the possibility of reaching an agreement to lift the unjust and illegal sanctions imposed on Iran partially. The diplomat expressed optimism about a possible agreement between Iran and the United States soon.
  4. Yemeni Interior Ministry Arrest an ISIS Leader Who is a Syrian National (Yemeni News). The Ministry of the Interior of the legitimate government announced that the security services were able to seize a leader in the terrorist organization ISIS, who is a Syrian citizen…security services in Al-Mahra governorate, in the east of the country, arrested the intelligence official of the terrorist organization ISIS, called Obeida Al-Razj, a Syrian national, nicknamed Abu Dania Al-Suri…Recently, Yemen has witnessed an increase in the activity of terrorist elements, as many terrorist operations have been carried out in several southern governorates, though they have all been attributed to Al-Qaeda.

IRAN

  1. Shanghai Cooperation Organization Will Accept Iran’s Full Membership July 4 (Tehran Times). According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Iran will officially become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on July 4. Iran’s membership request was initially made 15 years ago but was granted in 2021. The SCO is a diplomatic organization of eight members and aims to address shared security challenges, cooperate militarily, and enhance internal trade. Iran’s accession to the SCO will strengthen regional and international cooperation and counter unilateralism. Additionally, Iran has expressed interest in joining the BRICS group.
  2. Iran’s Losses From Nuclear Sanctions Run Into Trillions Of Dollars (Iran International). Iran is looking to engage in a barter system with Pakistan to obtain goods in exchange for oil as its finances suffer due to rising prices, shortages, and ongoing sanctions. The US sanctions have severely restricted Iran’s oil exports and revenues, affecting its ability to provide essential commodities to its population. Iran must use complex methods involving intermediaries and clandestine sales to overcome banking restrictions and export its oil. Iran’s economic crisis is also attributed to its aggressive foreign policy, controversial nuclear program, and the cumulative impact of international sanctions over the past 15 years.
  3. Execution of IRGC Spies Points to Heightened Extraterritorial Intelligence War (Amwaj). The Baluchi Sunni militant group Jaish Ul-Adl has announced the execution of three individuals it claims were spies linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). This comes amidst an intensifying intelligence war between Iran and its adversaries, including Israel. Iran has accused foreign spy services of backing recent nationwide protests, leading to calls for greater cooperation among domestic security services. The execution by Jaish Ul-Adl and recent arrests by the IRGC Intelligence Organization indicate increased Iranian extra-territorial intelligence operations and a readiness to escalate actions against perceived threats.
  4. Iran and Pakistan Close to Formalizing Barter Agreement for Iranian Oil and Pakistani Products (Bayan Media). A delegation from Iran will be sent to Pakistan to finalize the clearing of oil products and other goods with Pakistani goods. The barter trade between the two countries has been ongoing, primarily focused on Pakistani rice in exchange for Iranian petrochemical and oil products. Still, it has yet to yield significant results. The clearing process is described as cumbersome and energy-consuming. Iran’s exports to Pakistan mainly consist of bitumen, various gases, and dry milk, while the major imports from Pakistan are rice, sesame seeds, and cloth.

SYRIA

  1. Prigozhin’s Rebellion Reportedly Thwarted an Imminent Deal to Turn Syria Into the Largest Wagner Base in the World (Syria TV ). British media revealed advanced negotiations between the Bashar al-Assad regime and the leaders of the Russian “Wagner” group two weeks ago about a deal to turn Syria into the group’s most extensive base in the world. Still, the latter’s rebellion thwarted the scheme…Last Thursday, the British “ITV” network said that Bashar al-Assad and “Wagner” leader Yevgeny Prigozhin are close to agreeing to increase the number of “Wagner mercenaries” in Syria from 4,000 to 70,000 in the coming months.
  2. UN General Assembly Establishes Independent Institution to Investigate the Fate of Syria’s Missing Detainees (Enab Baladi). The United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a draft resolution establishing an international institution to clarify the fate of missing persons in Syria. The report issued by the association on the evening of Thursday, June 29, stated that the association agreed to establish a new international institution to clarify the fate of the missing and their whereabouts in Syria and to provide adequate support to the victims, survivors, and families of the missing. 83 countries supported the draft resolution, while 11 countries voted against it, and 62 abstained.
  3. Syrian Observatory Says 5 Iranian Militiamen Were Killed and Wounded in Israeli Airstrikes in Homs (Al Quds). On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that five Iranian militiamen were killed and wounded, and ammunition depots were destroyed in the new Israeli raids on Homs countryside, central Syria…The Observatory said in a press statement today that explosions targeted, on Saturday night, ammunition depots and sites belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, in the village of Al-Najma in Homs countryside, on the northeastern outskirts of Homs, caused by Israeli raids.
  4. Lebanese Minister Says Syrian Government Promised to Receive 180,000 Displaced People (Enab Baladi ). The Minister of the Displaced in the Lebanese caretaker government, Issam Sharaf al-Din, said that the “Syrian state” is ready to receive 180,000 refugees in the first stage, followed by 15,000 additional refugees per month. Sharaf al-Din confirmed, in statements to the Russian agency “Sputnik” on Saturday, July 1, that the government of the Syrian regime agreed to even more than the Lebanese Ministry of Displaced had requested regarding the return of the “displaced” Syrians.
  5. Syrian Observatory Says 390 Syrian Refugees Were Forcibly Deported from Türkiye Within a Week (Ronahi TV). Turkish authorities forcibly deported ninety Syrian refugees from within its territory to the occupied city of Azaz through the Bab al-Salama border crossing, under the pretext of not completing their residency data and because they do not have their official identification papers. According to the Syrian Observatory, this brings the number of those deported from Turkey to three hundred and ninety Syrian refugees in less than a week.
  6. The Syrian Regime Condemns the Killing of the Young Man of Arab Origin by the French police in Paris (Syria TV ). On Saturday, the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the killing by the French police of a young man of Arab origins in a suburb of Paris. According to Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime, quoting an official source in the Foreign Ministry: “Syria strongly condemns the cold-blooded and deliberate murder of the young man (Nael) in a suburb of Paris by the French police.” The statement added, “Syria adds its voice to those calling for an end to the racist feelings and behaviors rooted in the French police and security services and French officials, which mainly target the people of the communities.”

IRAQ

  1. Iraqi Government Says Market Value of Iraq’s Natural Resources Exceeds $15 Trillion (Iraqi News). The Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported that the financial advisor to the Prime Minister, Mazhar Muhammad Salih, said on Saturday that…Iraq is one of the world’s wealthiest countries in natural resources, pointing out that Iraq ranks ninth globally with resources that can be exported or used in local industries…According to estimates, the market value of Iraq’s natural resources exceeds $15 trillion.

LEBANON

  1. French Judiciary Brings Financial Corruption Charges Against Former Assistant to Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor (Al Nahar). A French judge charged the former assistant governor of the Lebanese Central Bank, Marianne Howayek, with financial corruption charges, at the end of a hearing held in Paris on Friday as part of the ongoing investigations into Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh’s wealth in Europe…several European countries, including France, are investigating Salameh’s wealth. Investigators suspect that “the governor of the Lebanese Central Bank accumulated real estate and banking assets through a complex financial scheme,” and the French judiciary suspects that Howayek played a prominent role in this scheme.
  2. Lebanese Foreign Ministry Blows up a Storm of Collusion with the Assad Regime by Abstaining From UNGA Vote on Syria’s Missing Persons (Al Nahar). Lebanon’s decision to abstain from voting at the United Nations on the question of forming an independent body to clarify the fate of the missing in Syria, appeared to be a complete denial of official Lebanese decisions previously taken in the file of Lebanese detainees, detainees, and missing persons in Syrian prisons, which undermines the credibility of the Lebanese government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and reveals all of them are in a state of complete obedience to the Syrian regime.

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