During a Wednesday briefing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said regarding the nascent Israeli unity government annexing parts of the West Bank: "The Israelis ultimately make those decisions. So, that's an Israeli decision. We will work closely with them to share with them our views on this in a private setting." Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in turn threatened in a pre-Ramadan video address that Israel extending sovereignty over parts of the West Bank would nullify all agreements between the PA and Israel as well as those between the PA and the United States.
Former Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak theorized that there could be no explanation for Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi joining a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu except for Netanyahu blackmailing them with criminal or personal information. The Labor Party's central committee on Wednesday unanimously approved joining the unity government.
The Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) claims to have launched a military satellite into orbit for the first time. No independent source has confirmed the test's success. Nevertheless, Secretary Pompeo said that all countries should hold Iran accountable for violating U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and called upon Tehran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology." In response to IRGC ships last week harassing U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf, President Trump tweeted Wednesday: "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea." Adopting a more conciliatory tone, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell lamented America refusing to soften sanctions on Iran during the COVID-19 pandemic and blocking IMF assistance to the country.
Egypt's parliament voted Wednesday to amend the state of emergency law to empower military prosecutors to investigate crimes reported by the armed forces and grant the president new powers, including the authority to close businesses and ban private as well as public assemblies. Parliament has repeatedly renewed the three-month state of emergency defined by the law, doing so for the eleventh time on April 14.
During a Tuesday AKP central executive committee meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proclaimed Ankara will continue to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) until it defeats the Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar. Turkish air support enabled GNA forces to clear the LNA from most of western Libya's coast over the past two weeks. Erdogan's communications chief, Fahrettin Altun, said Tuesday that the GNA's "recent advances against the putschist Haftar forces show that Turkey's support is paying off." GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha Wednesday accused the private Russian military contractor Wagner Group, which is fighting alongside the LNA, of carrying out a chemical attack in southern Tripoli.
The trial of former Syrian intelligence service members Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib will open Thursday for – among other crimes – rape, aggravated sexual assault, assistance to torture, and murder. Although they committed their crimes in Syria before defecting from the regime and moving to Germany, a 2002 German law enshrined universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity into the country's legal system.
Villagers and pro-regime gunmen in Farafrah, a town controlled by the Syrian government, hurled stones at a U.S. military convoy Wednesday, forcing it to withdraw. While hundreds of American soldiers are stationed in the Kurdish autonomous region of northeastern Syria to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces in their fight against ISIS, it remains unclear why the convoy entered a government-controlled area.
Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan stated at a Wednesday press conference that to cover this year's budget deficit, which is currently projected to equal between 7 and 9 percent of GDP due to low oil prices, Riyadh could borrow $26 billion more this year – for a total of $58 billion – and draw down up to $32 billion from its foreign exchange reserves. Its reserves currently stand at about $500 billion.
Lebanon's parliament Tuesday legalized cannabis cultivation for medical and industrial purposes, including for export. The measure gained widespread support as a means to raise additional revenue as Beirut struggles to meet its debt obligations. Although the Hezbollah-controlled Bekaa Valley is one of the main locations of cannabis cultivation, the party opposed the legislation.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum