Riots engulfed Tripoli Tuesday night, protestors torching several banks and an army vehicle, as soldiers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. One demonstrator died in the violence. The reduction in citizens' purchasing power due to the Lebanese pound losing more than half of its value since last October has caused widespread anger. Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said in a Tuesday interview with the group's al-Nour radio, "Accumulated errors and a negative performance from the central bank led us to this result" and "the governor of the central bank bears the responsibility, but not on his own." The Hezbollah-supported Prime Minister Hassan Diab in a Friday speech blamed long-serving central bank governor Riad Salameh for the Lebanese pound's depreciation and reportedly seeks his ouster. Over the weekend, however, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi came to Salameh's defense.
Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Hafter ruling out in a televised statement Monday further dialogue with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), saying the LNA would create its own "permanent civic institutions," received pushback Tuesday from Hafter's Russian patron. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that just as Moscow rejects the GNA's refusal to negotiate with the LNA commander, "we do not support the statement that now Marshal Haftar will decide unilaterally the way for the Libyan people to live." Also on Tuesday, the LNA accused a Turkish drone of killing at least five civilians in an attack on a food truck convoy. Turkish airpower has changed the balance of power between LNA and GNA forces in western Libya in recent weeks.
Turkey's Defense Ministry blamed a bomb-rigged fuel tanker attack in Afrin, which killed 40 civilians, on the Kurdish-led YPG. However, no one has claimed responsibility and the YPG claims not to target civilians. The Turkish military and allied militias wrested control of the city from the autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Syria in March 2018.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett Tuesday seemed to confirm Israel's responsibility for Monday's airstrike on a military airfield outside Damascus that killed four pro-Iranian fighters and three civilians. Bennett issued a statement saying, "We have moved from blocking Iran's entrenchment in Syria to forcing it out of there, and we will not stop."
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Tuesday published its 2020 annual report, which documented in Iran "a particular uptick in the persecution of Baha'is and local government officials who supported them in 2019." It also quoted U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr calling Iran the "world's chief trafficker in anti-Semitism" and claiming that "anti-Semitism isn't ancillary to the ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a central foundational component of the ideology of that regime."
Iranian police last week arrested the editor-in-chief and a social media administrator of Iran's semiofficial ILNA news agency for a cartoon mocking Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei by portraying him as a nurse seemingly silencing those objecting to those questioning quack treatments for COVID-19 promoted by some Iranian clerics, such as drinking camel urine and inserting violet oil in the anus. Tehran's Prosecutor Ali Alghasi Mehr announced Monday the launching of an investigation into the affair.
Chief Justice Esther Hayut announced Tuesday that 11 out of the court's 15 justices will hear next Sunday and Monday eight petitions filed against Blue and White's coalition agreement with Likud and challenging the right of an indicted person (e.g. Benjamin Netanyahu) to form a government. Blue and White and Likud each issued statements calling on the High Court of Justice to dismiss the petitions to avoid usurping powers belonging to the Knesset and, according to Likud's statement, overriding the voters' will.
The World Bank on Monday "approved a US$14 million grant as part of a multiphase Advancing Sustainability in Performance, Infrastructure, and Reliability of Energy Sector (ASPIRE) program to improve operational and financial performance of the Palestinian electricity institutions and diversification of energy sources." Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, France, Finland, Sweden, Croatia, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Australia are expected to supply an additional $49 million.
Paris Saint-Germain Football Club president Nasser al-Khelaifi, former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, and an unnamed third defendant will stand trial in a Swiss federal court next September for awarding broadcast rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups to al-Khelaifi's BeIN Sports network in exchange for Valcke's use of a luxury villa owned by one of al-Khelaifi's companies. Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani appointed the billionaire al-Khelaifi as a minister without portfolio in 2013.
Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sent a letter through her lawyers to the Premier League seeking to block Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund from acquiring an 80 percent stake in the Newcastle United Football Club due to the Kingdom's role in Khashoggi's murder.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Anurag Srivastava assured New Delhi of Kuwait's commitment to friendly bilateral relations and non-interference in India's internal affairs after someone leaked a March 2 letter from the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers of Kuwait to Kuwait's Foreign Minister requesting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the international community "take urgent necessary measures" to "safeguard the rights of the Muslims" in India.
Although homosexuality carries up to a three-year prison term in Tunisia, the gay rights organization Shams reported that the country became the first in the Arab world to recognize same-sex marriage, albeit indirectly, by permitting a Tunisian man to register on his birth certificate a same-sex marriage performed in France.
French prosecutors are opening a terrorism investigation into a suspect, only identified as Youssef T., who ploughed a BMW into a police traffic stop Monday, leaving two officers hospitalized with leg fractures. The suspect was carrying a letter swearing allegiance to ISIS.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum