At a Wednesday press conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Tehran of using Mahan Air to transport support to Venezuela's Maduro regime over the last few days. Noting that "this is the same terrorist airline that Iran uses to move weapons and fighters around the Middle East," Pompeo called on countries to "do their part to deny overflights, just as many have already denied landing rights to this sanctioned airline." He also objected to the upcoming removal of JCPOA restrictions on conventional arms sales to Iran. The JCPOA, enshrined into international law in 2015 by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, imposed the restrictions for five years, which elapse on October 23.
In response to Shiite political parties last Saturday rejecting Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al-Kadhimi's proposed cabinet, accusing him of making too many concessions to the Sunni and Kurdish blocs, Secretary of State Pompeo said on Wednesday that "Iraqi leaders must put aside the sectarian quota system and make compromises that lead to government formation."
Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh responded during a Wednesday videoconference to Prime Minister Hassan Diab last Friday accusing him of pursuing "opaque" policies that caused the currency's depreciation, a charge echoed by Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem on Tuesday. Salameh stated that his activities were transparent, always transmitting requested information to the prime minister, and blamed the Lebanese government for the financial crisis that undermined the Lebanese pound's longstanding peg to the U.S. dollar. Lebanon is the third-most indebted state in the world, S&P last year estimating its public debt equaling 169 percent of GDP, and last March it failed to repay a $1.2 billion Eurobond, marking the country's first sovereign default.
Riyadh burnt through its foreign exchange reserves in March at a faster rate than any time since at least 2000, dropping more than 5 percent, leaving the central bank with $464 billion in reserves. The reserves were probably used to support the riyal, recapitalize banks, and offset capital flight.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter to President Trump Tuesday expressing "hope that in the upcoming period, with the spirit of solidarity we have displayed during the pandemic, Congress and the U.S. media will better understand the strategic importance of our relations" and stressing that Turkey remains a "reliable and strong partner of the U.S." The letter accompanied a plane of Turkish aid to the U.S., including 500,000 surgical masks, 4,000 overalls, 528 gallons of disinfectant, 1,500 goggles, 400 N-95 masks, and 500 face shields.
During a Jewish Democratic Council of America-hosted webinar Tuesday, Joe Biden's chief foreign policy advisor, Anthony Blinken, said, "Unilateral steps taken by either side that makes the prospect of a negotiated to a two-state outcome less likely is something he opposes, and that includes annexation." Blinken added that moving the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv "would not make sense practically and politically." Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) expressed hope that Blue and White faction leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi would dissuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from annexing West Bank territory allocated to Israel in the Trump administration's peace plan.
The British Supreme Court overturned Wednesday a 2016 Department for Communities and Local Government issued guidance prohibiting Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) funds from divesting from foreign states and the U.K. defense industry. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign brought the suit with the support of the Quakers, the Campaign Against Arms Trade, and War on Want. As of March 2019, the value of LGPS funds was estimated to be £287.2 billion.
59 members of Congress, led by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI 12), sent a letter late Tuesday to U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft that sought her "assistance in the effort to restart U.S. humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, including UNRWA." To fight COVID-19, the letter recommends immediately drawing money from the Migration and Refugee Assistance and Economic Support Fund to finance medical assistance to Palestinians, "including the 3,300 health care workers staffing 144 UNRWA health clinics."
United Arab Emirates National Security Adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed reportedly led a delegation of Emirati officials to Sudan Wednesday to recruit new fighters for Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army, which has in recent weeks faced several major defeats at the hands of the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord. More than 3,000 Sudanese mercenaries may already be fighting alongside the LNA.
United Arab Emirates
A report released Wednesday by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organization tasked with combatting money laundering and terrorism financing, gave the country a "low" rating for investigating and prosecuting money laundering and a "moderate" rating for measures countering terrorism financing. After a yearlong observation period, the FATF will determine whether to reclassify the U.A.E.'s compliance, possibly downgrading the country if it fails to improve, placing it in the same category as Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan – countries deemed to have "strategic deficiencies."
Syria's government Wednesday allowed all businesses and public markets to reopen between 8 AM and 5 PM, as long as they adhere to public safety guidelines. Closing the country's bazaars particularly hurt the merchant class reliant on a surge of business during Ramadan.
As part of its $6 billion COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Program, the World Bank allocated $20 million to assist the Jordanian Ministry of Health in preventing and detecting COVID-19.
Local Affairs Minister Lotfi Zitoun denied a story reported by the Tunisian gay rights organization Shams of a man registering a same-sex marriage performed in France and reiterated that Tunisia does not recognize same-sex marriage.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum