With the JCPOA's restrictions on conventional arms sales to Iran elapsing in October, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted on Fox News Wednesday that the U.S. can unilaterally trigger snapback sanctions on Iran over a U.N Security Council veto due to the wording of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the JCPOA into international law. However, Russia's Ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, rejects that argument, telling Kommersant, "I don't think they will get away with this. But the attempt to implement this plan will cause a lot of harm and lead to stormy debates in the U.N. Security Council." Almost 90 percent of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives have reportedly signed a letter to Secretary Pompeo urging diplomacy to extend the arms embargo, believing that the U.S. does not have the "authority to stop transfers once the U.N. embargo expires."
Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a televised speech Thursday that Lebanon will seek an IMF loan of over $10 billion amidst a financial crisis causing massive currency depreciation. The government also unveiled a reform plan including reducing its public debt to less than 100 percent of GDP from from its current 178 percent, restructuring both its local and foreign debt, ending the 23-year-old peg to the U.S. dollar, and reforming the ailing power sector. Hezbollah, which previously opposed IMF assistance over potential conditions hampering the group's financing, signed off on the plan.
Germany announced Thursday the banning of Hezbollah's political wing as counter-terror police raided affiliated mosques and cultural institutions along with the homes of their board members, treasurers, and tax advisers. Berlin's move not only criminalizes financially supporting the party, but also chanting pro-Hezbollah slogans and waiving its flag. The European Union only lists Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist group, the Netherlands being the only other E.U. member to outlaw the entire organization.
The foreign ministers of Arab League member states Thursday issued a joint statement saying, "The implementation of plans to annex any part of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including the Jordan Valley... and the lands on which Israeli settlements are standing represents a new war crime... against the Palestinian people." They also urged the U.S. to "withdraw its support in enabling the plans of the occupying Israeli government," clearly referring to the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan, which allocated some West Bank territory to Israel. The coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz last week created a framework for annexing parts of the West Bank, but Gantz's opposition to annexations without international support makes Israel extending sovereignty over any part of the West Bank highly unlikely.
The ambassadors to Israel from Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, along with the Deputy Ambassador of the EU, told an Israeli foreign ministry official Thursday that "annexation of any part of the West Bank by Israel would constitute a clear violation of international law and would have serious repercussions for regional stability as well as Israel's international standing."
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit opined Thursday that he does not see legal grounds for barring Benjamin Netanyahu from serving as prime minister while he faces criminal charges. The High Court of Justice will rule on the matter next week. The coalition agreement between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz prescribes new elections if the court rules against Netanyahu.
Khalifa Haftar announced Wednesday that his Libyan National Army (LNA) would observe a ceasefire during Ramadan. The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, however, rejected the ceasefire. An Emirati Foreign Ministry statement issued Thursday enjoined all parties to the civil war to commit to the U.N.-supervised political process, but "commend[ed] the Libyan National Army for conducting anti-terror operations" while voicing "its categorical rejection of the Turkish military intervention."
Sudan has outlawed female genital mutilation, which now carries up to a three-year prison term. Nearly 90 percent of Sudanese women were subjected to the most invasive form of the practice.
Four sources informed Reuters that President Trump threatened Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on an April 2 telephone call that if OPEC did not cut oil production, Congress would withdraw American troops protecting the kingdom. Ten days later, OPEC, Russia, and other allied oil producers cut production by 9.7 million bpd.
Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said at an online meeting hosted by the Atlantic Council that Ankara's delay in activating its Russian S-400 anti-missile system, which was supposed to become operational in April 2020, is due to COVID-19, not a change in policy. The U.S. has warned Turkey that using the Russian system – which cannot be integrated into NATO's military architecture – could result in sanctions.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum