The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Israel attacking a Hezbollah ammunition and missiles depot just outside Homs on Friday morning. This follows Israeli airstrikes Thursday night targeting three Hezbollah positions in the Syrian-held portion of the Golan Heights. A Syrian military source recently complained to the Russian news outlet Avia.pro that the S-300 missile defense system is largely ineffective against Israeli air strikes while the other missile defense systems acquired from Russia are even more "backward."
Rami Makhlouf, a first cousin of Bashar al-Assad and one of the wealthiest Syrians, posted a direct appeal to President Assad on Facebook Thursday concerning the government demanding he pay up to 130 billion Syrian pounds ($253 million) in fines for tax fraud, which Makhlouf claims could cause the "collapse" of his businesses. Rumors have been circulating for months that Makhlouf is under house arrest. This is not the first time that the Syrian government has tried to seize Makhlouf's assets as government coffers run dry. With the Russian government demanding more compensation for supporting the Assad regime and placing increasing pressure on Damascus to take a more conciliatory line that would cost the Russian military less, seizing assets from the wealthy regime hardliner Rami Makhlouf might be seen as a way to kill two birds with one stone.
The U.S. Treasury Department Friday imposed sanctions on Taif Mining Services LLC and its Iranian-Iraqi dual national owner, Amir Dianat, for illicit business activities to generate revenue for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and weapons smuggling, including to Yemen, on its behalf. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia filed criminal charges against Dianat and business associate Kamran Lajmiri for violations of sanctions and money laundering laws, and filed a related civil forfeiture action alleging that approximately $12.3 million is subject to forfeiture as funds involved in these crimes and as assets of a foreign terrorist organization. This forfeiture action represents the largest ever seizure of IRGC-QF related funds.
Iran's Foreign Ministry Friday condemned Germany's "complete disrespect to the government and nation of Lebanon" for yesterday blacklisting all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Except for the Netherlands, other E.U. countries only list Hezbollah's militant wing as a terrorist group. The Iranian Foreign Ministry statement threatened, "The German government must face the negative consequences of its decision in the fight against real terrorist groups in the region."
A day after unveiling a plan to reduce the country's massive pubic debt burden, the Lebanese government signed a request for IMF assistance Friday. The Lebanese Banking Association on Friday denounced the government's debt reduction plan that involves a levy on large bank deposits and writing off tens of billions of dollars of debt owed to banks. The association is urging members of parliament to reject the government's plan and promises to release an alternative plan soon.
Iraq's Oil Ministry revealed Friday that the government collected just $1.4 billion in oil revenues last month, one-sixth of the average before the oil price crash. With oil revenue accounting for 90 percent of the state budget, the interim government is weighing various austerity measures, including large cuts to public sector employee social benefits.
The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) on Friday regained more territory south of the capital from Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), including the Hamza camp, which the LNA captured last December. The GNA advances come a day after rejecting a Ramadan ceasefire proposed by Gen. Haftar, who intensified the bombardment of residential parts of Tripoli Friday, killing at least two civilians.
127 British politicians representing every party, including many MPs and former Conservative cabinet ministers, sent a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson pressing him to "make clear publicly to Israel that any annexation [of West Bank territory] will have severe consequences including sanctions."
ISIS claimed responsibility Friday for Thursday's attack on an Egyptian army armored vehicle in northern Sinai that killed 10 soldiers.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum