Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came under fire Wednesday from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a post on his website that appeared to endorse genocide. The post says, "Palestine will be free. The final solution. Resistance is referendum." Netanyahu tweeted in response, "Khamenei's threats to carry out 'The Final Solution' against Israel bring to mind the Nazi 'Final Solution' plan to annihilate the Jewish People. He should know that any regime that threatens the destruction of the State of Israel faces a similar danger." Secretary Pompeo also believed that Khamenei intentionally invoked the Nazi "Final Solution," tweeting, "The leader of the world's top sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism denies the Holocaust, sends money and weapons to anti-Israel terrorists, and now has invoked the Nazi call for the Final Solution. I ask all nations: Is this someone who can be trusted with deadly weapons?" Following the condemnation, Khamenei deleted the post and tweeted, "Eliminating the Zionist regime doesn't mean eliminating Jews." However, he followed that up with a tweet promising to "support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime."
There is a debate within the Trump administration over how to disrupt Iranian oil exports to Nicolas Maduro's government in Venezuela. Although Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed concern that the US naval flotilla in the Caribbean to interdict narcotics trafficking could intercept five Iranian oil tankers en route to Venezuela, The Wall Street Journal reported US officials are instead weighing "measures that would deter Iran from repeating deliveries to Caracas, including imposing sanctions on the tankers' crews—which could severely restrict employment opportunities and limit Iran's ability to staff future vessels going to Venezuela." Still, Maduro's defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, said on state television Wednesday that the Venezuelan military will escort the Iranian tankers as soon as they enter the country's exclusive economic zone.
An unidentified Iranian military official Wednesday brushed off US Naval Forces Central Command's Tuesday warning to Tehran that "armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a US naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures." The official told the Iranian Students' News Agency, "The naval units of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman will continue their regular missions in accordance with professional principles as in the past."
The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions Wednesday on Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, IRGC Brigadier General Hassan Shahvarpour Najafabadi, seven senior officials of Iran's Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), and the LEF Cooperative Foundation, along with its director and members of the board of trustees. These sanctions relate mainly to human rights abuses committed during the deadly suppression of the 2019 nation-wide protests over an increase in fuel prices. Amnesty International released Wednesday its report on the 2019 protests, which tallied 304 men, women, and children killed by Iran's security forces. Due to "the absence of any meaningful prospect for accountability at the national level," Amnesty International called on the "UN Human Rights Council to mandate an inquiry into the killings, and identify pathways for truth, justice and reparations."
After driving Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) from its only airbase in western Libya on Monday and capturing towns along the Tunisian border on Tuesday, the Tripoli-based Government of International Accord (GNA) focused its efforts Wednesday on pushing the LNA away from the capital. The first target is the town of al-Asaba, which is 62 miles southwest of Tripoli and whose local government just recognized the GNA's authority. However, the LNA backed by UAE drones forced the GNA-aligned Gharyan Protection Force to retreat from al-Asaba.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov informed the Security Council that he will confer with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Thursday to glean what President Mahmoud Abbas meant when he declared on Tuesday, "The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the commitments based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones." Mladenov also warned that "annexation by Israel of parts of the West Bank would constitute a most serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-State solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace and our broader efforts to maintain international peace and security."
No one from the Israeli government has officially commented on Abbas's declaration and, according to the Jerusalem Post, the PA has not terminated its coordination with the IDF on security matters. Fatah's vice-president, Mahmoud Aloul, however, asserted that "as of last night all communications with the Israeli side, including security cooperation, were stopped." Jibril Rajoub, secretary general of Fatah's central committee, told Arab News that Fatah's central committee will meet on Thursday to discuss the implementation of Abbas's declaration and he is "certain that in the place of the Oslo Accords, the role of the PLO will be enhanced and popular nonviolent struggle will be escalated." Hamas issued a statement saying Abbas's declaration "confirms the correctness of [Hamas's] positions" and that the cessation of security cooperation with Israel "needs implementation on the ground through clear and specific steps."
The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday rejected Prime Minister Netanyahu's petition to skip the opening of his corruption trial Sunday, where the indictment would be read in full and the Prime Minister would need to confirm that he understood the charges. Netanyahu argued in his petition that his presence was unnecessary because he already read the indictment and his security detail would violate Health Ministry social distancing guidelines.
The Iraqi National Intelligence Service announced Wednesday the capture of senior ISIS leader Abdul-Nasser Qardash. He was a candidate to succeed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before the group settled on Abdul-Rahman al-Mawla.
Algerian courts on Wednesday sentenced three activists to prison terms for Facebook posts and another 12 for "attacks on the territorial integrity of the state" and inciting illegal demonstrations. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the massive protest movement complaining that there are too many holdovers from the Abdelaziz Bouteflika dictatorship in the new regime has moved online.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum