Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi Saturday called for a ceasefire starting Monday to be followed by the replacement of the rival regimes in Tripoli and Tobruk with a transitional unity government representing Libya's three regions until elections are held. Cairo backs the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and its affiliated Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar. Sisi released his peace initiative a day after forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) captured the city of Tarhouna, the LNA's last redoubt in western Libya, prompting LNA soldiers to retreat eastwards to Sirte and al-Jufra airbase. GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha asserted that political talks can only resume when Sirte and al-Jufra airbase are in GNA hands. As the GNA military closes in on Sirte, much of the LNA is retreating even further east. Control of Sirte would open the gateway to Libya's major oilfields. The LNA has controlled the oilfields since an offensive in early 2019 and the US is probing purported oil export negotiations with Venezuela. Most of the international community only recognizes the right of the state-run National Oil Corp. to sell oil and refuse to buy it from the Tobruk government. The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) issued a statement Sunday acknowledging receiving "numerous reports of the looting and destruction of public and private property in Tarhuna and Alasabaa which in some cases appear to be acts of retribution and revenge" by the GNA and called for a "prompt and impartial investigation" of "the discovery of a number of corpses at the hospital in Tarhouna."
During a Sunday meeting with 11 settlement leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed to annexing on July 1 all of the settlements, which constitute approximately 3 percent of the West Bank. Although the Trump peace plan allocates to Israel 30 percent of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, Jared Kushner insists that the US-Israel mapping committee demarcate the precise borders between Israel and Palestine before Jerusalem proceeds with any annexations. Accordingly, Netanyahu is postponing the annexation of territory beyond what is directly beneath the settlements until the committee finishes its work. However, even this more limited measure might face US resistance because America's UN ambassador, Kelly Craft, insinuated Friday that negotiations with the PA are a precondition for Israel implementing any part of the peace plan. On the other hand, US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism Elan Carr on Monday implied that the Trump administration might recognize Israel unilaterally extending sovereignty over parts of the West Bank. Addressing the Diaspora Conference hosted by the Makor Rishon newspaper, Carr said: "We made it clear when to annex, how and when. This is a decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his partner, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz. They have to decide. We said we were ready to recognize the sovereignty of Israel on these territories."
Israel's Channel 13 Saturday reported that Jordan will recall its ambassador if annexation proceeds, but has not decided yet whether to cancel the 1994 peace treaty. Kan 11 News last Thursday quoted a source close to Jordan's King Abdullah II as saying, "Contrary to the impression that emerges from his statements, Abdullah will not cancel the peace agreement with Israel." German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will visit Israel Wednesday to communicate that annexation of West Bank territory would strain relations. Yet, a diplomatic official in Jerusalem said Monday that Berlin does not support penalizing Israel with sanctions or by recognizing a Palestinian state.
The Syrian Human Rights Survey Center reported Sunday that an unidentified aircraft killed 12 pro-Iranian Iraqi and Afghan militants in Deir ez-Zor. Israel frequently strikes Iranian and Assad regime targets in Syria, last Thursday killing at least 9 in an attack on a defense laboratory associated with the manufacture of chemical arms and advanced missiles. Russia is also ramping up its air war in Syria, striking ten targets in Hama and Idlib provinces Monday, killing one civilian and injuring others. Russian airstrikes enabled Syrian troops to recapture two villages in Hama's countryside that briefly fell into rebel hands on Monday. The death toll from the Hama clashes was 36 pro-regime militants and 19 rebels.
At Saturday's OPEC+ meeting, all members except Mexico agreed to extend the May and June production cuts to July. As part of an April deal, OPEC+ members cut their output collectively by 9.7 million bpd in both May and June before raising output by 2 million bpd in July. Since Mexico is not a major energy exporter, compliance by all other OPEC+ members would translate into a 9.6 million bpd cut in July. However, the energy data company Kpler recently found that Iraq, Nigeria, Angola, and Kazakhstan exceeded their output quotas in May and June and must cut production by a combined 1.18 million bpd to be in compliance. Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi promised Sunday that his country would abide by Saturday's agreement, but urged that future quota agreements take into account members' "economic situation and living standards."
Sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiites broke out Saturday at Lebanon's first anti-corruption rally since the government lifted COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings. Videos circulating on social media of Hezbollah and Amal supporters insulting Aisha, one of Prophet Mohammad's wives, transformed scuffles characterized by rock throwing into gun battles. 48 people, including 25 soldiers, were injured and 11 hospitalized in the violence that petered out on Sunday.
Prosecutors of Spain's Supreme Court on Monday announced an investigation into whether former King Juan Carlos received kickbacks from Saudi Arabia to facilitate the construction of a bullet train between Mecca and Medina by a Spanish consortium. The Swiss newspaper La Tribune alleged that Saudi Arabia paid $100 million in bribes to Juan Carlos a decade ago. Although he enjoys immunity from prosecution for crimes committed before his June 2014 abdication, prosecutors will examine whether he laundered any of the money since then.
Starting next January, foreign workers desiring to change jobs will no longer need to receive a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their employer as long as they have worked for him for at least two years. Currently, workers without NOCs must leave the country for two years before working for another Omani employer. Domestic workers are excluded from this reform.
Iraq's parliament finally confirmed Saturday the seven remaining ministers in Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's cabinet. On May 7, parliament swore in al-Kadhimi as the new prime minister and approved most of his cabinet. His predecessor, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, resigned last November after two months of deadly protests against government corruption, unemployment, and poor public services. Then, two prime ministers-designate failed to win the confidence of parliament over the objections of either the Sunni and Kurdish factions on the one hand or Shiite parties on the other.
The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Turkish police on Monday arrested two journalists – Ismail Dukel, the Ankara representative of TELE1 television channel, and Muyesser Yildiz of the OdaTV news website – on charges of "political and military espionage." Two OdaTV editors were charged, along with five other journalists, last month for covering the death of a Turkish intelligence official in Libya. Also on Monday, prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 149 people alleged to be affiliated with Fethullah Gulen, whom the Erdogan government blames without evidence for orchestrating the failed 2016 attempted coup. Most of the warrants are for former police officers.
Former Secretary-General of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PIJ) Ramadan Shalah, 62, died of an undisclosed illness Saturday and was buried in Damascus on Sunday. Shalah led the group from 1995 until he slipped into a coma during a 2018 heart surgery. Closely aligned with Iran, PIJ under Shalah carried out numerous suicide bombings before and during the Second Intifada with the aim of creating an Islamic state on Israel's ashes. The US offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum