UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivered a written report to the Security Council Thursday that concluded the cruise missile and drones used in multiple attacks on Saudi Arabia last year were of "Iranian origin." The report based its findings on a UN investigative team's analysis of weapons debris found at Abha International Airport, the Saudi Aramco oil-processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais, and other targets of missile and drone strikes. The Security Council will discuss the report later this month. Iran's foreign ministry issued a statement Friday denying their involvement: "Iran denies allegations by the U.N. Secretariat that appear to have been made under political pressure from the U.S. and Saudi regimes... [The] report comes at a time when the United States is working to draft a dangerous resolution to extend an arms embargo against Iran."
The Iran Civil Aviation Organization told Reuters that it requested France's Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) read the black boxes from Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down on January 8, 2020. The Iranian agency said that they wanted to send the black boxes to France, where the BEA would decipher their contents in the presence of representatives of other involved countries as well as the International Civil Aviation Organization. However, the BEA claims not to have received any such request. Mohsen Baharvand, Iran's deputy foreign affairs minister, told IRNA last week that "the contents of the boxes will be of no help for the investigation" and implied that Iran had conditions for transferring the black boxes abroad.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) filed a complaint Thursday with German federal judicial authorities for the arrest of Gholamreza Mansouri, an Iranian judge whom RSF Secretary General Cristophe Deloire claims is responsible for the arrest and torture of at least 20 journalists in 2013. Although Mansouri was originally reported to be in Germany to receive medical treatment, it appears that he might have fabricated that story to flee Iran, where he faces bribery charges.
UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba published a Hebrew op-ed in Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper Friday warning "annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with the UAE." Al-Otaiba approached Israeli-American billionaire and Democratic donor Haim Saban last week about how to persuade the Israeli public to reject Prime Minister Netanyahu's plan to annex parts of the West Bank in July. Saban recommended that the ambassador publish an op-ed in an Israeli newspaper and lent al-Otaiba his communications adviser, Moshe Debi, to handle the article's choreography and timing. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash will address the American Jewish Committee next Tuesday to communicate the same message. While the Trump administration has tried to delay Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, a senior American source conveyed to Kan Thursday that the administration might be more receptive to the recently floated plan to extend Israeli sovereignty, for now, only over Maale Adumim, Ariel, and the Etzion settlement bloc.
In line with PA President Mahmoud Abbas's May 19 declaration that the State of Palestine is "absolved... of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments," PA interior ministry spokesman Ghassan Nimr notified AFP, "We are now registering our citizens in our own databases, without sending them to Israel as we did before." According to the 1993 Oslo Accords, PA issued identity cards, birth certificates, and certain other documents require Israeli validation.
Protestors blocked roads and burned tires across Lebanon Thursday and Friday after the Lebanese pound lost 50 percent of its value in just four days, starting the week trading at L£4,000/dollar and falling to L£6,000/dollar by Thursday. While President Michel Aoun promised Friday that the central bank, beginning Monday, will inject dollars into the market to stabilize the Lebanese pound, it is unlikely that the government holds enough dollars to accomplish this.
Two Libyan families suing Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar under the 1991 Torture Victims Protection Act, which enables victims to sue foreign authorities for damages in US courts, began presenting their case in an Alexandria, Virginia court Friday. Haftar's lawyers did not attend the hearing. The law is infrequently used because perpetrators rarely have assets within US courts' reach. However, Haftar and his sons own 17 properties in Virginia worth $8 million. In the civil suit, which was filed last February, the plaintiffs accuse the LNA of executing six civilian members of their families and torturing one, who lost an eye in the process. The trial opens a day after the United Nations Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expressed horror at the Government of National Accord's (GNA) discovery of at least 8 mass graves in territory recently captured from the LNA.
A day after Washington and Baghdad initiated strategic talks focusing on the future of American forces in the country and economic cooperation, the State Department released a joint statement saying: "The two countries recognized that in light of significant progress towards eliminating the ISIS threat, over the coming months the U.S. would continue reducing forces from Iraq and discuss with the Government of Iraq the status of remaining forces as both countries turn their focus towards developing a bilateral security relationship based on strong mutual interests." The statement suggests that Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's government does not feel constrained by the January non-binding resolution, passed after the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani, demanding the withdrawal of US troops.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum