Turkey and Russia at the last minute postponed talks scheduled for June 14 about the conflicts in Libya and Syria, where Ankara and Moscow support opposing sides. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu might have called off the planned meeting in Istanbul because the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) continued its offensive against Sirte. Last week, Russia informed the GNA that Sirte is a "red line" and GNA forces must withdraw to Bouirat al-Hassoun. While GNA forces have besieged Sirte, GNA spokesman Abdul-Hadi Dara wrote on Facebook Sunday that bombs placed by Russian mercenaries in residential areas have prevented the GNA from storming the city.
A French presidential official quoted by Reuters Monday registered Paris's disapproval of Turkey violating the UN arms embargo on Libya and desire that the NATO defense ministers' conference later this week address the issue. However, Ankara appears intent on making its military presence in Libya permanent, opening negotiations with the GNA for use of the Misrata naval base and the al-Watiya airbase.
GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha rejected Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi's June 6 ceasefire proposal on the grounds that political talks can only resume after Sirte and al-Jufra airbase are captured. Yet, Bashagha struck a more conciliatory tone in a Sunday conversation with Bloomberg, saying Cairo could play a role in helping to end his country's divisions, after footage of GNA forces abusing Egyptian workers in Misrata was circulated on social media. Sisi unveiled his peace plan in the presence of Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar and Aguila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based parliament to which Haftar is nominally loyal. Although the GNA and Turkey refuse to deal with Haftar, Emrullah Isler, the Turkish special presidential envoy to Libya, expressed in an interview with Middle East Eye openness to negotiations with Aguila Saleh.
The Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) on Monday condemned Turkish airstrikes on refugee camps in Sinjar and Makhmour Sunday night as a "provocative act... inconsistent with good-neighborliness" and "a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty." Turkey's Ministry of Defense said the targets were positions of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency in southeastern Turkey. Yet, Yazidi human rights activist and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad claimed that the Turkish military operations in northern Iraq are upending the lives of Yazidi refugees returning home and appealed for international intervention, tweeting: "Turkish fighter jets are bombing multiple locations. Over 150 Yazidi families had just returned to their homes. When will @IraqiGovt & the international community apply some courage & political will to resolving security challenges in Sinjar?" Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit displayed similar frustration, stating that "the strikes represent an attack on Iraqi sovereignty" and Turkey's "military intervention in Arab lands, whether in Iraq, Syria or Libya, has become a cause for concern."
To elevate the national birth rate, state-run medical centers will no longer perform vasectomies and only dispense contraceptives to women whose health could be jeopardized by pregnancy. According to Hamed Barakati, the director general of the Ministry of Health's Office of Population and Family Health, Iran's fertility rate is 1.7 children per woman and, if current trends continue, a third of the population will be over 60 by 2050. Despite efforts by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and conservative clerics over the last decade to reverse declining fertility, the marriage rate has fallen 40 percent over that period.
The UAE-backed, separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) commandeered 64 billion riyals ($20 million) in banknotes printed in Russia for the Aden-based Yemeni central bank loyal to the Saudi-backed, internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. An STC statement justified the seizure as a measure to prevent corruption and financing terrorism.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday removed the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen on behalf of President Hadi's government from a blacklist of countries that kill and maim children in war. Virginia Gamba, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, attributed the decision to a substantial reduction in child casualties from Saudi airstrikes, falling from 1,700 five years ago to 171 last year. The Houthis and Hadi government remain on the blacklist.
A Sudanese prosecutor announced Monday that a committee investigating the 1998 murder of conscripts by the army at al-Eifalon military camp located the victims' remains in a mass grave. At the time, Khartoum claimed that the conscripts, who went AWOL to spend the Eid al-Adha holiday at home, drowned when their boat capsized in the Blue Nile River. While the prosecutor did not provide the number of recovered bodies, a source on the investigative committee said dozens have already been exhumed over the last few days.
With external debt rising from 30 percent of GDP in 2013 to 60 percent now, Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh declared Sunday that Tunisia will henceforth rely on internal loans and freezing, or even lowering, public employees' wages to cover government expenses.
Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai in his Sunday homily blamed unnamed political parties planting "saboteurs" with "malicious goals" for the violence at some of the protests last week, when the Lebanese pound lost 50 percent of its value. Demonstrations against government corruption and declining living standards broke out last October and resumed a week ago after the government lifted COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings. The economics-oriented protests quickly devolved into sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites, incited by videos circulating on social media of Hezbollah and Amal supporters insulting Aisha, one of Prophet Mohammad's wives. The Lebanese army arrested 36 people for "acts of vandalism" over the last few days as protestors attacked banks and shops.
The Knesset Monday passed a bill enabling ministers to resign temporarily from parliament so the next candidate on the party's list can enter. Blue and White particularly supported the legislation because only three of its 15 MKs are neither ministers nor deputy ministers, greatly limiting the time they can devote to Knesset committee work.
Dozens of the most prominent American Muslim organizations, from CAIR to Muslim Advocates, released on Monday "An American Muslim Community Statement Against Police Violence." Embedded in the statement's call for "meaningful reforms to discriminatory law enforcement practices and violence against Black people" was the demand for terminating the Department of Homeland Security's Countering Violent Extremism Grant Program, which does not involve intelligence gathering to prosecute terrorists, but merely funds NGOS, schools, and mental health professionals – among others – to counter efforts by extremists to recruit, radicalize, and mobilize followers to violence.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum