The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors Friday adopted a resolution criticizing Iran for blocking inspectors' access to two sites and calling on Tehran "to fully cooperate with the Agency and satisfy the Agency's requests without any further delay, including by providing prompt access to the locations." France, Germany and Britain submitted the resolution that passed by a vote of 25 to 2, China and Russia voting against it, with 7 abstentions. Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iran's representative to the IAEA, stated, "Iran fully rejects this resolution and will respond appropriately."
The Trump administration and an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives want to extend the 13-year-old UN arms embargo on Iran, which the 2015 nuclear deal scheduled to end in October 2020 if Iran fulfilled its end of the JCPOA. Despite acknowledging Iranian violations of the nuclear accord in today's IAEA resolution, the French, German, and British foreign ministers issued a joint statement objecting to America triggering snapback sanctions over Russian and Chinese opposition because it would be "incompatible with our current efforts to preserve the JCPOA." Under the deal, any party contending that Iran is not upholding its commitments can notify the UN Security Council, which then has 30 days to pass a resolution to continue lifting sanctions, thereby giving any permanent Security Council member a veto over lifting sanctions. Conceding that lifting the arms embargo would adversely affect Middle Eastern security and stability, the foreign ministers said that they are coordinating with Moscow and Beijing on the issue.
Gholamreza Mansouri, a former Iranian judge potentially facing extradition from Romania to stand trial for bribery in Iran, fell to his death from Bucharest's Duke Hotel. While Romanian authorities have not publicly divulged the circumstances surrounding his death, according to Iran's Interpol chief Gen. Hadi Shirzad, they informed Iran it was a suicide. Although Romania arrested Mansouri on June 10 at Tehran's behest, a Romanian court on June 12 postponed his extradition, requiring Iran to provide more evidence against the fugitive. Mansouri protested to local media that returning him to Iran would place his life in danger. The International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders advocated prosecuting Mansouri in Europe for his role in the imprisonment and torture of journalists.
Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled Friday that the lengthy pre-trial detention of Selahattin Demirtas, former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), violated his rights by exceeding a reasonable period and entitled him to 50,000 Turkish lira ($7,300) in compensation. Unlike a lower court ruling in September, the Constitutional Court did not order Demirtas's release. Arrested in November 2016 along with the HDP's other co-leader, Figen Yuksekdag, for allegedly spreading PKK propaganda, prosecutors are seeking a 142-year sentence. The European Court of Human Rights unanimously ruled in November 2018 that Ankara did not provide sufficient reason to keep Demirtas in pre-trial detention. But, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued, "The decisions delivered by the ECHR do not bind us," despite Turkey being a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Fighting resumed over Hadibo – capital of Socotra Governorate – between the military loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's internationally recognized government of Yemen and the UAE-backed, separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC). The STC reportedly seized several government buildings, including the governor's headquarters. President Hadi decried the STC targeting civilians on Socotra, an island recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Emirati military occupied Socotra in April 2018 until Saudi Arabia, which backs Hadi's government, dispatched its own troops in May 2018 and negotiated the UAE relinquishing control of the island's sea and airports. However, the UAE landed STC proxies on Socotra last year, leading to intermittent conflict. Hadi and the STC agreed to a truce in early May 2020 that left Hadibo in the internationally recognized Yemeni government's hands.
At least 20 Houthis died in a failed offensive Thursday against al-Bayda Governorate tribesmen led by Yasser al-Awadhi, a close ally of Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Al-Awadhi launched an insurrection against the Houthis after they refused to hand over militiamen responsible for killing a local tribeswoman on April 27. After the Houthis insultingly rebuffed the leader of her al-Asbahi tribe when he traveled to Sanaa to demand punishment for the murderers, the sheikh went to Yasser al-Awadhi and the leaders of other tribes in al-Bayda Governorate. When Oman's efforts last May to mediate between the Houthis and the al-Bayda tribesmen failed, al-Awadhi called on his tribal allies to prepare for war.
Despite reports that Netanyahu proposed to his Blue and White coalition partners on Wednesday four annexation scenarios, ranging from annexing 30 percent of the West Bank to a symbolic gesture, Channel 13 reported Friday that even the least ambitious annexation plan includes 12 percent of the West Bank. The government will show the four maps to the military and other security agencies next week so they can prepare for each scenario.
Three of the most pro-Israel Democratic senators – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey – released a statement Friday in which they felt "compelled to express opposition to the proposed unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank." They rejected any unilateral Israeli steps on the grounds that "a sustainable peace deal that ensures the long-term security of Israel and self-determination for Palestinians must be negotiated directly between the two parties."
The Arab League announced Friday it will hold at Egypt's request an emergency video conference, probably next week, to discuss the Libyan civil war. Two weeks ago, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi unveiled a peace initiative dismissed by the Government of National Accord and its Turkish patron as a ploy to save the Cairo-aligned Libyan National Army (LNA).
A day after an OPEC+ teleconference could not resolve whether to extend into August its 9.7 million bpd cut, in effect since May, the Russian business newspaper RBC reported Russia's sovereign wealth fund head Kirill Dmitriev believes an incipient global economic recovery coupled with growing oil demand makes the extension unnecessary.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum