Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Yemen, announced Monday that President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's internationally recognized government and the UAE-backed, separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) agreed to a ceasefire in Abyan Governorate, deescalating tensions in other regions, and resuming negotiations over implementing the November 2019 Riyadh agreement. Although Hadi's government and the STC are officially allies in the war against the Iranian-backed Houthis, they have been fighting each other since the STC last August seized Aden, the Hadi government's interim capital. The STC wants southern Yemen, which was an independent country until 1990, to regain independence and has ejected pro-Hadi forces from most of southeastern Yemen. The Riyadh Agreement called for – among other things – creating a cabinet evenly divided between President Hadi's supporters and the STC and Hadi's Yemen National Army (YNA) withdrawing from the Shabwa and Abyan governorates. After Hadi's government neglected to implement most of the agreement, the STC declared "self-rule" over the territories under their control, governing them autonomously thereafter. Subsequent YNA efforts to retake Aden have failed and the STC captured Socotra Island over the weekend. While Saudi Arabia has provided ample support to the YNA in its conflict with the Houthis, they did not defend them from the STC on Socotra. Mukhtar al-Rahbi, an adviser to Hadi's information minister, tweeted: "1,000 Saudi soldiers are present in Socotra to support the government and the legitimacy, but when the governorate's capital was endangered by the gangs of the STC, these forces withdrew from all the checkpoints where they were stationed."
In televised remarks Saturday after reviewing air force and commando units stationed along the Egyptian-Libyan border, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi threatened to intervene militarily in the Libyan civil war to prevent the fall of Sirte and al-Jufra airbase to the Government of National Accord (GNA). Turkish air support and 10,000 Turkish-recruited Syrian mercenaries turned the tide of the Libyan civil war, forcing Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) to end its year-long siege of Tripoli and abandon all of the country's west. Sisi also raised the possibility of training and arming Libyan tribes loyal to the LNA. The GNA and Turkey rejected a June 6 ceasefire proposal and peace plan issued by Egypt's president on the grounds that talks can only resume when Sirte and al-Jufra airbase are in GNA hands. Ankara reiterated Saturday its position that Haftar's evacuation of Sirte and al-Jufra is a prerequisite for peace talks. Saudi Arabia and the UAE each issued statements supporting President Sisi's stance. A Saudi foreign ministry statement said, "The kingdom stands by Egypt on its right to defend its borders [and] people from extremism, terrorist militias and their supporters in the region." The UAE's foreign ministry stated it "is siding with Egypt on all the measures it takes to protect security and stability from the repercussions of the concerning developments in Libya." French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday accused Turkey of playing a "dangerous game" in Libya and acknowledged the "legitimate concern of President Sisi when he sees troops arriving at his border." Even before Sisi threatened military intervention, GNA Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siala stated his government would boycott an emergency Arab League videoconference on Libya that Cairo requested last week because it was arranged without consulting the GNA and will likely "merely deepen the rift" among Arab governments on the conflict.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday informed his Canadian counterpart, Francois-Philippe Champagne, that Iran will send the black boxes from Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 to France in the "next few days." The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accidently shot down the plane on January 8, 2020 shortly after launching missile attacks against Iraqi military bases hosting US forces to avenge the January 3 targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani by an American drone. 57 Canadians perished in the crash. Farhad Parvaresh, Iran's representative to the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), told Reuters two weeks ago that Iran's Air Accident Investigation Board requested France's Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) read the black boxes from Flight 752 in the presence of representatives of other involved countries and ICAO. However, the BEA denied receiving such a request.
An Iranian cargo ship docked in Caracas Monday with food to stock Venezuela's first Iranian supermarket. According to Russ Dallen, head of the Miami-based investment firm Caracas Capital Markets, the Golsan, which left Iran's Shahid Rajaee port on May 17, "can carry 23,000 tons... enough food for a whole chain of Iranian supermarkets across the country, not just one." Foreign currency shortages have reduced the Maduro regime to plundering the central bank's gold reserves to cover the importation of bare necessities, reportedly paying 9 tons of gold ($500 million) for Iranian petrol last month, leaving the country with just $6.3 billion in hard-currency assets.
Weeks of peaceful demonstrations in Tataouine against the government's failure to honor a 2017 deal to alleviate the poverty in the region turned violent Sunday following the arrest of Tarek Haddad, the protestors' spokesman. With a 30 percent unemployment rate, the Tataouine region is one of the country's poorest. In 2017, protestors shut the main oil pipeline at El Kamour, frustrated that oil companies in the area mostly hire people from elsewhere. The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) then brokered a deal between the government and protestors whereby (1) local oil companies would hire 1,500 Tataouine residents by the end of 2017; (2) 3,000 more would receive government jobs; and (3) the government would invest 80 million Tunisian dinars ($28 million) a year in Tataouine. Police Sunday fired tear gas at protestors blocking roads with burning tires while the interior ministry stated that 10 were arrested for trying to attack police stations with Molotov cocktails. Tataouine's UGTT branch on Monday called for a general strike in the region.
The White House will hold meetings this week about giving Netanyahu's government a "green light" to annex parts of the West Bank. Participants will include Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz. Friedman, and to a lesser extent Pompeo, appear to be the advocates of approving annexation. President Trump will likely join the meetings at some point to make a final decision.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum