US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft and US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook presented to the Security Council behind closed doors Wednesday the case for extending the 13-year-old UN arms embargo on Iran. The Trump administration and an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives favor extending the arms embargo, which the 2015 nuclear deal scheduled to end in October 2020 if Iran adhered to the JCPOA. Hook told Reuters Tuesday night that "extending the arms embargo is the right and necessary thing to do and every member of the Security Council knows this whether they say this publicly or not." Hook opined that Moscow and Beijing's opposition to the extension was creating a widening gap between those countries and the international community, pointing to Russia and China casting the only votes Friday against an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution criticizing Iran for blocking inspectors' access to two sites. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Tuesday on Twitter: "If the @UN
Arms Embargo on Iran expires in October, Iran will be able to buy new fighter aircraft like Russia's SU-30 and China's J-10. With these highly lethal aircraft, Europe and Asia could be in Iran's crosshairs. The U.S. will never let this happen."
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions Wednesday on the captains of five Iranian ships that delivered over 1.5 million barrels of gasoline and gasoline components to Maduro's regime in Venezuela last month. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, "The Iranian regime's support to the authoritarian and corrupt regime in Venezuela is unacceptable, and the Administration will continue to use its authorities to disrupt it."
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit told the UN Security Council Wednesday that "Israeli annexation plans would not only be detrimental to the chances of peace today but will destroy any prospects for peace in the future" and could ignite "a religious war in and beyond our region." Then, during a speech to the Arab League's legislature, the Arab Parliament, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to dissolve the PA if Israel annexes so much as one centimeter of the West Bank, which he said would "obligate Israel to bear the responsibilities in occupied land as an occupying power according to the Fourth Geneva Convention." Belgium, Britain, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, and Norway issued a joint statement Wednesday saying, "Under international law, annexation would have consequences for our close relationship with Israel and would not be recognized by us." This comes a day after 1,080 parliamentarians from 25 European countries published an open letter insisting, "Europe must take the lead in bringing international actors together to prevent annexation and to safeguard the prospects of the two-state solution and a just resolution to the conflict." Secretary Pompeo, on the other hand, told reporters, "Decisions about Israelis extending sovereignty to those places are decisions for the Israelis to make."
Whether Netanyahu's government proceeds with annexing any territory in July remains up in the air, with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi allegedly trying to prevent it. Even if the Knesset tries to extend Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, Kan News on Wednesday reported Ashkenazi saying privately, "I assume there won't be annexation in the Jordan Valley. Everyone understands that."
With most ballots from Tuesday's primary in New York's 16th congressional district counted, Jamaal Bowman has almost certainly defeated House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel, a pro-Israel Democrat who opposed the JCPOA in 2015. The Bernie Sander-endorsed Bowman, conversely, believes "we need to stand up to this far-right authoritarian movement that's taking place across the world... whether that's in Saudi Arabia, Hungary, Brazil, India, Israel, or here in the U.S."
The Lebanese pound continued its slide Tuesday, trading above 6,000 per dollar on the black market. A financial crisis caused the Lebanese pound to lose about 75 percent of its value since October and was trading at 5,000 pounds per dollar only a week ago. Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, speaking at an emergency meeting of his Amal Movement, demanded the government initiate immediate reforms to secure IMF assistance. Lebanon's crisis has worsened since defaulting on a $1.2 billion Eurobond on March 9, the first sovereign default in the country's history, including during the 1975-1990 civil war.
Aguila Saleh, the speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives aligned with Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army, on Wednesday officially invited Egypt to intervene militarily to repel an imminent, Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) attack on Sirte. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi warned Saturday that the fall of Sirte or al-Jufra airbase would be a "red line" for Egypt that could trigger direct military intervention. Despite Sisi's threat, GNA spokesman Mustafa al-Mujie proclaimed Tuesday, "All of our forces are working hard at preparations for the operation to liberate Sirte."
Iraq's parliament passed a bill Wednesday authorizing domestic and foreign borrowing to cover public salaries as low oil prices shrink government revenue. Iraqi officials informed AP that the government intends to borrow the money from state banks because failure to pass legislation cutting public sector salaries and pensions rules out an IMF loan.
Sudanese authorities and IMF staff reached a preliminary agreement to mobilize adequate financing for Khartoum's reform program, which focuses on "reducing fiscal and external deficits to contain inflation, strengthening social programs to mitigate the impact of adjustment and address the fallout of COVID-19, and improving the business environment and governance." Daniel Kanda, who led the June 8-21 IMF Sudan mission, further recommended debt relief under the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Country initiative. Sudan's debt burden stood at over 190 percent of GDP in 2019.
Saudi Arabia deployed soldiers Wednesday in Abyan Governorate to monitor a mostly respected truce between President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's internationally recognized government and the UAE-backed, separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC). Riyadh brokered the truce after the STC captured Socotra Island over the weekend from Hadi's Yemen National Army.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum