Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned Wednesday at President Kais Saied's behest with lawmakers, both inside Fakhfakh's coalition and outside, just four votes short of passing a no confidence motion in his government. Fakfakh is accused of owning shares in companies winning government contracts worth $15 million. Tunisia's second democratically elected parliament was only sworn in last November and no party won even a quarter of the vote. The unwieldy governing coalition formed in February includes five parties and independents.
Tasnim news agency reported Wednesday that hardline lawmakers aborted their effort to impeach President Hassan Rouhani, whose term ends in August 2021, after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told parliament Sunday, "I strongly believe that governments should carry on doing their job until the last day of their term of office." Some 200 lawmakers tabled a motion to question Rouhani about his foreign policy performance, particularly the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and an agreement with China that the cabinet approved last month, but has not yet presented to parliament.
In protest of the Iranian judiciary upholding Tuesday the death sentences of three participants in last November's anti-government demonstrations precipitated by fuel subsidy cuts, "#DontExecute" in Persian became the most-tweeted hashtag within Iran by midday. The condemned were charged with "participation in vandalism and arson with the intent to confront and engage in war with the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Owing to the pandemic-caused 21 percent unemployment rate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday the government will send a check to every Israeli 18 years old and above. Single Israelis will receive $218, couples with one child $583, couples with two children $729, and couples with three or more children $875. Senior figures in the finance ministry, Israel's Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses, and several Blue and White MKs object to giving everyone the same grant regardless of economic need. 103 FM Radio released a poll on July 15 showing 68 percent of Israelis are not satisfied with how the government is handling the coronavirus crisis while only 28 percent are satisfied. A Project HaMidgam poll broadcast by Channel 13 on July 12 revealed merely 16 percent of Israelis think the government is handling the pandemic-generated economic crisis well and 75 percent do not. A senior minister anonymously told Reuters that there has been "close to zero" cabinet-level discussion of annexing part of the West Bank since July 1, fighting COVID-19 being the priority. Nevertheless, the Land of Israel Caucus, led by Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) and Haim Katz (Likud), issued a statement Tuesday calling on the Ministerial Legislative Committee to vote Sunday on sending legislation to the Knesset authorizing the settlements' annexation.
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) published a press release Wednesday claiming to have clear photographic evidence that the Russian "state-sponsored Wagner Group laid landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in and around Tripoli, further violating the United Nations arms embargo and endangering the lives of innocent Libyans."
Public Works Minister Michel Najjar Wednesday increased public bus and taxi fares by 50 percent because the Lebanese pound has lost 80 percent of its value against the dollar since last October due to an ongoing financial crisis that last March saw Lebanon default on its sovereign debt for the first time.
The Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation cited Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy Seleshi Bekele saying Wednesday that the government started filling the Grand Renaissance hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, a day after talks with Egypt and Sudan broke down. Bekele, however, denied the report, stating that "pooling" in the dam is attributable to heavy rainfall. Egypt and Sudan each fear the dam will greatly reduce water supply downstream. An official close to the negotiations relayed that Cairo will likely request the UN Security Council hold a session to review their concerns. Egypt is also deliberating whether to convene a mini-summit of African nations to discuss the dam.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum