Demonstrators chanting anti-regime slogans turned out in the cities of Shiraz and Behbahan to protest the Iranian judiciary upholding Tuesday the death sentences of three participants in last November's fuel protests. 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." By midday Tuesday, "#DontExecute" in Persian became the most-tweeted hashtag within Iran, being used more than 7 million times, and social media activists subsequently called for nationwide demonstrations at 7 PM Thursday. Witnesses told Reuters security forces dispersed the demonstrators in Behbahan with tear gas.
During remarks at the German Marshall Fund of the United States Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker described the EU mission to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya as unserious because it only targets Turkey: "The only interdictions that they are doing is of Turkish military material that they're sending to Libya. Nobody is interdicting Russian aircraft. Nobody is interdicting Emirati aircraft. Nobody is interdicting the Egyptians."
Cairo's involvement in the Libyan civil war will likely escalate as the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) passed a resolution Monday night inviting Egypt to repel the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) forces intent on capturing Sirte and al-Jufra airbase. On Thursday, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told a HoR delegation, "Egypt possesses the strongest army in the region and the continent of Africa and is able to change the military scene quickly and decisively in Libya if it wishes to do so."
Schenker added that, if the EU really wanted to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya, "they could, for example, designate the Wagner Group." US Africa Command (AFRICOM) published a press release Wednesday accusing the Russian state-sponsored Wagner Group of laying landmines and IEDs around Tripoli, among other violations of the UN arms embargo.
David Schenker acknowledged that some of Prime Minister Netanyahu's supporters "want annexation, but aren't particularly enamored of the vision for peace that calls for a Palestinian state as well." He then pressed Israel "not to do anything that would preclude the implementation of the vision" of a Palestinian state.
A day after Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned amid a corruption scandal, protesters in the city of Tataouine closed Tunisia's largest oil pumping station to pressure the government to implement a 2017 deal to alleviate the poverty in the region. In 2017, protestors shut the same station, 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. Around 150 protestors threatening to close the pumping station camped out in front of the facility several days ago.
The Sudanese Sovereign Council eliminated execution and flogging as penalties for homosexuality while maintaining life imprisonment as a maximum sentence for a third offense. Over the past week, Khartoum has outlawed female genital mutilation, abolished its apostasy law, and permitted non-Muslims to drink alcohol.
The UN Security Council held a virtual meeting Wednesday to address the dangers posed by an abandoned 44-year-old oil tanker, anchored about 37 miles north of Hodeidah and containing more than 1 million barrels of crude oil. The Houthis seized the FSO Safer in 2015 and have largely blocked access to the deteriorating tanker since, insisting that they receive all the proceeds from the oil's sale. Seawater has already entered the engine compartment, increasing its risk of sinking. A spill woud likely close Hodeidah, the main port of entry for aid to Yemen, for months and UN Environment Program Executive Director Inger Andersen warns it could release four times more oil than the Exxon Valdez in 1989.
An Istanbul court convicted in absentia German-Turkish Die Welt journalist Deniz Yucel, who lives in Germany, of disseminating Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) propaganda and sentenced him to two years and nine months in prison. The court announced it would pursue additional criminal investigations against him for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the verdict "does not help build confidence in the implementation of the principles of rule of law in Turkey" and tweeted: "Cases of unresolved imprisonment stand in the way of normalizing #Turkey relations with us and with the European Union as a whole."
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum