Egypt's parliament Monday unanimously authorized "the deployment of members of the Egyptian armed forces on combat missions outside Egypt's borders to defend Egyptian national security." The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported Sunday that Monday's vote would grant President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi a mandate to "intervene militarily in Libya to help defend the western neighbor against Turkish aggression." Cairo supports Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) government with which the LNA is affiliated, against the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). Over the weekend, the GNA dispatched additional military vehicles to central Libya as part of an operation to capture Sirte and al-Jufra airbase. President Sisi stated on June 20 that GNA forces entering Sirte or al-Jufra would cross a red line that might trigger direct Egyptian military intervention while the HoR passed a resolution last Monday approving such an intervention. President Sisi spoke on the telephone with President Trump right before Monday's parliamentary vote. Neither side provided details about the conversation, particularly whether Washington gave Egypt a green light to reinforce LNA units defending Sirte and al-Jufra airbase.
Two Saudi sources allege that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman orchestrated a Twitter campaign over the weekend accusing former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef and his aide, ex-intelligence official Saad al-Jabri, of corruption to discredit Mohammed bin Nayef ahead of a possible indictment. Police arrested Mohammed bin Nayef and Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz, a brother of King Salman, last March after they reportedly attempted to sway the Allegiance Council, responsible for selecting the next monarch, to block Mohammed bin Salman's accession. Riyadh seeks Saad al-Jabri's extradition from Canada on charges of embezzling Interior Ministry funds while heading an antiterrorism unit. Saudi authorities detained two of al-Jabri's children in March to induce him to return voluntarily as Ottawa has denied Riyadh's extradition request. Earlier this month, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) sent President Trump a letter urging him to press senior Saudi officials to release al-Jabri's children immediately and praising Saad al-Jabri as "a highly valued partner" of American intelligence agencies whose counter-terrorism work helped save thousands of American lives. 84-year-old King Salman's hospitalization Monday with gallbladder inflammation and broader concerns about his health make Mohammed bin Salman securing his succession more urgent.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates Space Agency-funded Hope Mars probe was launched into space Sunday using a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA launcher at Japan's Tanegashima Space Center. Constructed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in conjunction with the University of Colorado, Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Arizona State University, and the University of California, Berkeley, the project is part of the plan to transition the UAE's petroleum-dependent economy to one centered on "knowledge-based" industries. Upon reaching Mars in February 2021, the probe will study the Martian atmosphere and make its findings freely available to 200 universities and research institutes.
On the day Iran transferred the black boxes from Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 – shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps last January – to France's Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne rejected Tehran's assertion that the incident was attributable to "human error" and stated the black boxes would play an important role in identifying those criminally liable for shooting down the plane. A week ago, Iran's Civil Aviation Organization released a report blaming the downing of the jet on the relocation and improper reorientation of the surface-to-air missile battery responsible as well as a breakdown in communication between the troops operating the battery and their commanders. Two days later, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asserted, "It is early to say that the plane was shot down as a result of human error, as the Iranian side claims" and "we need a large number of authoritative, unbiased, objective answers about what happened." Champagne took an even harder line today, saying, "All the facts and circumstances point to more than just a human error. So, certainly we will continue to pursue vigorously the investigation. We will continue to hold Iran – the Iranian regime – to account."
Iran's judiciary Monday decided to retry three demonstrators sentenced to death for their participation 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." After the Iranian judiciary initially upheld the death sentences last Tuesday, "#DontExecute" in Persian became the most-tweeted hashtag within Iran, being used more than 7 million times, and demonstrators chanting anti-regime slogans turned out in the cities of Shiraz and Behbahan to protest the judiciary's decision. Ebrahim Raisi, the Chief Justice of Iran, declared Monday that the new trials are unrelated to the popular furor.
Syria on Sunday held its third parliamentary election during the civil war, after postponing it twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the electoral commission was supposed to release the results of the election on Tuesday, the state-controlled SANA news agency reported Monday that voting irregularities in five out of 7,000 electoral districts will require holding new elections in those constituencies and a delay of indeterminate length in reporting the results of Sunday's voting. Anyway, virtually all of the candidates support the Assad regime. Middle East Institute Syria expert Karam Shaar, whose analysis demonstrates how the Assad regime uses elections to reward loyalty, explained that, "this time around, warlords and militiamen are expected to win even more seats for their contributions to the state over the past four years
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on Monday told AFP, "At least six Israeli missiles hit several positions belonging to regime forces and pro-Iran militias south of Damascus" and Syrian "Air defenses did not intercept a single target." SANA said the attack "wounded seven Syrian soldiers and led to material damage."
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum