In his first trip abroad since becoming prime minister last May, Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with President Hassan Rouhani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Although he promised Iraq "will not allow any aggression or challenge to Iran from its territory," al-Kadhimi's main message was that good relations should be based on noninterference in the internal affairs of each other's countries. Right after proclaiming that Tehran has never intervened in Iraqi affairs and never will, Khamenei asserted that Iran expects Iraq to expel US forces and called the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) a "great blessing in Iraq, which should be safeguarded." Al-Kadhimi's government has recently tried to crack down on pro-Iranian PMF militias' rocket attacks on American targets in Iraq and extortion of businessmen. Khamenei added, "Iran will never forget the martyrdom of Hajj Qassem Soleimani and will definitely strike a reciprocal blow to the US."
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) asked Marshall Billingslea, Trump's nominee for Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, during his confirmation hearing Tuesday whether he supported continued congressional review of arms sales in light of June 25 media reports that the administration wants to scrap the decades-old policy due to informal holds on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Billingslea replied, "I well know how important the informal notification process is and I support continuing the existing informal notification for the congressional clearance of arms sales."
Ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's trial for launching the bloodless 1989 military coup that brought him to power opened Tuesday, but promptly adjourned until August 11 to find a larger venue. Already sentenced to two years' imprisonment last December on corruption charges, al-Bashir could face capital punishment if convicted in the coup case.
Lebanon's government will hire New York-based Alvarez & Marsal to conduct a forensic audit of the country's central bank. The government called for an audit following the country's first sovereign default last March, when it failed to repay a $1.2 billion Eurobond. Finding a firm without links to Israel accounts for the delay in selecting Alvarez & Marsal. Negotiations between Beirut and the IMF over an initial $10 billion bailout to alleviate the country's financial crisis reached a standstill earlier this month when the government and financial sector could not agree on the scale of losses in the banking system during the ongoing crisis. On Monday, a Lebanese court froze some of central bank governor Riad Salameh's assets as part of a lawsuit filed by "The People Want to Fix the System" activist group, which accused Salameh of inciting a bank run, committing fraud, and neglecting his job. Leaked central bank financial statements from 2018 seen by the Financial Times suggest Salameh employed unorthodox accounting measures to inflate the bank's assets by at least $6 billion.
Turkey's navy Tuesday issued a Navtex advisory for seismic surveys in an area Greece's foreign ministry claims is in its territorial waters, saying in a statement, "We call on Turkey to immediately cease these illegal actions which violate our sovereign rights and undermine peace and security in the area." During a meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned that if Ankara continues hydrocarbon exploration in Greece's territorial waters, the EU could impose sanctions. Maas added, "Regarding Turkey's drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, we have a very clear position - international law must be respected so progress in EU-Turkey relations is only possible if Ankara stops provocations in the eastern Mediterranean."
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Tuesday that the Turkish military will remain in Syria "until the Syrian people are free, peaceful, and safe." He also derided Syria's parliamentary elections held last Sunday: "What kind of an election is that... The citizens have no choice. They had to go and vote for one man [Bashar al-Assad]. Now they will declare a so-called victory and celebrate."
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Tuesday his country reached a "major common understanding, which paves the way for a breakthrough agreement," with Egypt and Sudan about filling the nearly completed $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Cairo and Khartoum fear that filling the dam too quickly could threaten their water supply, particularly devastating Egyptian agriculture. The dam, funded entirely through tax revenue and government bonds, aims to provide electricity to the 60 percent of Ethiopia's population unconnected to the country's power grid and turn the country into a major energy exporter. None of the parties to Tuesday's negotiations, mediated by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, revealed any details of the "common understanding."
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum