During his Thursday visit to Beirut, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated that aid to alleviate Lebanon's financial crisis is contingent on hitherto unimplemented reforms. France hosted a donor conference in 2018 that pledged $10.2 billion in loans and $860 million in grants, mainly to revamp the country's ailing infrastructure, if Lebanon reduced its budget deficit through – among other measures – improved collection of taxes and reducing transfers to Electricity of Lebanon. Since then, Lebanon's sovereign debt has grown to 170 percent of GDP and Le Drian asserted that progress on the electricity front is "not encouraging." He added that Lebanon needed to stay out of conflicts in other Middle Eastern countries, clearly referring to Hezbollah. Negotiations between Beirut and the IMF over a $10 billion bailout stalled 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.
French President Emmanuel Macron requested Thursday that the EU impose sanctions on Turkey for its involvement in the Libyan civil war and continuing hydrocarbon exploration in Greek and Cypriot territorial waters: "I stand fully behind Cyprus and Greece in the face of the Turkish violations of their sovereignty. It is unacceptable that the maritime space of [EU] member states be violated and threatened... Those who are doing that must be sanctioned." On Wednesday, a Greek naval source informed AFP, "Navy units have been deployed since yesterday in the south and southeastern Aegean" after Turkey's navy Tuesday issued a Navtex for seismic surveys in waters claimed by Athens.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi acknowledged Thursday, "In recent months, a couple of cyber attacks on a broader scale have been launched against the country's infrastructures, and with the analysis of the dimensions and the technology used [in the attacks], one can say they have been sponsored or launched by governments." He then warned, "Iran reserves the right to take the appropriate and proportional reciprocal action at the appropriate time." However, Mousavi insisted, "The recent fires have had nothing to do with the cyber attacks." Over the past month, fires and explosions have occurred at or near dozens of strategic facilities, most notably a fire at the Natanz nuclear complex that a Middle Eastern intelligence official attributed to Israel. But, both the intelligence official and an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps member briefed on the Natanz incident blamed a bomb for the fire.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin implored parties to "stop talk of early elections" on the same day that Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked called for the coalition's dissolution. Two polls published Thursday, from Channel 12 News and Channel 13 News, showed Yamina doubling its Knesset representation, mostly at Likud's expense. Deputy Minister of Education Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) in a Kan Reshet Bet interview lambasted Benny Gantz's Blue and White faction for backing a bill outlawing gay conversion therapy. Anonymous Netanyahu associates yesterday said the Prime Minister wanted new elections in November to regain control of the justice ministry before witnesses start testifying against him in January in his trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud, and breach of trust. These rumors stem from Netanyahu and Gantz's disagreement over whether to pass a one- or two-year budget. Netanyahu, the finance ministry, and Bank of Israel advocate a one-year budget because of the COVID-19-induced economic uncertainty while Gantz refuses to budge on the coalition agreement that requires a two-year budget. Failure to pass a budget would entail new elections.
Iran's official IRIB news agency Thursday alleged two American fighter jets came so close to a Mahan Air plane over Syria that, when it changed altitude to avoid a collision, several passengers were lightly injured. The Iranian plane successfully completed its flight from Tehran to Beirut.
According to the Royal Court, King Salman on Thursday successfully underwent gallbladder removal surgery at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh and the 84 year-old monarch will convalesce at the hospital for an undisclosed period of time.
The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord's (GNA) prosecutor general's office released a list of suspects responsible for the mass graves discovered in Tarhouna after driving out Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) last June. The suspects belong to the LNA's 9th Brigade and prosecutor general's office will circulate the list in the hopes of securing the suspects' arrest.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum