Gerry Simpson, associate crisis and conflict director at Human Rights Watch, lambasted the Houthis Monday for delaying UN experts' access to the FSO Safer, 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 Houthi authorities are recklessly delaying UN experts' access to the deteriorating oil tanker that threatens to destroy entire ecosystems and demolish the livelihoods of millions of people already suffering from Yemen's war." Martin Griffiths, the UN's Special Envoy for Yemen, on Tuesday informed the Security Council that, despite the Houthis confirming in writing earlier this month that they would authorize a UN-supervised technical mission to the tanker, the UN team is still awaiting the permissions necessary to deploy. The Houthis seized the FSO Safer in 2015 and have largely blocked access to the tanker since, insisting that they receive all the proceeds from the oil's sale. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock apprised the Security Council that seawater began leaking into the engine room on May 27, increasing its risk of sinking. A spill would 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.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent letters to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Houthi leader Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres proposing ending the Yemeni civil war through mediation by a committee of international dignitaries. UN Iranian mission spokesman Alireza Miryusefi maintained Ahmadinejad's letter was merely that of a private citizen and his views "have no relation to the government and administration policies at this moment."
The Turkish parliament's justice committee approved a draft bill requiring social media companies with more than one million users in the country to appoint a local legal representative responsible for storing users' data and complying with strict new privacy laws. Penalties for contravening the new social media regulations would include hefty fines and slashing bandwidth by 95 percent. With most mainstream media owned by pro-AKP business groups, thanks to the mass incarceration of journalists and shuttering of opposition newspapers, social media became one of the few remaining outlets for dissent.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin announced on CNN Turk Tuesday the suspension of oil and gas exploration in Greek and Cypriot territorial waters. Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas verified Monday that Turkish naval vessels were evacuating the contested area. It appears Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya negotiated Ankara's hydrocarbon exploration suspension during her Monday visit to Turkey. French President Emmanuel Macron last Thursday demanded the EU impose sanctions on Turkey for its violations of Greek and Cypriot maritime zones.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Tuesday accused Israel of violating his country's sovereignty during a clash between Hezbollah and Israel Monday and filed a complaint with the UN. According to the IDF, between three and five armed Hezbollah militants crossed the border near Mount Dov but fled when the IDF opened fire on them with machine guns and tank shells. Lebanese Forces party chairman Samir Geagea told AP that yesterday's incident demonstrates the Lebanese government does not exercise sovereignty over its southern border.
Iran's COVID-19 death toll Tuesday hit a new record of 235 fatalities as the country faces a new surge of infections. However, President Hassan Rouhani's government is reticent to reimpose lockdown rules that would further damage an economy reeling from American sanctions.
The Syrian government with Russian assistance will construct a smaller Hagia Sophia facsimile in the Hama Governorate's Greek Orthodox-majority city of al-Suqaylabiyah to showcase the Assad regime's good rapport with the country's Christians. Last week, Pope Francis, Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and the World Council of Churches condemned Turkey reconverting the Hagia Sophia, which served for almost a millennium as Constantinople's patriarchal cathedral, into a mosque after being a museum for 86 years.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum