Parliamentary Speaker Rached Ghannouchi from the Islamist Ennahdha party narrowly survived a vote of no confidence, the opposition coming up 12 votes short. This comes two weeks after Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned five months into his premiership after being accused of owning shares in companies winning government contracts worth $15 million. President Kais Saied Saturday tapped Hichem Mechichi, Fakhfakh's interior minister and a politically independent technocrat, to form the next government. Tunisia's second democratic parliamentary election, held in October 2019, resulted in a fragmented legislature including 20 parties, none of which won even a quarter of the seats, and 12 independents.
Houthi authorities Thursday released six prominent Baha'i prisoners – including Hamed bin Haydara – who was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to death on charges of apostasy and spying for Israel. Iran and its Houthi ally often accuse Baha'is of spying for Israel because the religious movement's headquarters is located in Haifa. Baha'is have faced systematic persecution, including execution, in Iran since the sect's 19th century foundation and the recent harassment of Yemen's tiny Bahai community is largely inspired by Iran. Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, leader of the Houthi movement, delivered an April 2018 speech that branded the Baha'is infidels and posited, "Those who destroy the faith in people are no less evil and dangerous than those who kill people with their bombs." Even though Mahdi al-Mashat, president of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, ordered the unconditional release of all Baha'i prisoners last March, the Houthis only started freeing them today and some remain in custody.
Megasis, the first Iranian-owned Venezuelan supermarket, opened in Caracas on Thursday. Iran is one of the few countries helping Nicolas Maduro's regime evade US sanctions. Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Kozak said during a telephone press briefing, "Iran is not going to save Venezuela from the situation it has put itself in, but it does put itself in a more dangerous situation by playing these games." He called the Tehran-Caracas relationship "an alliance of pariah states" and predicted that Venezuela will not be able to pay for Iranian goods. Despite possessing the world's largest oil reserves, Venezuela's economic collapse forced Maduro's regime to sell off its dwindling oil reserves to cover basic imports, such as food and medicine.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disclosed in a Thursday press statement, "The State Department is identifying 22 specific materials used in connection with Iran's nuclear, military, or ballistic missile programs. Those who knowingly transfer such materials to Iran are now sanctionable pursuant to Section 1245 of the Iranian Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act."
Iraqi oil exports increased in July compared with June, suggesting one of the least compliant parties to the April OPEC + oil cut agreement still will not adhere to its quota. According to the original deal, OPEC+ members were supposed to slash production collectively by 9.7 million bpd in May and June before raising output by 2 million bpd in July. In early June, OPEC+ decided to extend the 9.7 million bpd cut to July with the expectation that delinquent members would compensate for past overproduction.
Hisham Daoud, an advisor to Iraq's prime minister, announced at a Thursday press conference that 560 protesters and members of the security forces died in the 2019 protests against government corruption, unemployment, and poor public services and each victim's family will receive $8,380 in compensation. The 2019 unrest forced former Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to resign last November.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi stated at a Knesset session Wednesday that "annexation is off the agenda" and "no one is talking about it, justifiably." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz signed a coalition deal in April that authorized the cabinet, starting on July 1, to take up legislation to annex parts of the West Bank.
During Secretary Pompeo's appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) urged him and the administration "to do everything you can to support [Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla] Hamdok and to make sure we seize this opportunity... to build a new democratic partner in the region," in the context of Khartoum paying compensation to the families of the victims of the 1998 bombings of America's embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Pompeo responded, "I think lifting the state sponsor of terrorism designation there if we can... take care of the victims of those tragedies would be a good thing for American foreign policy" and legislation on a settlement should come before Congress "in the very, very near term."
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum