Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called Friday for holding parliamentary elections on June 6, 2021, nearly a year early. Parliament must ratify the new election date. Fair early elections was a central demand of those participating in 2019's mass protests, which also took aim at government corruption, unemployment, and poor public services. Due to widespread alienation from the political system, voter turnout fell from 62 percent in the 2014 parliamentary election to 44.5 percent in 2018. Facing public pressure to make lawmakers more accountable to the electorate and less beholden to their factions, parliament passed an electoral law in December 2019 that switches Iraq from a proportional party-list system within Iraq's 18 provinces to one of directly electing lawmakers in single-member districts. However, the process of creating new voting regulations and drawing electoral constituency boundaries remains undetermined. A United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) statement praised "early elections [as] fulfill[ing] a key popular demand on the road to greater stability and democracy in Iraq" and UNAMI offered "to provide support and technical advice as requested by Iraq to ensure free, fair and credible elections that win the public's trust."
Ukraine and Iran concluded Friday the first round of negotiations regarding compensation for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 last January. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that negotiators agreed on the terms for the next round in October and that Ukraine would not let Iran drag out the negotiations. Kuleba added, "Of course, if the negotiations with Iran are unsuccessful, then we will go to international courts and I have absolutely no doubt that we will bring Iran to justice. But this is plan B." However, Kuleba claimed Friday's talks were "constructive" because Iran "agreed to fulfill all of its obligations under the international aviation conventions to which it is a party." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in February rejected Tehran's compensation offer of $80,000 per victim as insufficient.
During a televised speech on Eid al-Adha, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out talks with the US, saying: "At the negotiating table, America wants us to abandon our nuclear industry altogether, reduce our defense capabilities, and relinquish our regional influence." While the Trump administration has offered to negotiate a new nuclear deal without preconditions after pulling out of the JCPOA in 2018, Khamenei maintains America's goal is regime change and that biting sanctions are intended to induce impoverished Iranians to "stand up against the [theocratic] system."
At a Friday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany condemned Twitter for restricting some of President Trump's tweets, but not those of Ayatollah Khamenei, even when they call for Israel's destruction. A Twitter representative told the Knesset Wednesday that Khamenei's tweets do not violate the company's rules against hate speech because they constitute "foreign policy saber-rattling."
A military court affiliated with Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) sentenced local photojournalist Ismail Bouzreeba al-Zway to 15 years in prison for working at al-Nabaa, a news channel broadcast from Turkey, the rival Government of National Accord's (GNA) main patron. 2017 legislation by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, to which the LNA is nominally subservient, empowers military courts to prosecute anyone suspected of supporting terrorism. Unidentified forces initially arrested al-Zway in December 2018 while he was covering a ceremony honoring teachers in Ajdabiya. The LNA military court did not specify any terrorist offense committed by al-Zway, whose beat is Ajdabiya community events. The LNA similarly abducted Libyan journalists Mohamed al-Qurj and Mohamed al-Shibani, who worked for Qatar-based Libya Alahrar, as Doha also supports the GNA.
Save the Children closed two facilities in Darfur Thursday, depriving more than 14,000 children of life-saving health services, in a sign that Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok's July 27 promise to dispatch security forces to Darfur has not restored stability. Last January, the government signed a preliminary peace deal with Darfuri rebel groups that encouraged farmers driven off their land by Arab pastoralist Janjaweed militiamen years ago to return for the July-November planting season. However, those pastoralists have attacked the returnees over the past few weeks, sacking several villages and killing at least 80 civilians.
In a Friday speech, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan committed Turkey to winning military victories in the various conflicts in which it is engaged throughout the Middle East: "We are determined to make sure that our struggle in the vast region from Iraq to Syria and Libya ends in victory for our country and our friends."
Turkey's Council of Higher Education banned students studying Kurdish language and literature from writing dissertations in Kurdish. State schools began offering Kurdish elective language courses seven years ago during the Erdogan government's 2013–2015 ceasefire with the PKK.
The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence for perpetrating the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing on the grounds that the trial judge did not adequately question jurors to identify the degree to which they had been exposed to facts of the case through media coverage.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum