Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi announced on state TV Saturday night that security forces arrested inside Iran Jamshid Sharmahd, leader of the Los Angeles-based Tondar monarchist opposition group. Later, state TV aired footage of a blindfolded man claiming to be Sharmahd. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-linked newspaper Javan, however, reported Sunday morning that Tajik authorities arrested Sharmahd and extradited him to Iran. Tajik Interior Minister Ramazan Rahimzoda at a Monday press conference denied his country arrested or extradited Sharmahd. His family verified that he traveled to Tajikistan. Tehran accuses Tondar of orchestrating the April 12, 2008 bombing of a Shiraz mosque, killing 14 and wounding 215.
The Tehran Stock Exchange's benchmark TEDPIX index hit a record high Sunday, up 690 percent from the same time last year. To raise revenue as American sanctions and COVID-19 squeeze the Iranian economy, President Hassan Rouhani's government has been privatizing state-owned businesses and encouraging people to invest in the bourse. With the stock market appearing to be the only Iranian investment offering a generous return, money traditionally parked in bank accounts and real estate is inflating equity prices in what increasingly looks like a financial bubble.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told Al Jazeera in an interview to be broadcast next Wednesday that Islamabad mediated between Saudi Arabia and Iran at America's request and in that capacity succeeded in preventing a military confrontation between the two Gulf powers.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned Monday, accusing Prime Minister Hassan Diab's Hezbollah-backed government of unwillingness to make economic reforms necessary to prevent Lebanon from becoming a "failed state." Hitti's resignation caused the Lebanese pound, which has already lost 80 percent of its value in the last year, to depreciate further. Lebanon's financial crisis is in part attributable to the country's central bank – Bank du Liban – pursuing an expansionary monetary policy while trying to maintain the Lebanese pound's dollar peg by borrowing dollars from Lebanon's commercial banks at high interest rates. To lend dollars to the Bank du Liban, commercial banks attracted dollar deposits through unsustainably high interest rates. Despite the emergency, Diab's government has not enacted the reforms required to unlock $10.2 billion in loans and $860 million in grants pledged at a 2018 donor conference while negotiations between Beirut and the IMF over an initial $10 billion bailout reached a standstill in July when the government and financial sector could not agree on the scale of losses in the banking system during the ongoing crisis. Diab replaced Hitti with Charbel Wahbe, President Michel Aoun's diplomatic adviser.
Syria's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday condemning a deal between the de facto autonomous Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria (Rojava) and the American firm Delta Crescent Energy to develop and export the region's crude oil. The statement said the "agreement is null and void" and an attempt "to steal Syria's oil." The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control approved the deal last April and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed its existence during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Thursday.
The IDF Monday night bombed Syrian observation posts, intelligence gathering equipment, anti-aircraft cannons, and command-and-control infrastructure in response to a bomb-planting incident thwarted Sunday in the southern Golan Heights. In that incident, Israeli troops killed four suspects trying to plant explosives near an unmanned IDF post.
Former Spanish King Juan Carlos left Spain Monday amid an investigation by Spanish Supreme Court prosecutors into whether he received $100 million in kickbacks from Saudi Arabia in 2008 to facilitate the construction of a bullet train between Mecca and Medina by a Spanish consortium. Juan Carlos disclosed his intention to leave Spain in a letter to his son King Felipe, saying that his absence would contribute to the "tranquility" the King requires to discharge his functions and is now disrupted by "the public repercussions that certain past events of my private life are generating." The former monarch's attorney reassured the Supreme Court Monday that Juan Carlos "remains at the disposition of [Spanish prosecutors] for any formalities or actions considered opportune."
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune Sunday ordered an investigation into the confluence in recent days of forest fires, bank liquidity shortages, and power and water cuts. Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad claimed these events cannot be a coincidence and must be "organized actions aimed at creating discord and instability in the country." Mass protests that forced former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in April 2019 persisted until their suspension in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many demonstrators rejected the legitimacy of the December 2019 presidential election because of the continued prevalence of Bouteflika-affiliated politicians in government. However, Bloomberg reported last week that many "Algerians are getting restless to return to the streets and resume their protests against the military-led elite." The government has a track record of prosecuting protestors for "destabilizing" activities. Prosecutors Monday requested an Algiers court sentence Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni to a four-year prison term for "inciting an unarmed gathering" and undermining the nation's "territorial integrity" while covering an anti-government protest last March for French-language television channel TV5Monde.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum