The German navy frigate Hamburg, an F124 class frigate manned by 250 sailors, departed Wilhelmshaven Tuesday to join the EU mission to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya. This represents the first German contribution to Operation Irini, which Turkey claims is biased against the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). France accused Turkish naval vessels of threatening to attack the French frigate Courbet on June 10 when the latter sought to search a Turkish civilian ship, the Cirkin, suspected of violating the embargo. The Hamburg's five-month mission also involves collecting data on Libya's illegal oil exports and migrant smuggling.
National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien Tuesday condemned "the use of mercenaries and private military contractors, by all sides," in Libya's civil war as well as "ongoing efforts of foreign powers to exploit the conflict – for example, by establishing an enduring military presence or exerting control over resources that belong to the Libyan people." Despite not naming any countries, a Defense Department Inspector General report estimated Turkey sent between 3,500 and 3,800 paid Syrian fighters to Libya over the first three months of 2020 to support the GNA. Meanwhile, approximately 2,000 Russian military contractors are now deployed in Libya to bolster Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA). GNA military spokesman General Abdulhadi Dirah, along with the Syrians for Truth and Justice Organization, reported Russia transferring its own Syrian mercenaries to Libya in recent days. Residents of Sirte, the frontline between GNA and LNA forces, say Russian and other mercenary forces backing the LNA are laying mines and planting improvised explosive devices in anticipation of a battle for the city.
An explosion in Beirut, which authorities are attributing to ammonium nitrate unsafely stored in a warehouse, killed at least 70 and injured more than 4,000. Prime Minister Hassan Diab promised, "Those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price." Lebanese officials informed CNN the government impounded the ammonium nitrate from a ship in 2013 or 2014. The explosion destroyed much of Beirut's port.
Jamshid Sharmahd's son told AP that his father was in Dubai, heading to India for a business deal involving his software company, when Iranian agents abducted him. Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi announced Saturday night the capture of Sharmahd, leader of the Los Angeles-based Tondar monarchist opposition group that Tehran accuses of orchestrating the April 12, 2008 bombing of a Shiraz mosque, killing 14 and wounding 215. Sharmahd appeared Saturday on Iranian state TV blindfolded. Tracking data shows Sharmahd's mobile phone traveling from Dubai to an Islamic school in the Omani city of al-Buraimi, despite Oman closing its borders to tourists. Sharmahd's mobile phone signal stopped last Thursday at the Omani port city of Sohar. Sharmahd's family maintains he is only a spokesman for the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, Tondar's political arm. Since Sharmahd is a German-Iranian dual citizen, Berlin's embassy in Tehran asked Iranian authorities for consular access. However, Iran is unlikely to comply, as it does not recognize dual citizenship.
A fire broke out Tuesday at an industrial area in Jajrud district outside Tehran. Firefighters are still battling the blaze that swept through several buildings. 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. Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei blamed Israel for the July 2 explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility, saying, "The international community must respond and set limits to these dangerous actions by the Zionist regime." The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said the Natanz explosion could set back the country's nuclear program by months.
The Egyptian Parliament's Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee approved Tuesday a bill granting the right of anonymity to survivors of sexual assault and harassment. Those guilty of divulging the identities of victims will face up to six months imprisonment and a fine not exceeding EGP 500. The Ministry of Justice introduced the bill in July after authorities arrested Ahmed Bassam Zaki, who is accused of committing sexual crimes against around 100 women. Prosecutors assert many of his victims hesitated to report him because of fears of being identified and blamed for the assaults. The full parliament will vote on the bill later this month.
Survey data from the Istanbul Chamber of Industry and IHS Markit found Turkish manufacturing activity grew in July at the fastest rate in nine years as the country removed COVID-19 restrictions. Also, inflation declined in July for the first time in three months, falling from June's 12.6 percent (annualized) to 11.8 percent.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday's IDF strikes on Syrian targets killed about 15 Iranian-backed Iraqi militiamen. Israel Monday night bombed Syrian observation posts, intelligence gathering equipment, anti-aircraft cannons, and command-and-control infrastructure in response to four suspects trying to plant explosives near an unmanned IDF post in the southern Golan Heights. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated Tuesday, "We hit a cell and now we hit the dispatchers. We will do what is necessary in order to defend ourselves. I suggest to all of them, including Hezbollah, to consider this."
Malaysian authorities Tuesday raided Al Jazeera's Kuala Lumpur office over Locked Up In Malaysia's Lockdown, a documentary aired on July 3 alleging mistreatment of foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Police also raided local channels Astro and Unifi TV for broadcasting the documentary. Malaysia's Immigration Department announced last month the arrest, imminent expulsion, and permanent blacklisting of Bangladeshi national Mohamad Rayhan Kabir for his criticism of the Malaysian government in the documentary.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum