Police in cities across Sudan clashed Monday with thousands of protestors, arresting at least 77, demanding a quicker transition to democracy and transferring control of military-owned companies to the finance ministry. This occurred on the first anniversary of the Transitional Military Council and Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group signing a power sharing deal creating a joint military-civilian Sovereign Council to rule for 39 months until elections are scheduled. The decentralized Resistance Committees, initially formed to oppose longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir after a brutal 2013 crackdown on demonstrators protesting cuts to fuel and gas subsidies, organized Monday's protests.
Although the Palestinian Authority recalled its ambassador to the UAE in protest of it normalizing ties with Israel, Mohammad Dahlan is more supportive. Dahlan headed the Preventive Security Force in Gaza before Hamas took over the Strip and was a political rival of Mahmoud Abbas until he fled to the UAE after his 2011 expulsion from Fatah. Dahlan retains political ambitions, hinting that he will run in future elections for the Palestinian Presidency. His Democratic Reform Current faction of Fatah said it "followed the [UAE normalization agreement] with extreme interest." Hasan Faraj, Secretary-General of Fatah in the West Bank, accused Dahlan of being "a partner in the creation of this agreement" and forecasts, "After this, Mohammad Dahlan will never be welcomed on Palestinian land again."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced, "We are currently working on enabling direct flights, over Saudi Arabia, between Tel Aviv and Dubai and Abu Dhabi." Although Riyadh in 2018 allowed Air India to use its airspace on its New Delhi-Tel Aviv route, Israeli aircraft are still barred from entering Saudi territory. US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien suggested on NBC News' Meet the Press last Sunday that Saudi Arabia could be the next Arab country to normalize ties with Israel. While Bahrain, Oman, and Egypt have publicly supported the Israel-UAE normalization agreement, Saudi Arabia has not issued any statement on the subject.
The UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation summoned on Sunday the charge d'affaires at the Iranian embassy in Abu Dhabi and handed him a strong note of protest against "unacceptable and inflammatory" statements made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani the previous day. Rouhani threatened, "We are warning them, do not invite Israel into this region... They [the UAE] have made a huge mistake and committed a treacherous act." GCC Secretary-General Nayef bin Falah al-Hajjraf also condemned Rouhani's remarks and said the GCC stands with the UAE against any threats to its sovereignty and security.
The state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) Sunday communicated via the Navigational Telex system that the Yavuz drillship and three support vessels will continue operating in waters claimed by Cyprus between August 18 and September 15 and that vessels are "strongly recommended not to enter the working area." This accompanies a standoff between Turkish and Greek warships in the eastern Mediterranean, which began when Ankara last Monday dispatched the seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis, escorted by Turkish warships, to the Greek continental shelf to search for oil and gas deposits. Greece then sent its own warships to monitor the Turkish flotilla's activity. France and Greece on Thursday conducted joint naval training exercises off Crete, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to "strengthen the French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean" to "monitor the situation in the region and mark its determination to uphold international law." Then on Saturday, Paris announced that a 2017 defense cooperation agreement with Cyprus came into force. Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay in turn asserted, "It is essential for France not to seek adventure in Cyprus-related matters and act much more responsibly." EU High Representative Josep Borrell said Turkey's announcement of continued drilling in Cypriot waters "runs counter and undermines efforts to resume dialogue and negotiations, and to pursue immediate de-escalation, which is the only path towards stability and lasting solutions, as reiterated by EU Foreign Ministers last Friday."
According to UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis, International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon ambassadors on Monday warned Lebanese leaders that, "without urgent reforms that require broad political support, Lebanon cannot count on any bailout." Donor countries, the UN, and the World Bank launched the ISG for Lebanon in September 2013 to address "the increasing impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon." Even before the August 4 ammonium nitrate explosion that destroyed large parts of Beirut, Lebanon was facing the worst financial crisis in its history, the Lebanese pound over the past year losing 80 percent of its value vis-à-vis the dollar. While the IMF forecasted in April that Lebanon's GDP would contract 12 percent this year, Jason Tuvey, a senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, predicted after the explosion a 30 percent contraction. Despite the emergency, Lebanon's government failed to enact 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.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum