The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, created by UN Security Council Resolution 1757 "to prosecute persons responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 resulting in the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri," issued its verdict Tuesday. It convicted one Hezbollah member, Salim Ayyash, and acquitted three others. While many suspect Hezbollah and Damascus assassinated Hariri because he opposed Syria's domination of Lebanon, tribunal judge David Re stated Tuesday that there was "no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Hariri's murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement." Saad Hariri, Rafiq's son and a former prime minister, said after the verdict, "I think today everybody's expectation was much higher than what came out, but I believe the tribunal came out with a verdict that is satisfying and we accept it." Since Hezbollah refused to surrender any suspects to the Netherlands-based tribunal for trial, Ayyash is unlikely to serve any time.
President Mahmoud Abbas hosted a Tuesday meeting in Ramallah – including representatives from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP-GC, and al-Saiqa – dedicated to condemning the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE. Invoking the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, Abbas insisted, "Arabs can normalize relations with Israel after the Palestinian issue is resolved. Therefore, this matter is illegal and unacceptable." Fatah will join the terrorist groups that attended Tuesday's meeting in a Wednesday rally near the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya. Since the UAE announced last Thursday it would normalize relations with Israel, the PA recalled its ambassador from Abu Dhabi and pledged to boycott the World Expo to be hosted by Dubai in 2021. Meanwhile, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein told German media, "Since the agreement between the UAE and Israel is a sign of compromise, travel to Jerusalem is prohibited for Emirati people."
Nahum Barnea published an article in Yedioth Ahronoth claiming a secret clause of the Israel-UAE peace deal involves the US selling F-35 fighter jets and advanced drones to the UAE, departing from a longstanding American policy of not selling weapons systems to Arab countries that would compromise Israeli military superiority. Prime Minister Netanyahu called the report "fake news" and promised, "The United States clarified to Israel that it will always safeguard Israel's qualitative edge." Channel 12 quoted an anonymous White House official saying, "What is in the agreement is what was in the joint statement." Yet, a senior Emirati source claims Netanyahu gave his full approval to the arms sale that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed purportedly made a precondition for any peace deal with Israel.
Gaza's only power plant shut down Tuesday, five days after Israel suspended fuel shipments in retaliation for incendiary balloons from the Strip destroying Israeli farmland. Muhammad Thabet, director of public relations for the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company, believes the suspension will reduce resident's daily hours of electricity from six to three or four.
Sudanese acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din Ismail denied that Foreign Ministry spokesman Haidar Badawi Sadiq's remarks to Sky News Arabia Tuesday about establishing relations with Israel reflect government policy. Sadiq declared Sudan "aspires towards a peace agreement with Israel" and "both Sudan and Israel will benefit from such an agreement if it is signed at the end of this year or the beginning of next year." Ismail countered, "The matter of relations with Israel has not been discussed in the Foreign Ministry at all. No one tasked Haidar Badawi Sadiq with making statements on this matter."
Sultan Haitham bin Tariq issued 28 royal decrees reorganizing government. Reforms include removing the Sultan's direct oversight of the foreign and finance ministries as well as the central bank chairman. This comes a day after Fitch lowered Oman's sovereign rating to BB-, three steps below investment grade and the same rating given by Moody's and Standard & Poor's.
Egypt's Parliament approved Tuesday the maritime deal struck with Greece on August 6 demarcating an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights. Ankara slammed the original agreement as being "null and void" for intruding on Turkey's continental shelf and responded by sending a seismic survey vessel, escorted by Turkish warships, to the Greek continental shelf to search for oil and gas deposits. That in turn prompted Greece to dispatch its own warships to monitor the Turkish flotilla's activity. Paris, already angered by Turkish naval vessels in June threatening a French frigate enforcing the UN arms embargo on Libya, last Thursday conducted naval exercises with Greece after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to "uphold international law" in the eastern Mediterranean.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum