Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a letter Thursday to Indonesia's UN ambassador, currently president of the UN Security Council, calling for the reimposition of sanctions removed by Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) into international law. Under the deal, any party contending Iran is not upholding its commitments can notify the Security Council, which then has 30 days to pass a resolution to continue lifting sanctions, thereby giving any permanent Security Council member a veto over lifting sanctions. Pompeo's letter accused Iran of being "in significant non-performance of its JCPOA commitments," an assessment shared by the International Atomic Energy Agency. China and Russia each countered that the US forfeited its right to trigger snapback sanctions when it left the JCPOA in 2018.
The Trump administration is particularly keen on extending the 13-year-old UN arms embargo on Iran, which Security Council Resolution 2231 scheduled to end in October 2020 as long as Tehran adhered to the JCPOA. On August 14, only the Dominican Republic joined the US in voting for a Security Council resolution to extend the embargo. Secretary Pompeo insisted Thursday, "The United States will never allow the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles, and other kinds of conventional weapons." Illustrating the embargo's importance, Colombian President Ivan Duque on Thursday asserted, "There is information from international intelligence organisms that work with us which shows there is interest from the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro in acquiring some medium and long-range missiles through Iran" and that Maduro's regime transfers weapons to armed Colombian groups.
Two sources with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed Wednesday that Turkey discovered energy, probably natural gas, in the Black Sea, but did not disclose the find's magnitude. However, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would announce Friday "the beginning of a new era" for the nation, which has a $35-50 billion annual energy import bill. Although the Turkish lira strengthened after Wednesday's news, it continued its depreciation when the central bank left the benchmark interest rate unchanged Thursday. The lira has lost roughly 20 percent of its value vis-à-vis the US dollar this year. This comes amid a two-week standoff between the Turkish navy, escorting drilling vessels in Greek and Cypriot waters, and the Greek navy, backed up by French warships.
United Arab Emirates
Emirati Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said at a Thursday Atlantic Council event, "The UAE has indicated that it wants F-35s. The first time we made this request was 6 years ago. We ought to get them. It should be easier to get them... With the signing of the new accord and the added assurances it provides, we expect closer security cooperation among all three countries including on air defense and systems." Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz sent a biting letter to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Director of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat for excluding him from a June 2 phone call in which Ben-Shabbat asked the Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, whether Israel's position on Arab states, including those with diplomatic relations with Israel, acquiring F-35 stealth fighter jets has changed. President Trump said Wednesday night the US is considering selling F-35s to the UAE. Nahum Barnea published an article in Yedioth Ahronoth Tuesday claiming a secret clause of the Israel-UAE peace deal involves the US selling F-35s and advanced drones to the UAE, but Netanyahu called the report "fake news" while his office stated the Prime Minister "has opposed the sale of F-35 jets and other advanced weapons of any sort in the Middle East, including Arab states that make peace with the State of Israel."
Without providing further details, Tehran announced Thursday that it seized a UAE-registered ship, and arrested its crew, on Monday for violating Iran's territorial waters. It also accused UAE coastguards of killing two Iranian fishermen earlier on Monday.
During his first meeting with President Trump, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi denounced recent Turkish attacks on Kurdish targets in Iraq while conceding, "The Iraqi constitution does not allow Iraqi territory to be used to attack any neighboring country," adding that Baghdad is "entering dialogue with Turkey to rectify this situation." Turkey has launched multiple incursions into Iraq since 1992 to neutralize the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the latest – "Operation Claw-Tiger" – commencing on June 17, 2020.
Yemen's internationally recognized government rejected Wednesday the Houthi rebels conditioning UN experts inspecting the abandoned FSO Safer tanker on receiving the vessel's oil. The Houthis seized the 44-year-old oil ship, anchored about 37 miles north of Hodeidah, in 2015 and have largely blocked access to it since. Seawater began leaking into the ship's engine room on May 27, increasing its risk of sinking and causing an oil spill that would likely close Hodeidah, the main port of entry for aid to Yemen, for months. Accordingly, a Yemeni Foreign Ministry statement issued Wednesday stressed the tanker's oil "must be disposed of in order to avoid a humanitarian and environmental disaster."
On Thursday, an officer from Yemen's internationally recognized government told Arab News, "We have counted 966 Houthis, including senior officers, killed in the fighting in Marib over the last four days." The government, which receives massive air support from Saudi Arabia, reportedly suffered dozens of casualties as well. Houthi official media claims the group is close to capturing Marib city, the target of a Houthi offensive since ousting government forces from al-Jawf Governorate.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum