Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disclosed late Tuesday that the US will "waive restrictions on the sale of non-lethal defense articles and services to the Republic of Cyprus for the coming fiscal year." Washington restricted arms sales to Cyprus in 1987 to prevent an arms race with Northern Cyprus, an entity created by Turkey when it invaded the northern third of the island in 1974. Turkey's Foreign Ministry in turn warned, "If the US does not reconsider lifting its arms embargo on the Greek Cypriots, Turkey will take counter steps." This comes amid a standoff between Turkish and Greek warships in the eastern Mediterranean over competing maritime boundary claims, which drew in Nicosia when the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation sent the Yavuz drillship and three support vessels to Cypriot waters.
An unpublished report submitted to the UN by independent sanctions monitors, and seen by Reuters, accuses Russia, Turkey, and the UAE of flagrantly disregarding the UN arms embargo on Libya, first imposed through Security Council Resolution 1970 (2011) and expanded by many subsequent resolutions. The monitors found Russian support for the Wagner Group, a Russian state-sponsored private military contractor backing Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), "significantly increased from January 2020 to June 2020." They further documented some 338 "suspicious flights from Syria by Russian Federation military aircraft" to Libya between November 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020. Last May, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Christopher Robinson accused Moscow of sending pro-Assad Syrian fighters to Libya to participate in Wagner Group operations. Soon thereafter, US Africa Command posted a statement on its website confirming Moscow dispatched to Libya fourth generation jet fighters, which were repainted in Syria to camouflage their Russian origin, to provide close air support for the Wagner Group. The independent monitors also concluded that, "since the more direct engagement by Turkey in December 2019 and the United Arab Emirates in January 2020, arms transfers to Libya by those two member states have been extensive, blatant and with complete disregard to the sanctions measures."
Syria's official SANA news outlet reported Wednesday IDF jets targeted Tiyas Military Airbase near Homs. According to Damascus, Syrian air defenses intercepted most of the rockets and there were no casualties. Israel has attacked the country's largest airbase several times during the Syrian civil war, alleging Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps uses it to transfer weapons to Hezbollah.
A day after French President Emmanuel Macron gave Lebanon's leaders eight weeks to enact reforms or face possible sanctions, Al Jazeera obtained a draft of Macron's demands. He expects Lebanon's next government to provide a schedule for IMF talks within 15 days of taking office. Negotiations between Beirut and the IMF broke down last July when the government and financial sector could not agree on the scale of losses in the banking system during the ongoing crisis. The draft additionally requires – inter alia – implementing an IMF-approved capital control law, auditing the central bank, appointing members to and adequately funding the National Anti-Corruption Commission, reforming the electricity sector, pursuing public procurement reform, and organizing new parliamentary elections within a year.
Riyadh announced Wednesday that flights to and from the UAE "from all countries" may henceforth use Saudi airspace. Monday's El Al flight transporting Israeli and American delegations to Abu Dhabi for discussions with Emirati officials about normalizing relations represented the first time an Israeli jet traversed Saudi airspace, making the trip three hours and forty minutes instead of seven hours. In 2018, Air India established a New Delhi-Tel Aviv route crossing Saudi airspace, the first time the kingdom permitted a direct flight to Israel using its airspace.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei doubled down on his fulminating against the Israel-UAE peace agreement, adding explicit anti-Semitism to the mix, tweeting: "The nation of Palestine is under various, severe pressures. Then, the UAE acts in agreement with the Israelis & filthy Zionist agents of the U.S. —such as the Jewish member of Trump's family— with utmost cruelty against the interests of the World of Islam." This follows UAE foreign ministry official Jamal al-Musharakh dismissing earlier comments by Khamenei as "incitement and hate speech" and "rhetoric [that] is counterproductive to peace in the region."
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
President Donald Trump directed the State Department to suspend some aid to Ethiopia due to concern about Addis Ababa's unilateral decision to commence filling the dam before reaching an agreement with its neighbors. A congressional source said the US will cut $100 million in aid, but not touch funding for HIV/AIDS, the food for peace program, international disaster assistance, and migration and refugee assistance. The $4.6 billion dam, funded entirely through tax revenue and government bonds, aims to provide electricity to the 60 percent of Ethiopia's population unconnected to the country's power grid and turn the country into a major energy exporter. Cairo and Khartoum fear that filling the dam too quickly could threaten their water supply, particularly devastating Egyptian agriculture.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum