Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) on Thursday reinstated Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha six days after suspending him for the duration of an investigation into his purported role in a violent crackdown on protestors. Al-Sarraj reportedly fears Bashaga launching a coup backed by Turkish intelligence and militias from the Interior Minister's hometown of Misrata. Bashaga was visiting Turkey when his suspension was announced. Ankara has grown disillusioned with al-Sarraj for consenting to an August 21 ceasefire with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives that did not include GNA forces occupying Sirte and al-Jufra airbase, which has long been a Turkish demand, and only grudgingly signing a 2019 maritime border demarcation agreement with Turkey, denounced for infringing on other countries' waters by Greece, Egypt, Cyprus, France, and the UAE.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday Turkey and Greece agreed to hold talks through NATO to deescalate a military standoff in the eastern Mediterranean, which started on August 10 when Ankara dispatched the seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis, accompanied by Turkish warships, to the Greek continental shelf to search for oil and gas deposits. Greek warships sought to thwart the vessel's work by bombarding it with messages. Since then, Greece conducted joint training exercises with the French navy and mulled drawing on its cash reserves to reverse a decade of defense spending cuts. Negotiations to purchase French military aircraft are allegedly already in the works. Tensions increased on August 28 after Turkish F-16s intercepted six Greek jets returning to Crete from war games in Cyprus. The Greek aircraft requested reinforcements and engaged in a mock dogfight with Turkey's F-16s. The crisis came to a head last Tuesday when, according to Turkish military sources, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unsuccessfully sought to persuade the military to sink a Greek ship. Later on Thursday, Athens clarified that it would only enter NATO-mediated negotiations with Turkey after it withdraws its ships carrying out gas and oil prospecting in Greek waters.
To coordinate a united Palestinian response to the UAE normalizing relations with Israel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hosted a virtual meeting attended by representatives from 14 Palestinian factions, including Ismail Haniyeh and Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad respectively. Abbas called for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers to condemn the UAE's deal with Israel, a committee to reduce Palestinian divisions, and Palestinian legislative elections. Ismail Haniyeh reiterated Hamas's continued commitment to Israel's destruction: "We as Hamas will not recognize Israel and will not renounce one inch of Palestinian land and Israel will remain our enemy. Our choice is one of total resistance to it." Each prior Fatah-Hamas unity agreement – including the 2012 Cairo Agreement, 2014 Fatah-Hamas unity government, and 2017 Fatah–Hamas Agreement – quickly foundered.
Bahrain on Thursday accepted Abu Dhabi's request to permit flights between the UAE and Israel to pass through its airspace. This comes one day after Riyadh announced that flights to and from the UAE "from all countries" may henceforth use Saudi airspace.
President Donald Trump entreated Iran not to execute Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, tweeting: "Hearing that Iran is looking to execute a great and popular wrestling star, 27-year-old Navid Afkarai (sic), whose sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets... To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man's life" Branch One, Criminal Court One of Fars Province sentenced Afkari to death for purportedly murdering a plainclothes agent during the 2018 protests. However, Afkari claims to be innocent and that his confession was extracted through torture. A Revolutionary Court gave him a second death sentence for "waging war against God" during the alleged murder.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported two airstrikes in Deir Ezzor, likely carried out by Israel, killed 16 Iranian-backed militiamen, including seven from Iraqi Hezbollah. Israeli jets hit Tiyas Military Airbase near Homs on Wednesday and Hezbollah positions in Daraa on Monday.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum