During a televised speech Wednesday night, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) declared he will "hand over [his] duties to the next executive authority no later than the end of October." This comes as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN Turk late Wednesday that Turkey and Russia have moved closer to an agreement on a ceasefire and political process in Libya. Prime Minister al-Sarraj's announcement comes on the heels of GNA-affiliated militias violently quelling demonstrations in late August against government corruption and poor services and three weeks after he suspended Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, fearing a Turkish-backed coup, only to reinstate him six days later.
At a press conference with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated America's commitment to extend the 13-year-old UN arms embargo on Iran that will expire on October 19 according to the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), saying: "We will return to the United Nations to reimpose sanctions so that the arms embargo will become permanent next week." How the Trump administration will accomplish this remains unclear as 13 out of the UN Security Council's 15 members maintain the US forfeited its right to trigger snapback sanctions when it withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018. Indonesian UN Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani and then Nigerien UN Ambassador Abdou Abarry, the rotating Security Council presidents for August and September respectively, each opposed imposing snapback sanctions on Iran because of a lack of consensus in the Security Council. US Special Representative for Venezuela and Iran Elliott Abrams confirmed during a Wednesday briefing that the administration has concrete plans to impose secondary sanctions to enforce the arms embargo.
The US Justice Department Wednesday announced yesterday's indictment of two Iranian nationals, Hooman Heidarian and Mehdi Farhadi, for hacking offences – "sometimes at the behest of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran" – that included stealing "confidential communications pertaining to national security, foreign policy intelligence, non-military nuclear information, aerospace data, human rights activist information, victim financial information and personally identifiable information, and intellectual property, including unpublished scientific research."
A day after the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) extended the Yavuz drillship's mission in Cypriot waters, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated Wednesday, "The recent withdrawal of the research vessel Oruc Reis is an important step paving the way for a meaningful dialogue between Greece and Turkey. The EU also calls for a similar decision as concerns Cyprus." However, Ankara stressed that the Oruc Reis is only undergoing maintenance and will resume searching for oil and gas deposits in Greece's exclusive economic zone next month. Ahmet Davutoglu, a former AKP Prime Minister under Erdogan and now leader of the opposition Future Party, on Tuesday lambasted the President for uniting "countries whose interests conflict in the region" against Turkey through a "failure in diplomacy." Last Thursday, at a summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in Corsica, all seven EU members with Mediterranean coastlines endorsed imposing sanctions on Turkey if illegal drilling and oil/gas exploration in Cypriot and Greek waters continue.
Dubai's state-owned DP World, one of the world's largest port operators, announced Wednesday it signed a series of agreements with Israel's DoverTower, including a joint bid for Haifa Port's privatization. The two companies will also weigh opening a direct shipping line between Eilat and Dubai's Jebel Ali, the Middle East's busiest container port and the world's 10th busiest.
House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY 16th) claimed Tuesday night that correspondence between Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper and State Department Deputy Legal Adviser Joshua Dorosin regarding the Trump administration invoking in 2019 a provision of the Arms Export Control Act to bypass Congressional review of an $8.1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan "show[s] just how hard the State Department wanted to hide the truth about last year's phony emergency declaration." Engel then alleged that the administration fired Inspector General Steve Linick last May for being "a thorn in Mr. Pompeo's side" when "a top priority at Mike Pompeo's State Department was to go around Congress to sell weapons and his senior aides worked hard after the fact to obscure their indifference to civilian casualties." The president under the 1976 Arms Export Control Act must notify Congress of arms sale greater than $14 million and Congress can pass legislation, subject to a presidential veto, to modify or block the deal. However, a president can forgo the congressional oversight if he determines "an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States." In May 2019, the Trump administration invoked the "emergency" provision, citing Iran's threat to the region, to fast track the aforementioned $8.1 billion arms deal. President Trump in July vetoed three resolutions aimed at derailing the arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE because of civilian casualties in their campaign against Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels as well as to punish Riyadh for killing Jamal Khashoggi.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum