Saudi dissident expatriates unveiled Wednesday the National Assembly Party, an opposition group whose first declaration outlined a plan "to institute democracy as a form of government in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia." Saudi Air Force weapons procurer turned British-based human rights activist Yahya Assiri heads the party demanding an elected parliament and constitutional safeguards to ensure separation of the legislative, judicial and executive branches. The party is committed to peaceful change while its spokeswoman, Madawi al-Rasheed, told AFP they feel "no personal animosity" towards the royal family. In 2014, Yahya Assiri founded ALQST, an organization that documents human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia through stealthy operations on the ground and relays the information to the group's headquarters in London. Riyadh has not commented on the new party.
King Salman devoted much of his Wednesday speech before the UN General Assembly to slamming Iran. He accused Tehran of exploiting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal "to intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks, and use terrorism, and in the process squandering the resources and wealth of the Iranian people for the purpose of its expansionist projects." The king called on the international community to block Iran from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, curtail its ballistic missile program, and thwart its interference in other countries' affairs as well as its sponsorship of terrorism. His speech blamed Hezbollah's "hegemony... over the decision making process in Lebanon by force of arms" for the August 4 explosion at the Port of Beirut and concluded, "This terrorist organization must be disarmed." While affirming "the Kingdom supports all efforts to advance the peace process," King Salman implied that only the 2002 Saudi-authored Arab Peace Initiative "provides the basis for a comprehensive and just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict." After the UAE proclaimed its intention to normalize relations with Israel, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan reiterated the Kingdom will only normalize relations with Israel in the context of implementing the Arab Peace Initiative.
Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), which is affiliated with the Tobruk-based government, announced Wednesday that it killed Islamic State in Libya leader Abu Moaz al-Iraqi and eight other members during a raid in the southern desert city of Sabha earlier this month. LNA spokesman Major General Ahmed al-Mesmari said Abu Moaz al-Iraqi, and his predecessor – former Iraqi policeman Abu Nabil al-Anbari – arrived in Libya on September 12, 2014 through Turkey with fake Libyan passports. Slain ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sent the pair to Libya to coopt the local al-Qaeda affiliate.
Saudi Arabia apprised the UN Security Council Wednesday of an "oil spot" 31 miles west of the decaying, abandoned FSO Safer tanker. 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, conditioning UN inspectors' access on receiving the vessel's oil. 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.
While speaking before the US-Turkey Business Council Wednesday, US Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield warned that "companies will consider departing the Turkish market or will reduce exposure to the Turkish market" if Turkish state hospitals do not pay their outstanding debt to foreign pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies, which increased from $230 million to $2.3 billion over the past year. Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Turkey program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, claims Ankara is pressuring the creditors to accept up to 30 percent reductions in the amount owed.
American UN Ambassador Kelly Craft told Al Arabiya Wednesday that another Arab country will sign a peace deal with Israel in the "next day or two" and "others are going to be following." This comes after three days of UAE-mediated talks between US and Sudanese delegations failed to achieve a breakthrough on Khartoum recognizing Israel. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan's ruling council, acknowledged the talks touched on recognizing Israel but said the focus was Sudan's removal from the State Department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum