Amid renewed fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenians over Nagorno-Karabakh, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims Turkey will deploy allied Syrian rebels to assist Azerbaijan. Ankara changed the course of the Libyan civil war earlier this year by providing its Government of National Accord allies with air support along with an influx of pro-Turkish Syrian rebels. Armenia alleged Tuesday that a Turkish F-16 fighter jet that took off from Azerbaijan downed an Armenian SU-25 jet in Armenia's airspace, killing the pilot. Fahrettin Altun, head of media and communications in the Turkish presidency, called the allegation "absolutely untrue." After the Soviet Union's collapse, Armenians established through war (1992-94) a de facto independent republic in Nagorno-Karabakh (the Republic of Artsakh), which is located in Azerbaijani territory but majority Armenian. No UN member states or observers officially recognize the Republic of Artsakh.
Kuwaiti state news agency KUNA announced Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah's death at 91 without disclosing the cause. He was succeeded by his half-brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who is 83 and in poor health. According to Kuwait's constitution, the Crown Prince automatically succeeds the Emir. Sheikh Sabah served as Foreign Minister from 1963 to 2003, when he became Prime Minister. Kuwaiti Emirs must win parliamentary approval. When Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah assumed the throne in January 2006, parliament exercised the previously unused constitutional power to oust him on account his physical and mental incapacitation and installed Sheikh Sabah. However, Sheikh Sabah did not rule as a constitutional monarch. Protests motivated by government corruption and stateless Bidoons desiring eligibility for the Gulf state's generous welfare benefits resulted in parliament's dissolution and early elections in February 2012. But, since the new parliament contained a large, Islamist-led opposition bloc, the pro-Emir Constitutional Court invalidated the February elections the following June and reinstated the previous parliament. Then, Sheikh Sabah unilaterally changed electoral rules to benefit his partisans, prompting most opposition parties to boycott the December 2012 and July 2013 elections.
Mustapha Adib on 26 September relinquished his position as Prime Minister-designate after failing to form a technocratic government. On August 30, Adib won the backing of 90 out of 120 MPs, including parties from both the pro-Iranian March 8 Alliance (e.g. Hezbollah and Amal) and the anti-Iranian March 14 Alliance (e.g. Saad Hariri's Future Movement), to form a government. Efforts to establish a technocratic government foundered because the Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal insisted on continuing to control the finance ministry. French President Emmanuel Macron warned Adib on September 1 that, if he did not form a government in two weeks and unveil a financial reform roadmap within eight weeks, the international community would withhold financial aid and could impose sanctions on the ruling class. Lebanon desperately needs international aid, as its currency has lost 80 percent of its value vis-à-vis the US dollar since last year and the August 4 Beirut Port blast caused up to $15 billion worth of damage. Acknowledging Hezbollah's role in obstructing a technocratic government, Macron stated last Sunday that the terrorist group "cannot at the same time be an army at war against Israel, a militia unleashed against civilians in Syria, and a respectable party in Lebanon." Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah retorted in a Tuesday televised address, "We welcomed the French initiative, but not for him to be judge, jury, and executioner, and ruler of Lebanon." Nasrallah also accused Saad Hariri of conspiring with the French to sideline Hezbollah.
In addition to the 20 Saudi nationals already being tried by a Turkish court in absentia for Jamal Khashoggi's killing at Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate in October 2018, Turkish prosecutors revealed Monday they will indict six additional Saudi nationals, including a vice consul and an attaché. Earlier this month, a Saudi court sentenced eight anonymous defendants convicted of involvement in Khashoggi's murder. Five were sentenced to 20 years in prison, one to ten years, and two to seven years. While the CIA concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing of the regime insider-turned-critic, Riyadh maintains it was a rogue operation.
Rami Makhlouf, Bashar al-Assad's cousin and former billionaire, accused the government in a Tuesday Facebook post of transferring assets from his Ramak Development and Humanitarian Projects holding company, which owns charities supporting Syrian Civil War veterans and their families, to politically-connected businessmen. Makhlouf's wealth came from owning Syria's main mobile operator, Syriatel, and reportedly taking a commission on every major business deal in the country, thereby earning the nickname "Mr. Five Percent." He used this wealth to bankroll the regime and even field a 20,000-strong pro-government militia through his al-Bustan charity during the civil war. Yet, Damascus last May seized his assets and banned him from leaving the country, claiming he owed $250 million in taxes. The regime also incarcerated dozens of Syriatel and al-Bustan employees, only releasing most of them last week.
Following two days of talks at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Hurghada between military and police teams representing Libya's rival administrations, the UN Support Mission in Libya said the parties concluded preliminary agreements to release all prisoners sometime next month and open air and land transit across the country's divided territory.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum