Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev declared Wednesday that his country will continue fighting until Armenian forces withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh, a de facto independent republic established by ethnic Armenians within Azerbaijan's borders during a war following the Soviet Union's collapse. As the revived conflict entered its fourth day, Ankara publically offered Azerbaijan military assistance. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday, "We have said that if Azerbaijan wants to solve this on the field, we will stand by Azerbaijan. If Azerbaijan makes a request, we would do the necessary [and] see that Azerbaijan has sufficient capacity." While Cavusoglu stated that so far Azerbaijan does not appear to need Turkish military help, he endorsed Azerbaijan fighting until it regains control of Nagorno-Karabakh, reasoning that "diplomacy has not worked for 30 years." French President Emmanuel Macron suggested Paris could come to Armenia's aid. He told reporters, "France remains extremely concerned about the bellicose comments that Turkey made in the last hours, which essentially remove any inhibitions from Azerbaijan in what would be a reconquest of northern Karabakh. That we will not accept. I say to Armenia and to the Armenians, France will play its role." Joe Biden also expressed opposition to Turkish involvement in the conflict, tweeting: "With casualties rapidly mounting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, the Trump Administration needs to call the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan immediately to de-escalate the situation. It must also demand others — like Turkey — stay out of this conflict."
The New York Times reported Tuesday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently informed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Iraqi President Barham Salih that, due to continued rocket attacks by pro-Iranian militias around America's Baghdad embassy, the US could close it in the coming weeks and relocate the ambassador to either the US Consulate in Erbil or Anbar province's al-Asad Air Base. Then on Wednesday, Iraqi Kurdistan's counterterrorism service accused the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of pro-Iranian militias, of shooting six rockets towards US-led coalition forces at Erbil International Airport. No casualties were reported. Hoshyar Zebari, a former Iraqi Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, tweeted: "Another escalation to disrupt security in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan by the same groups who are attacking the US Embassy in Baghdad and its convoys. Action is needed to stop it."
As gasoline shortage-induced riots spread across Venezuela's remote towns, the Iranian-flagged oil tanker "Fortune" reached in the South American country Wednesday. The Iranian tanker "Forest" docked in Venezuela Tuesday while the "Faxon" is expected to arrive this weekend. Altogether, the flotilla will deliver 815,000 barrels of fuel. These ships kept their transponders off during their journey from Iran to avoid seizure by American authorities. Federal agents in August impounded four tankers transporting 1.1 million barrels of petroleum from Iran to Venezuela. US District Judge James E. Boasberg signed a warrant for seizing the four ships' petroleum because its sale intended to benefit sanctioned Iranian entities, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Wednesday its inspectors visited and took environmental samples from the second of two sites where undeclared nuclear activity may have taken place in the early 2000s. IAEA inspectors visited the other site earlier this month. On June 19, the IAEA's Board of Governors adopted a resolution censuring Iran for blocking inspectors' access to the two sites and calling on Tehran "to fully cooperate with the Agency and satisfy the Agency's requests without any further delay, including by providing prompt access to the locations." It was the first time since 2012 that the IAEA's Board of Governors passed a resolution critical of Iran and only China and Russia voted against it.
The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, together with the State Department, imposed new sanctions on six individuals and 11 entities under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019, which aims to cut off revenue to the Assad regime. Those blacklisted include Central Bank of Syria Governor Hazem Younes Karfoul and Syrian General Intelligence Directorate head Husam Muhammad Louka.
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA 11th) sent a letter to President Trump Wednesday urging him to secure the release of Saudi-American Salah al-Haidar. His trial before the Specialized Criminal Court for social media posts advocating women's rights opened Wednesday. If convicted, he faces between eight and 33 years in prison. The legislators also asked President Trump to press Riyadh to permit al-Haidar's mother, prominent women's rights activist Aziza al-Yousef, to return to the US. They further requested the President "call on Saudi authorities to release all other U.S. citizens in unjust detention for activities related to peaceful dissent" as well as "call for the unconditional and immediate release of all prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia and the protection of human rights and freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia."
London Mayor Sadiq Khan decided Wednesday to join the mayors of New York, Los Angeles, and Paris in boycotting the 2020 Urban 20 Summit, hosted by Riyadh from 30 September to 2 October, to protest the Kingdom's treatment of political prisoners. Urban 20 is a city diplomacy initiative that brings together cities from G20 member states and observer cities from non-G20 states to discuss and form a common position on climate action, social inclusion and integration, and sustainable economic growth.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum