President Trump tweeted Monday that the State Department will remove Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism list as soon as Khartoum deposits the $335 million it agreed to pay victims of al Qaeda's 1998 attack on America's embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and its 2000 bombing of the USS Cole: "GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!" Sudanese sources claim that after they deposit the money President Trump will sign an executive order removing their country from the state sponsors of terrorism list while a bi-partisan group of US Senators will express support for legislation protecting Sudan from future lawsuits brought by terror victims. Sudan has been on the list since 1993. Sudanese, Israeli, and US officials expect an announcement later this week regarding Sudan normalizing ties with Israel that will also involve the US and UAE providing Sudan with a large aid package. Despite Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni hosting informal talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan – Sudan's de facto head of state – last February, past reports of the two countries normalizing relations proved premature. Just last August, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told Mike Pompeo, "The transitional government does not have a mandate... to decide on normalization with Israel."
The UN arms embargo imposed on Iran by a unanimous Security Council vote in 2007 elapsed Sunday. Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007), seeking to pressure Tehran into complying with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, mandated "Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft." UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) into international law, effectively set October 18, 2020 as the embargo's expiration date. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement Monday warning the "United States is prepared to use its domestic authorities to sanction any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran, as well as those who provide technical training, financial support and services, and other assistance related to these arms." According to the JCPOA, any party contending Iran is not upholding its commitments can notify the Security Council, which then has 30 days to pass a resolution to continue lifting sanctions, thereby giving any permanent Security Council member a veto over lifting sanctions. On August 20, 2020, Pompeo delivered letters to UN Secretary-General António Guterres and then-Security Council president Dian Triansyah Djani aimed at initiating the aforementioned snapback sanctions process. However, after 13 out of the Security Council's 15 members submitted letters asserting the US forfeited its right to trigger snapback sanctions on Iran when the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, Djani said that he was "not in the position to take further action" on Pompeo's letter due to there being "no consensus in the council." Despite France, Germany, and the UK opposing the imposition of snapback sanctions, fearing it would further derail the JCPOA, the EU and UK maintain a separate arms embargo on Iran that is more comprehensive than the lapsed UN embargo and remains in place until October 18, 2023. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh stated Monday the country will focus on arms exports, as Iran produces 90 percent of its domestic needs locally.
United Arab Emirates
The UAE's cabinet Monday approved a resolution endorsing last month's peace agreement with Israel and initiating the process of issuing a federal decree ratifying it. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday in televised remarks at Abu Dhabi's first Abraham Accords Business Summit, "Together the UAE and Israel will stand better prepared to confront the malign threats from the Iranian regime, their proxies, and other extremist groups." Mnuchin and other US dignitaries will accompany Tuesday the first official UAE government delegation to Israel. Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahum, who visited the UAE last week, told Israel HaYom that tourism from the Gulf countries is part of the delegation's agenda. "Jerusalem will host between 100,000 and 250,000 Muslim tourists a year – they dream of visiting al-Aqsa."
Benjamin Netanyahu visited Manama Sunday to sign an agreement normalizing ties with Bahrain. While Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani participated in the September 15 Abraham Accords ceremony, Israel and Bahrain at that time only signed a statement articulating their intention to establish full diplomatic relations.
A Syrian rebel source confirmed Monday that Turkey began dismantling its observation post in Morek, Hama Governorate. Turkey erected three-dozen outposts in northwestern Syria starting in October 2017, 13 of which are now surrounded by the Syrian military. After regime forces encircled the Morek outpost in August 2019, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu advised, "The regime should not play with fire... We will do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of our soldiers and observation posts." Two sources familiar with the Turkish withdrawal said it started on Monday and that Ankara does not plan to evacuate any other outposts.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat is being treated for COVID-19 at Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, which on Monday described his condition as "critical." Hospital spokeswoman Hadar Elboim issued a written statement attributing Erekat's critical condition to a bacterial infection and his recent lung transplant. At the Palestinian Authority's request, Israeli paramedics transferred Erekat from his Jericho home, where he remained in isolation since his diagnosis, to Hadassah.
53 Democratic Senators and Representatives sent a letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Monday in which they strongly urge him "to immediately release human rights defenders, lawyers, political activists, and other prisoners of conscience in Egypt before their wrongful imprisonment becomes a death sentence due to the coronavirus pandemic." The lawmakers presented a non-exhaustive list of activists they want released and described how "appalled" they are at the death in custody of several named prisoners.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum