Russian jets Monday attacked a Faylaq al-Sham training camp in Idlib, killing at least 78 fighters according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Ankara funnels its payments to pro-Turkish rebels through Faylaq al-Sham and has transported its members to fight in Libya and Azerbaijan. Nicholas Heras, of the Institute for the Study of War, speculated, "Putin is telling Erdogan that he has the ability to strike Erdogan's favored Syrian rebel proxies at will inside Syria, if Turkey does not de-escalate its military activities against Russian interests in conflicts in Libya, Syria, and in Nagorno-Karabakh." Faylaq al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham responded Tuesday by firing about 900 shells and missiles at regime positions in the countryside of Aleppo, Hama, Idlib, and Latakia provinces, killing 12 Syrian soldiers and pro-government fighters.
The White House last Friday released a joint statement by the US, Sudan, and Israel stating that Khartoum and Jerusalem "agreed to the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations." It added that Washington "will take steps to restore Sudan's sovereign immunity and to engage its international partners to reduce Sudan's debt burdens, including advancing discussions on debt forgiveness." According to an Axios article last week, a bipartisan group of US Senators was supposed to endorse legislation immunizing Sudan from future lawsuits brought by terror victims after Khartoum transferred the $335 million it agreed to pay victims of al Qaeda's 1998 attack on America's embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as well as its 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Currently, leading Senate Democrats oppose such legislation. Friday's joint statement also promised the US and Israel will improve Sudan's "food security" while Israeli and Sudanese delegations will meet in the coming weeks to negotiate cooperation agreements in the fields of agriculture, agriculture technology, aviation, and migration issues. Prime Minister Netanyahu's office tweeted Sunday: "We are looking forward to a warm peace and are sending $5 million worth of wheat immediately to our new friends in Sudan." Bread prices tripling in late 2018 instigated the demonstrations leading to Omar al-Bashir's April 2019 ouster. Sudan's Foreign Ministry confirmed Sunday the country will hold talks with Israel in the coming weeks to negotiate deals for agriculture, aviation, trade, and migration. Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan – chairman of Sudan's Sovereignty Council, which serves as the country's collective head of state during the 2019–2022 transition to democracy – argued Monday that failing to normalize ties with Israel would have delayed Sudan's removal from the State Department's state sponsors of terrorism list and reintegration into the world economy. Sudan's transitional government consists of the Transitional Military Council junta that ousted Omar al-Bashir and the civilian-led Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance. The military has consistently displayed greater interest in normalizing relations with Israel. FFC members denouncing Friday's joint statement include the leftist National Consensus Forces Alliance and former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi's Umma Party. The National Consensus Forces Alliance opposes Sudan deviating from the Khartoum Resolution, adopted by the Arab League after the 1967 Six-Day War, which mandated: "No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, [and] no negotiations with it." Sadiq al-Mahdi, whose Umma Party is the country's largest, asserted in a Saturday letter that the joint statement "contributes to the elimination of the peace project in the Middle East and to preparing for the ignition of a new war." Mahdi's letter accused President Trump of prejudice against Blacks and Muslims and called Israel an "apartheid state." Acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din insisted Saturday that normalization with Israel hinges on the yet-to-be-formed transitional parliament approving the step, echoing Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok's position. Burhan conceded Monday that the transitional parliament must ratify normalization and he urged Israel to implement the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
Turkey communicated via navigational telex Saturday that the seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis and its accompanying warships will extend its mission in Greek waters until November 4. The Heraklion station of the Greek navy's hydrographic service immediately issued a cancellation directive (anti-NAVTEX), informing all vessels that the Heraklion station alone has authority to broadcast NAVTEX messages in the area. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said at a Monday press conference, "It is becoming quite obvious that Turkey seeks to escalate tension and any calls for dialogue are purely conditional." The present standoff in the eastern Mediterranean began on August 10 when Ankara dispatched the Oruc Reis to the Greek continental shelf to search for oil and gas deposits. The dispute threatened to escalate into a military conflict, leading EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell to warn the bloc could restrict Turkish access to European ports. Turkey recalled the vessel in mid-September. On October 8, Dendias and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, reportedly met on the sidelines of the Global Security Forum in Bratislava and agreed to set a date for talks to resolve the maritime dispute. However, a few days later Turkey announced the Oruc Reis would resume its work on Greece's continental shelf.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities announced Monday that "an operation lasting four months" foiled a PKK plot to attack foreign diplomats in Erbil. Although the KRG statement did not identify the attack's target, the PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state and assassinated a Turkish diplomat at an Erbil restaurant in July 2019.
Iraq's Ba'ath Party announced on its official Facebook page Monday the death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, one of Saddam Hussein's closest aides and leader of the Naqshbandi Army insurgent group. He formed the group, composed mainly of Ba'ath Party members, in 2006 and it helped ISIS capture Mosul in 2014. Days after Mosul's fall, ISIS and the Naqshbandi Army had a falling out and the latter group is currently inactive.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a joint statement Friday approving the US selling F-35s to the UAE "since the US is upgrading Israel's military capability and is maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge." To that end, Jerusalem reportedly requested Washington sell F-22 Raptors – the most advanced fighter in the world in terms of maneuverability, armament and range – to Israel. However, such a sale remains unlikely since the F-22 is no longer in production and federal law bans its sale to foreign militaries.
Representatives of Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army and the Libyan Army of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) signed Friday what the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called "a permanent ceasefire in all areas of Libya." The deal gives all foreign fighters and mercenaries three months to vacate the country. Turkish air support and 10,000 Turkish-recruited Syrian mercenaries turned the tide of the Libyan civil war earlier this year, forcing the LNA to end its year-long siege of Tripoli and abandon all of the country's west. President Erdogan said Friday the ceasefire "does not appear to be achievable" and "time will show how long it will last." GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha told the Financial Times that Egypt and Russia are reevaluating their support for Haftar, but it remains to be seen whether the UAE, the source of the LNA's most sophisticated arms, has shifted its position. In a sign of improving relations with Moscow, the GNA Monday agreed to release two Russian political operatives imprisoned for more than a year on charges of election meddling due to their efforts to help Saif al-Islam Qaddafi - Moammar al-Qaddafi's son – launch a political career whenever Libya next holds elections. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, whose objective is "to generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections in the shortest possible timeframe," held its first virtual meeting on Monday and plans to hold a live meeting in Tunis on November 9. UNSMIL invited 75 individuals, representing all segments of Libyan political and social society, to attend Monday's virtual meeting.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum