Nice Terrorist Attack
21-year-old Tunisian migrant Brahim Aoussaoui murdered with a foot-long blade three people in Nice's Notre Dame basilica Thursday as Francophobia grips much of the Muslim world. The outrage stems from the French government's reaction to an Islamic terrorist beheading French middle school teacher Samuel Paty on October 16 for showing his students caricatures of Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo. President Emmanuel Macron declared at an October 21 "national tribute to the memory of Samuel Paty," He "was killed because Islamists want our future... We will strongly proclaim the concept of laïcité [secularism]. We will not disavow the cartoons, the drawings, even if others recoil." Turkey's ambassador to France tweeted the day after Paty's murder: "Horrified by this atrocious murder of a teacher in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Nothing justifies it. My condolences to his loved ones." However, in response to Macron's subsequent remarks about Islamic extremism in France and the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last Saturday, "Macron needs some sort of mental treatment... He has not only made himself the enemy of Islam, but of all peace-loving people too." Erdogan's comments prompted Paris on Sunday to recall its ambassador in Ankara for consultations. Erdogan the following day called on Turks to boycott French goods. Support for boycotting French goods in protest of Macron defending the cartoons spread quickly with stores in Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar advertising their participation. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ratcheted up the rhetoric Wednesday, warning during a cabinet session, "Insulting a prophet is nothing but an encouragement to violence and an immoral act... If the West is sincere about his efforts for peace and security, it should stop interfering in internal affairs of Muslims." Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad tweeted Thursday: "Since you [Macron] have blamed all Muslims and the Muslims' religion for what was done by one angry person, the Muslims have a right to punish the French. The boycott cannot compensate the wrongs committed by the French all these years." In another Thursday tweet, removed by Twitter for violating its rules, Mahathir wrote, "The French in the course of their history has killed millions of people. Many were Muslims. Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past." Police shot and detained Aoussaoui, who only arrived in France this month. Also Thursday, Saudi police arrested someone for stabbing a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova Thursday criticized Ankara's role in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, claiming "Turkey sees this conflict as an opportunity to increase its influence in the neighboring South Caucasus region." She also condemned its "ongoing massive deployment of foreign mercenaries from the Middle East to the military zone." The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates Turkey has transported at least at least 2,050 Syrian fighters to Azerbaijan. Earlier this month Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev complained the three permanent members of the Minsk Group – the US, France, and Russia – are unduly influenced by the Armenian diaspora and he advocated making Turkey, Baku's closest ally, a co-chair of the group. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, now called the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), established the Minsk Group in 1992 to encourage a peaceful resolution to the territorial dispute engendered by the 1988-94 Nagorno-Karabakh War, in which ethnic Armenians carved out a de facto independent Republic of Artsakh inside the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan. When Aliyev first made the request, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said no changes were envisaged to the format for peace talks over Nagorno-Karabakh. Yet, on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned the need for greater Turkish involvement in peace talks. Erdogan Wednesday informed Turkish lawmakers of a Tuesday conversation with Putin during which he told the Russian leader, "If you want, we can solve this together. You can hold talks with [Armenian Prime Minister Nikol] Pashinyan and I can talk with my brother, Aliyev."
A Thursday US Justice Department statement announced the sale of 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum seized en route to Venezuela last August. On July 2, US District Judge James E. Boasberg signed a warrant for impounding the ships' gasoline because its sale intended to benefit sanctioned Iranian entities, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said Thursday, "Our intentions are to take the funds successfully forfeited from the fuel sales and provide them to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund after the conclusion of the case." Thursday's statement also divulged US Navy Central Command confiscated Iranian weapons bound for Yemen's Houthi rebels from two flagless vessels in the Arabian Sea on November 25, 2019 and February 9, 2020. The weapons included 171 guided anti-tank missiles, eight surface-to-air missiles, land attack cruise missile components, anti-ship cruise missile components, thermal weapons optics, and other components for missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The State Department and Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon issued a joint statement Thursday regarding recently launched maritime border delimitation talks between Israel and Lebanon: "Building on progress from their October 14 meeting, on October 28 and 29 representatives from the governments of Israel and Lebanon held productive talks mediated by the United States and hosted by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL). The United States and UNSCOL remain hopeful that these negotiations will lead to a long-awaited resolution. The parties committed to continue negotiations next month." Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri disclosed on October 1 that Lebanon and Israel agreed on a framework for indirect talks to settle a longstanding dispute over maritime boundaries, which is a barrier to exploring and developing new Mediterranean gas fields. Despite the optimistic joint statement, Lebanese media quoting knowledgeable officials reported Thursday that the Lebanese delegation demanded an additional 550-square mile patch on top of the previously contested 330-square mile area. Neither Israel nor Lebanon commented on the negotiations' progress.
Ammar Campa-Najjar (D), who is running against Darrell Issa in California's 50th Congressional District, is facing backlash from some Palestinian activists for posting a picture on Twitter Sunday of a 2019 meeting with Ehud Barak. Above the picture, Campa-Najjar wrote: "Last year, I sat and met with former Prime Minister and legendary commando Ehud Barak to make peace. Those who know the history here, know this embrace may be one of the strongest acts toward a peaceful future and away from a painful past seen in a generation." Barak headed a Sayeret Matkal commando team that participated in the 1973 Operation Spring of Youth raid in Beirut targeting Black September leaders connected to the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes. Campa-Najjar's grandfather, Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar, was one of the PLO commanders killed in the operation. Then, in a subsequent series of tweets, Campa-Najjar painted himself as the more pro-Israel candidate, including a link to a Washington Post story quoting Issa accusing Israel of practicing "apartheid."
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum