French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin apprised lawmakers Monday he will propose banning the Turkish nationalist Grey Wolves group at Wednesday's Council of Ministers meeting. This comes after vandals over the weekend daubed "Grey Wolves" and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's initials on an Armenian genocide monument in Décines-Charpieu. The current war in Nagorno-Karabakh has enflamed discord between France's Armenian and Turkish communities, each about 500,000-strong. Azerbaijan, with strong Turkish support, launched an offensive on September 27 to reassert sovereignty over a de facto independent, ethnic Armenian-run state – the Republic of Artsakh – controlling nearly 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory and receiving military assistance from Armenia. Turkish demonstrators, some of whom flashed the Grey Wolves' hand signal, paraded through Décines-Charpieu and Vienne last Wednesday while shouting anti-Armenian slurs. Turkish protestors in Vienne clashed with Armenians blocking a motorway. Legally dissolving the Grey Wolves means members could face fines or imprisonment for carrying out certain group activities. Austria last year banned the flags and symbols of 13 political organizations, including the Grey Wolves, with violators facing fines of €4,000 or more. An international pan-Turkish nationalist movement, the Grey Wolves are affiliated with Erdogan's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) coalition partner and have a long history of political violence. Franco-Turkish relations deteriorated this year as the countries found themselves on opposite sides of conflicts in the Aegean and Libya. Relations hit a nadir last week over Emmanuel Macron's reaction to a French middle school teacher's decapitation by an Islamic terrorist for showing his students caricatures of Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo. After Erdogan said Macron "needs some sort of mental treatment" and "made himself the enemy of Islam," France recalled its ambassador in Ankara for consultations. Erdogan then called on Turks to boycott French goods.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper reportedly informed his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, last Thursday that President Trump approved the sale of F-22 Raptors – the most advanced fighter in the world in terms of maneuverability, armament and range. Without directly mentioning the F-22, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz issued a joint statement on October 23 green-lighting America selling F-35s to the UAE "since the US is upgrading Israel's military capability and is maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge." Last Thursday, the White House informally notified the House Foreign Affairs Committee of plans to sell the UAE 50 F-35s at a cost of $10.4 billion. In a statement released last Thursday, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel expressed three reservations about the F-35 sale: (1) It could erode Israel's qualitative military edge. (2) F-35 technology could fall into Russian or Chinese hands. (3) A policy of trading F-35s for Arab states normalizing ties with Israel could lead to a proliferation of advanced weapons in the Middle East. As recently as last week, selling F-22 Raptors to Israel appeared unlikely because the plane is no longer in production and federal law bans its sale to foreign militaries.
Algerian voters backed constitutional amendments presented in Sunday's referendum 2 to 1, although with a record low 23.7 percent turnout. Opposition activists shut down voting stations across Tizi Ouzou province, prompting electoral authorities to annul the voting in 63 of the region's 67 towns. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune last January appointed a 17-member committee of legal experts to amend the 2016 Constitution and publicly circulated their draft in May. Amendments limit the president, as well as members of parliament, to two terms and ostensibly transfer some of his powers to parliament and the prime minister. However, the president only needs to "consult" a parliamentary majority before selecting a prime minister and can block ministers nominated by the prime minister. One member of the committee resigned, believing the reforms insufficient, an opinion shared by many protestors objecting to Tebboune appointing the committee without popular input. The lack of outside input rankles those rejecting the legitimacy of the December 2019 presidential election that brought Tebboune to power. Many boycotted the election, which had less than a 40 percent turnout rate, because the authority organizing the poll included many holdovers from former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's regime.
A Revolutionary Court Monday charged British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with spreading propaganda against the regime. She works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency's charitable arm. Iranian authorities first arrested Zaghari-Ratcliffe during an April 2016 visit with her family and a court sentenced her to five years in prison for allegedly trying to overthrow the Iranian government. Originally due for release in March 2021, an Iranian court issued a new unspecified charge against her last September, likely the propaganda charge unveiled Monday. Iranian jurists allegedly told Zaghari-Ratcliffe in 2018 that her continued imprisonment hinged on whether Britain agreed to compensate Tehran for tanks purchased before the 1979 revolution and never delivered. The new charges come immediately after a British court postponed by six months a hearing, scheduled for November 3, on the debt to Iran. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in a Monday statement decried her treatment by Iran as "appalling" and insisted "she needs to be returned home to her family."
Iran's Health Ministry Monday registered 440 coronavirus deaths, the highest number recorded in a single day and bringing the total to 35,738 fatalities. To reduce the death toll, President Hassan Rouhani announced new restrictions in 46 counties spread out across 25 of Iran's 31 provinces. These restrictions include shuttering cinemas, cafes, gyms, and pools for ten days, starting next Wednesday, while schools will move classes online.
The 5+5 Joint Military Committee, which includes five representatives from Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) and five from the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord's (GNA) Libyan Army, kicked off three days of talks Monday to coordinate implementing an October 23 countrywide ceasefire agreement signed in Geneva. This first 5+5 Joint Military Committee meeting on Libyan soil is being conducted in Ghadames, a remote Libyan town far from the power bases of either side. The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)-organized Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), which is designed "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 October 26 and plans to hold a live meeting in Tunis on November 9. UNSMIL invited 75 individuals, purportedly representing all segments of Libyan political and social society, to attend Monday's virtual meeting. However, the Supreme Council for the Amazigh of Libya – a body representing Libya's Berbers and including mayors of Berber municipalities – issued a statement Monday condemning the LPDF for the absence of Berber invitees at the virtual meeting and claiming the UNSMIL is working "to destabilize Libya and prolong the crisis."
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum