The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Friday imposed sanctions on Gebran Bassil, the leader of Lebanon's largest political party and a Hezbollah ally, under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for corruption. The main allegation is that as Minister of Energy in 2014 Bassil approved "several projects that would have steered Lebanese government funds to individuals close to him through a group of front companies." Bassil's Free Patriotic Movement is a Christian party founded by his father-in-law, President Michel Aoun. The State Department Friday prohibited Bassil from entering the US, claiming he "put personal interests and those of Iran-backed Hizballah ahead of the welfare of the Lebanese people."
Iraqi President Barham Saleh ratified Thursday an electoral law passed by parliament last month replacing a party-list proportional system using the country's provinces as constituencies with a single non-transferable vote system in smaller districts carved out of the provinces. Participants in 2019's mass protests against unemployment and poor public services also demanded overhauling Iraq's corrupt political system beholden to entrenched parties. Under the new law, each voter selects one candidate in his multi-member constituency, represented by between three and five lawmakers, and the three to five candidates receiving the most votes in the district win office. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on July 31 called for holding parliamentary elections on June 6, 2021, nearly a year early.
In the wake of a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant murdering three people in Nice's Notre Dame basilica, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin met with his Tunisian counterpart, Taoufik Charfeddine, Friday to discuss repatriating some 20 Tunisians residing in France who were convicted on terrorism charges or are suspected of extremist inclinations. Despite overwhelming public opposition in Tunisia to suspected militants' repatriation and the government heretofore using coronavirus travel restrictions as an excuse to prevent their return, Charfeddine told reporters after the meeting that Tunis is "prepared to receive any Tunisian" as long as the process complies with international law and preserves "the dignity of the Tunisian" being returned. Darmanin on Sunday will raise the same issue with Algerian authorities.
Minister of Settlement Affairs Tzachi Hanegbi warned Wednesday night that, if a Biden administration reenters the Iran nuclear deal, "there will, in the end, be a violent confrontation between Israel and Iran." In a September op-ed, Biden wrote, "If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations." Yet, during a virtual Council on Foreign Relations-hosted conversation with Fareed Zakaria a few days after Biden published the op-ed, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, "A sign of good faith is not to try to renegotiate what has already been negotiated." Furthermore, he conditioned Iranian adherence to the JCPOA on America compensating Iran for "billions upon billions of dollars of damage" caused by sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.
A Wednesday statement by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) described demolishing on Tuesday "7 tents and 8 pens that were illegally constructed in a firing range located in the Jordan Valley." ￼UN Development Program official Yvonne Helle, however, accused Israel of displacing 73 people from the Humsa al-Bqai'a Bedouin community in "the largest forced displacement incident in over four years." EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell's office on Thursday said: "This large-scale demolition confirms once again the regrettable trend of confiscations and demolitions since the beginning of the year... Such developments constitute an impediment towards the two-state solution. The EU reiterates its call on Israel to halt all such demolitions, including of EU-funded structures, in particular in light of the humanitarian impact of the current coronavirus pandemic."
The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord's (GNA) Libyan Army Friday ruled out holding a 5+5 Joint Military Committee meeting in Sirte unless Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), along with its Russian Wagner Group and Sudanese Janjaweed allies, evacuates the city. The 5+5 Joint Military Committee, which includes five Libyan Army representatives as well as five from the LNA, held its first talks on Libyan soil earlier this week in Ghadames to coordinate implementing an October 23 countrywide ceasefire agreement signed in Geneva. At the Ghadames meeting the 5+5 Joint Military Committee agreed to establish its headquarters in Sirte's Ouagadougou hall complex. However, on Friday, the Libyan Army refused to hold any meetings in an area that is under the control of foreign mercenaries. The committee chose Ghadames as the venue for the last meeting because it is a remote town in the Sahara Desert far from the power bases of either side.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum