On Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their projected victory in the 2020 presidential election. While most world leaders congratulated Biden after many media outlets declared his victory on Saturday, Erdogan – along with the leaders of China, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil – remained silent as President Trump disputes the electoral outcome. Erdogan simultaneously sent Trump a message: "No matter how the official election results manifest, I thank you for the sincere and determined vision you have put forth for Turkey-U.S. relations to develop on the basis of our mutual interests and values during your presidency in the last four years." Biden has not endeared himself to Erdogan, telling the New York Times in an interview last December, "He is an autocrat... What I think we should be doing is taking a very different approach to him now, making it clear that we support opposition leadership." Not surprisingly, the leaders of Turkey's two largest opposition parties, the Republican People's Party and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, congratulated Biden over the weekend.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Tuesday reported Turkey's evacuation of multiple observation posts – including Shir Mgharin in Hama Governorate and Maar Hattat in Idlib Governorate – in territory recaptured by the Syrian military last year. Despite Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warning in August 2019 that Damascus "should not play with fire... We will do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of our soldiers and observation posts," Turkey abandoned Morek observation post, the largest in northern Hama, last month. Middle East Eye divulged in an October 19 story that Ankara decided to vacate observation posts surrounded by regime forces after Russia impeded their resupply and the Syrian government bussed in "civilians" to attack the Turkish soldiers. Opposition media filmed evacuating Turkish troops arriving in rebel-held areas in northern Idlib.
United Arab Emirates
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally notified Congress Tuesday of the administration's intent to authorize a $23.37 billion military package for the UAE, which includes up to 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems, as well as air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions. Pompeo said the sale would help meet "the UAE's need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran." However, Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation last month to block the F-35 sale while outgoing Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel introduced a similar bill in the House.
The Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions Tuesday on six companies and four people for facilitating the procurement of sensitive goods, including US-origin electronic components, for Iran Communication Industries (ICI). ICI produces military communication systems as well as missile launchers and is a subsidiary of the Iranian Defense Ministry-owned Iran Electronics Industries. US Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams told Israeli reporters Monday that the Trump administration will "slap as many sanctions as possible on Iran until January 20" and, even if Biden is inaugurated, "whether it's possible to go back to the JCPOA remains to be seen."
Gunmen assassinated in broad daylight on a busy Benghazi street Hanan al-Barassi, a vocal critic of abuses committed by Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA). Hours before the murder, al-Barassi posted a video on Facebook condemning the appointment of Haftar's sons to senior roles in the city and claiming armed groups close to Haftar threatened her. In July 2019, the LNA's Awliaa al-Dam brigade abducted and murdered Siham Sirgiwa, a member of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives to which Haftar is nominally loyal, for criticizing the LNA's assault on Tripoli and advocating a unity government including the Muslim Brotherhood.
Israel's parliament Tuesday approved the country's normalization agreement with Bahrain signed on October 18. 62 lawmakers voted in favor while 14 members of the Joint List, a political alliance of Israel's Arab-majority parties, voted against it. They oppose Arab states normalizing ties with Israel before it relinquishes control of all territories conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, 65, died from COVID-19 complications Tuesday at Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas declared a three-day mourning period for the diplomat who participated in Arab-Israeli peace negotiations since serving as deputy head of the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Madrid Conference. Former Israeli statesmen – including Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, and Yossi Beilin – praised his role in the peace process.
Secretary Pompeo Tuesday called for the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels to release immediately and unconditionally Levi Salem Musa Marhabi. A member of Yemen's dwindling Jewish community, Marhabi has languished in prison for four years on the charge of aiding the transfer of an 800-year-old Torah scroll to Israel.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum