Middle East Insider, July 29, 2020

Under Saudi and UAE pressure, STC President Aidroos al-Zubaidi (above) agreed to repeal the April 26 declaration of self-rule in southern Yemen as part of a power-sharing agreement

Yemen

The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) Wednesday repealed its April 26 declaration of self-rule in southern Yemen after Saudi Arabia brokered a power-sharing agreement between the STC and the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Riyadh’s plan entails Hadi’s prime minister, , forming a unity government in the next 30 days with equal representation of northerners and southerners, including the STC. The deal also calls for each party to withdraw their forces from Aden and Abyan province, with the aim of eventually uniting their respective militias into a national army, and for Hadi’s government to appoint a new governor and security director for Aden. Yemen’s state-run SABA news agency reported Hadi tapped Ahmed al-Amlas to serve as Aden’s governor and security director. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the STC’s patron, each pressured the separatists to accept the peace terms, which Riyadh unveiled originally last November. Although Hadi’s government and the STC are officially allies in the war against the Iranian-backed Houthis, they have been fighting each other intermittently since the STC last August seized Aden, the Hadi government’s interim capital.

Egypt

Egypt’s Official Gazette announced Wednesday that President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi approved amendments passed on July 7 by parliament requiring anyone who has ever served as a military officer to receive approval from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) before running for local, parliamentary, or presidential elections. SCAF approval will also be necessary for officers to join political parties or discuss military matters occurring during their service. The amendments also oblige the defense minister to appoint a military adviser to the governor of each of Egypt’s 27 provinces.

Syria

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Wednesday sanctioned one individual and nine entities for enriching the Syrian regime through construction of luxury real estate. This represents the Treasury Department’s second sanctions action pursuant to the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019, which aims to “compel the government of to halt its murderous attacks on the Syrian people and to support a transition to a government in Syria that respects the rule of law, human rights, and peaceful co-existence with its neighbors.” The State Department separately sanctioned three leading figures in the Syrian regime, including ’s 18-year-old son, Hafez al-Assad, and the First Division of the Syrian Arab Army.

Iraq

Harakat Hezbollah Al-Nujaba, a pro-Iranian militia belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), shared images of Britain’s ambassador to Iraq that were doctored to make his face appear covered with blood after Ambassador Stephen Hickey tweeted that “armed groups operating outside state control” are damaging Iraq’s development. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has recently tried to crack down on pro-Iranian PMF militias’ rocket attacks on American targets in Iraq and extortion of businessmen.

Lebanon

Walid Jumblatt, longtime leader of the Progressive Socialist Party and the country’s most powerful Druze politician, said in an interview published Wednesday by L’Orient-Le Jour that parliament should seriously consider replacing Prime Minister Hassan Diab because of his poor handling of Lebanon’s ongoing financial crisis. During a visit to Beirut last Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated that $10.2 billion in loans and $860 million in grants, mainly to revamp the Lebanon’s ailing infrastructure, remains contingent on hitherto unimplemented reforms involving improved collection of taxes and reducing transfers to Electricity of Lebanon. Negotiations between Beirut and the IMF over an initial $10 billion bailout also reached a standstill earlier this month when the government and financial sector could not agree on the scale of losses in the banking system during the ongoing crisis.

Jordan

Jordanian security forces dispersed a demonstration by teachers Wednesday protesting police arresting the leaders of the 100,000-strong Teachers Association labor union and a court Saturday ordering the union’s shuttering for two years on “criminal and corruption charges.” Amman last year agreed to raise teachers’ salaries to end a month-long strike, but reneged on the deal claiming the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates frugality. Jordanian authorities incarcerated the union leaders when they threatened demonstrations to protest the government reneging on the deal. Also on Wednesday, King Abdullah II issued a decree to hold parliamentary election that the Independent Election Commission scheduled for November 11.

Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum

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