MENA Monitor focuses on the Middle East and North Africa region, analyzing the most important events happening in the area stretching from Morocco to Iran, their consequences for neighboring countries and their impact on the world’s situation.
Date: 23 August 2022 Author: Kacper Gatlik
Events in the MENA area of the first half of August 2022 (9-18 August)
Read the most important events in the Middle East and North Africa region in the first half of August 2022.
Iran – A meeting on Iran was held in Vienna in the first half of August. China, the US, Russia, France, Germany, the UK, Iran and the High Representative of Foreign and Security Policy of UE Joseph Borell participated in the talks. The EU became the mediator to reach a consensus on Iranian nuclear technology. In a “final text”, the EU presented its proposal to the Iranians to resolve the tensions between Iran and the other nuclear powers. The Iranian side will review the document and respond to the proposals. The Russians see the possibility of resurrecting the JCPOA, from which the US have withdrawn in 2018. Tehran is in a position to engage in talks and agree to the EU proposal. However, if US president exit the JCPOA agreement again, Iran wants to make sure that it will be compensated by the Americans. The EU’s proposal will be discussed with the Iranian side. Joseph Borell gave a positive assessment of the meeting, and the Iranian side has called it a step forward in reaching a consensus in Iran’s nuclear program case. The lack of participation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the safeguards’ investigation of Iran’s research facilities remains an unresolved issue.
Iraq – On 17 of August, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Qadhimi, leaders of Iraq’s political forces, Iraqi President Barham Salih and the UN envoy for the Assistance Mission to Iraq, gathered at the presidential palace in Baghdad for the ‘Iraqi National Dialogue’. The government side called for the political stability and talks on the basis of political dialogue. The Kurdish side was represented by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. The meeting was aimed at resolving the political crisis that has been going on inside Iraq since 2005. – since the uprising “after the American rule in Baghdad”. The leader of the Shiite anti-Iranian political party, the cleric Al-Sadr, has stopped calling for mass protests against the government. It is possible that he will enter into dialogue with his political opponents. To form a new government and elect a new president, the votes of all political parties are needed.
Kuwait – The impasse in Iran-Kuwait relations has been broken. The Kuwaiti government has appointed its ambassador to Tehran for the first time in six years. Kuwait’s previous position towards Iran was dictated by solidarity with Saudi Arabia, which broke off diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2016. With Riyadh working to improve relations with Tehran in 2021, the remaining GCC states have been forced to balance between the two largest powers in the region. Most of these states are mainly following the direction of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy.
On 15 August, the formation of Kuwait’s new government was announced. Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Sabah will become the new prime minister, and his cabinet will include ministers from previous governments. This will be the fifth change of prime minister in two years. Due to low oil prices during the coronavirus pandemic, Kuwait’s economy plunged into crisis. As politicians in Kuwait’s parliament have argued, adequate action has not been taken in the fiscal sector to reform the state. There is a fierce political game going on in Kuwaiti parliament, and the disputes are contributing to the paralysis of the decision-making processes of this OPEC country.
Saudi Arabia – A local Saudi news outlet has reported that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Riyadh within the next week. This will be the first visit by a Chinese president outside the country since 2020. China’s dependence on Saudi oil impinges on Beijing’s choice of allies. China is not a country that has achieved energy sovereignty. US President Joe Biden’s July 2022 visit to Saudi Arabia, may have hastened the Chinese authorities’ decision of Xi Jinping’s visit to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia can choose it’s economic, political and military patron between China and the US. In 2020, the monetary gain from China-Saudi Arabia bilateral cooperation was $65.2 billion for Riyadh. Through the business relationship with the Americans, the Saudis earned $19.7bn in 2020. The 2016 China-Saudi Strategic Partnership and the 2021 Shanghai Economic Community ‘dialogue’ partnership have brought the Riyadh government closer to the People’s Republic of China. China aims to link the Chinese currency to conducting global oil transactions. The possibility of creating a ‘petrorenminbi’ (future oil buying currency) is difficult to achieve in the short term, as the strength of the petrodollar and the importance of the US in the International Monetary Fund determine the position of the dollar in conducting oil transactions.
The Sauds remain India’s third oil exporter. In July 2022, India’s imports of the commodity from Saudi Arabia increased by 25.6 per cent to 824,700 barrels per day after the Saudi oil producer lowered its official selling price (OSP) in May 2022.
Bahrain – On 15 August, Bahrain’s Minister of Labour Jameel bin Mohammed Ali Humaidan met with his Saudi counterpart Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed bin Suleiman Al-Rajhi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The talks focused on major projects and initiatives being undertaken in training and job creation in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Bahrain is currently a leader among GCC countries in managing and improving its own labor market.
Qatar – A Qatari delegation visited South Korea.1 During the Emir of Qatar’s visit to the Korean peninsula, Deputy Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with Speaker of the National Assembly Kim Jin-pyo on 17 August. Both countries have lifted visa requirements for Korean and Qatari citizens. The Korean side emphasized Qatar’s role in energy supply.
United Arab Emirates – The government in Abu Dhabi announced that, in view of the improvement in Iranian-Saudi relations, a UAE ambassador will be sent to Tehran in the future.
Oman – The Omani government is introducing the „Tanwea program” involving the diversification of the country’s mainly oil-based economy. The program is designed to enable increased exports from all sectors of the Omani economy to achieve the expansion of non-oil revenues. Tools will be put in place to contribute to the Sultanate of Oman’s ambitious economic goal. According to the executive director of the National Economic Diversification Program, Eng Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Hashemi, “the mining, tourism, manufacturing, transport, logistics and food security sectors have been taken into consideration during the preparation of the project”.
Yemen – Yemeni passenger planes are once again operating between global air terminals. Thanks to the extension of the ceasefire between the Houthis and the Yemeni government until 2 October, airline flights from the Yemeni capital are continuing to operate out of the country. On 17 August, a Yemenia airline plane took off from the Royal Jordanian Airport in Amaam and landed in the Yemeni capital, Saana.
UN envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg urged United Nations members to end the Yemeni conflict as soon as possible.
Turkey – On 9 August, a Turkish drilling vessel set sail from the Turkish port of Mersin to explore for gas in the Mediterranean. The area of exploration will be the coastal waters of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. There is an apparent lack of international acceptance of Turkish claims to coastal waters in the Mediterranean. In view of the reduction of gas supplies from Russia to the EU, Turkey wants to start preparations as soon as possible to produce and sell gas to European partners. Turkey’s plans may be hampered by the resumption of the construction of the „EastMed” gas pipeline, which is intended to connect the Republic of Cyprus to Greece, Israel and continental Europe with gas infrastructure. The Turkish action will interrupt a short-term agreement worked out by Ankara and Athens in Istanbul in 2021 regarding offshore zones.
On 11 August, Swedish authorities agreed to extradite a 30-year-old Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin. According to Swedish and Turkish institutions, he defrauded money between 2013 and 2016. The Turkish side is even talking about a 14-year prison sentence. The Swedish court’s decision is part of the rhetoric of the agenda of the trilateral memorandum signed in June 2022 during the NATO summit. Turkey, Sweden, and Finland agreed to extradite criminals acting against Turkish law. By Swedish and Finish acts of solidarity with Turkey, Ankara would support Stockholm and Helsinki in its aspiration for NATO membership. As a result of the step taken by Sweden, Turkey may decide to ratify the Brussels agreement on full NATO membership for Sweden and Finland.
Syria – Turkey’s Daily Sabah published a statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavușoğlu in which the Politician said, that the first ministerial-level talks between the Turkish and Syrian sides in 11 years had taken place in October 2021. The meeting took place in Belarus. On 12 August, in the north-eastern part of the country: in Azaz, Soran (i.e. areas controlled by Turkish forces), Syrian citizens condemned the potential rapprochement between the governments in Damascus and Ankara. Demonstrations were also held on the outskirts of the Syrian capital. Syrian citizens who have suffered repression by the government of Bashar al-Assad are opposed to the rapprochement of the transatlantic state, i.e. Turkey, with their oppressor, the government in Damascus. The revival of bilateral relations between Syria and Turkey is controversial as well due to the border activities of Turkish forces towards Kurdish residents of north-eastern Syria. The situation could enhance image of the Syrian „dictator” due to renewing bilateral relations with its neighbor Turkey.
On 16 August, 25 civilians were killed in Kobane, a Kurdish border town on the Syrian-Turkish border. The shelling of Kurdish militant outposts was carried out by Turkish armed forces. Kurdish forces from the YPG responded with mortar fire. A shell hit a border post in Sanliurfa province. One Turkish soldier was killed in the attack.
The Turkish and Russian sides in the Astana format declared their support for Syria’s territorial and political integrity. With the meeting between the heads of state of Turkey and Russia in Russian Fedeation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denied that a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would take place after his meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
Lebanon – On 11 August, 42-year-old Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein entered the Federal Bank of Beirut, taking six bank employees hostage. He entered the building with a shotgun and a canister of petrol, threatening to set himself and others on fire if he was not allowed to remove his $200,000 deposit from the bank. Beirut’s citizens have not been able to withdraw their money from dollar deposits since 2019, due to the economic crisis in Lebanon. The man surrendered to the police after his demands were accepted by the forces of order. According to the detainee’s lawyer, Bassam has not yet received any of the sums that lie in the bank’s deposit.
Jordan – On 16 August, King Abdullah II of Jordan met with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani in Amman, the Jordanian capital. The talks focused on bilateral cooperation between Jordan and Bahrain and the security of the region. The countries of the GCC organization, of which Bahrain is a member, want to maintain stability in the region. Iran’s activities and the issue of Iran’s nuclear program affect the security of Yemen, Iraq and Palestine. Both sides praised the achievement of a ceasefire in the Yemeni conflict. The issue of Iraq’s territorial integrity as well as the Palestinian issue for the rulers in Mammu and Amman should be normalized diplomatically. The King of Jordan sees the need for an Israeli-Palestinian state where both entities are partners and not warring parties. Jordan and Bahrain have also started talks on the Syrian issue. A ‘pan-Arab’ effort should be made to combat terrorism in the civil war-ridden state of Syria.
Israel – On 10 August, Israeli forces killed three Palestinian militants in a shootout in the West Bank city of Nablus. East Jerusalem has been under Israeli occupation since 1967 and tensions between Palestinians and Jews have escalated over the past week. In the Gaza Strip, 49 people were killed by rocket fire as part of an Israeli preemptive strike. A Palestinian jihadist supported financially by Iran, has fired more than 1,000 rockets towards Israeli military and civilian posts.
On 13 August, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem boarded a bus carrying Jewish worshipers heading to the old city, then wounded eight people with a firearm. None of the Palestinian armed organizations claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the US side, the five injured passengers are US citizens.
On 17 August, Ankara, and Jerusalem renewed diplomatic relations. Ambassadors and consuls-general of Turkey and Israel will be appointed and accredited. The impasse in Turkish-Israeli bilateral relations will be broken. After 2018, following the deaths of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces, the Turks broke off political dialogue with Israel.
Palestine – President of Palestine Autonomy Mohammed Abbas has flown with a visit to Berlin, to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In 5th of September 2022 there will be a 50th anniversary of the massacre of Israeli Olympic sportsmen at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Responsible for the crime are the members of Palestine terrorist organization “Black October”. On the press conference, Palestine president, while answering journalist questions has said, that since 1947 Israeli state has contributed to decreasing Palestine population by doing 50 holocausts. That’s why he does not need to apologize for Monachium Massacre. President Abass answer has influenced German and Israeli political discourse because the world “Holocaust” is identified with German Nazi regime war crimes directed against Jewish Nation in WW2.
Egypt – 15 August in Abu Sifin, worker district of Cairo, in a Coptic church a fire broke out. Because of smog pollution, 41 people died, among them 15 children and 14 were wounded. While the church mass 5 thousand faithful were in the building. Families of the victims will receive 100 thousand Egyptians pound and families of the wounded will receive 20 thousand Egyptian pound. According to Egyptian authorities, the fire was caused by an electrical fault.
Libya – Government of Tripoli do not want to agree on accepting the new envoy for Libya case. It is going to be the 9th mediator since 2011 for Libya. The reason of criticism from Libyan side is the lack of qualification for the position of the previous candidates. United Nations will choose a candidate that will suite the Libyan expectations. In the next months, there will be organized presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya. Without a UN envoy for Libya, it might be difficult to achieve democratically organized elections in Tripoli and in the rest of the countries’ territory.
Tunisia – 16 August, authorities in Tunis, have informed about final results of the referendum connected to the Tunisian constitution. President Kais Saied “holds all power” due to receiving 94 percent of referendum votes. This politician after the Arabic Spring might become the authoritarian ruler, prone to manpower, from what was known previous Tunisian leader, the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Algeria – The president of Algeria Abdulmadjid Tebboune has announced the introduction of social concessions and public sector wage increases for Algerian society. The Ukrainian -Russian conflict has limited, since February 2022, gas deliveries from Russia to the EU. Because of the demand of Spain, France, Italy for Algerian gas, authorities in Algiers have reached budgetary surpluses
Western Sahara – The change of Morocco position towards Algeria might influence the situation in Western Sahara. Polisario, the national Sahrawi movement that aspirates to be acknowledged as an independent state since 1975 that has a „US and EU blessing” was in the past supported by Algeria. Common “anti-partner” for Algeria and Morocco: Spain, that supports independence of Western Sahara, should not divide politically the neighbors not enabling them bilateral Morocco-Algerian cooperation on a business level.
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