BREAKING NEWS

Turkish court issues warrants for four at opposition newspaper
 
Iranian self-immolates outside Bangkok embassy in election protest
 
Sudan's Bashir to skip Trump summit in Riyadh
 

ON THE GROUND


Iranians vote for president today

Iranians go to the polls today to choose their president. Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani’s main challenger is cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who is backed by Iran's religious establishment. Raisi is custodian of the Astan Quds Razavi religious charity, which oversees an endowment worth billions of dollars. Mostafa Hashemitaba, a reformist, and Mostafa Mir-Salim, a hard-liner, round out the pack.

Rouhani's handling of the nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers is one of the main issues in the election. His critics say that Iran has not gotten the economic benefits that it was promised in exchange for restricting its nuclear program.

 

US wades deeper into Syrian conflict

The United States conducted an airstrike on Thursday against pro-government militiamen in southern Syria, marking its first direct confrontation with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the Syrian civil war began. Coalition aircraft targeted a convoy apparently transporting fighters toward a garrison in al-Tanf held by US and allied forces, US officials said. The militiamen, continuing to advance toward the military base in tanks and construction vehicles after ignoring warning shots, were said to pose a threat to the forces positioned there, according to a coalition statement. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov condemned the strike, calling it “completely unacceptable” and “a breach of Syrian sovereignty.”

 

Syrian army retakes Hama villages after IS assault

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today that the Syrian army had retaken full control of two government-held villages in central Hama province after coming under attack by Islamic State fighters. The extremist group killed more than 50 people in the village in an assault at dawn on Thursday, the observatory reported. Most of the victims were civilians and had reportedly been beheaded and mutilated.

 

Dozens killed in clashes between rival factions in southern Libya

Renewed fighting on Thursday between rival forces at an air base in southern Libya left at least 60 people dead, according to medical and military officials. Clashes broke out when a faction affiliated with the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) came under attack from forces from the western city of Misrata at the Brak al-Shati base. The LNA had taken control of the base after Misrata forces withdrew in December.

 

Protesters in Tunisia’s Tatatouine reject job offer deal

Young Tunisian protesters calling for more economic opportunities and denouncing marginalization in southern Tatatouine, where most of Tunisia's oil and gas fields are located, rejected an offer by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s government on Thursday to provide 1,500 jobs with energy companies. The protesters, who had previously caused two foreign energy companies to halt output, moved closer to a nearby pumping station and warned that they will not retreat. President Beji Caid Essebsi had last week ordered the army into the area to protect strategic energy and phosphate sites.

 

THE WASHINGTON CONNECTION


Trump heads to Saudi Arabia in first official trip

President Donald Trump flies to the Middle East today for his first foreign trip since taking office in January. Saudi Arabia will be his first stop today, before heading to Israel next week. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Thursday that Trump’s visit will reinforce cooperation between both countries in countering radical Islamists and bolster the kingdom’s role in confronting Iran. In addition to hosting a series of meetings with Saudi and Gulf officials, Saudi King Salman will also host the Arab-Islamic-American Summit, which will be attended by leaders and representatives of 55 countries on Sunday in Riyadh.

 

Turkey calls for ouster of US presidential envoy

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called for the firing of Brett McGurk, presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State, claiming that he openly supports the Kurdistan Workers' Party and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which Turkey considers terrorist groups. President Barack Obama appointed McGurk in 2015.

 

Correction: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this newsletter was sent out without mentioning today's presidential election in Iran. Apologies.

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