US Plans New Sanction Bill Against Normalization with the Assad Regime

Last Wednesday, two Republican members of the US Senate Marco Rubio and James Risch introduced the Assad regime Anti-Normalization Act of 2023. The bill is expected to extend the ongoing Caesar sanctions on Syria until 2032. Moreover, the bill aims at prohibiting the US administration from mending ties with the Syrian regime. According to Senator Jim Risch, the ‘‘legislation enforces a policy of diplomatic and economic isolation against the Assad regime.’’ The new sanction bill calls on the State Department to report all the high-level meetings that would take place between the Syrian regime figures and the country’s neighbors like Turkey, and Jordan as well as the Gulf States Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Additionally, the bill aims at specifying ‘’a description of steps the US is taking to actively deter recognition’’ of the Syrian regime with different countries including ‘’Specific diplomatic engagement and economic sanctions.’’ It is noteworthy that the sanction bill was brought to the table in less than a week following the Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad’s visit to China, which marks Assad’s first visit to Beijing since 2004.

The Tribal Fight Against the SDF Resurfaced

Upon the renewed clashes with some Arab tribes, last Monday the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared a curfew in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ez-Zour. In late August, the SDF detained the leader of the Deir Ez-Zour Military Council, known as Abu Khawla, leading to clashes between tribal forces siding with Abu Khawla and the SDF forces. The two-week-long clashes resulted in dozens of casualties from both sides. As a result, the SDF quelled the clashes and declared the end of its ‘security operation’ in the area. During the clashes, the SDF leader Mazloum Abdi promised amnesty for some of the detained tribal figures and stated that he would take grievances into consideration to make sure that the clashes would not occur again.

That being said, the SDF continued with arrest campaigns after Abdi’s remarks. Following these developments, the tribal forces took arms against the SDF and started to clash with the organization’s forces once again last Monday, leading to casualties. The SDF accuses the Syrian regime, Iran, and Turkey of being behind the tribal tension. However, it is well known that the Sunni Arab tribes in Deir Ez-Zour have long voiced their frustration with the SDF rule in their areas, claiming that their territories are neglected and not governed well. On top of this, the Arab tribes in this area consider the YPG/SDF ideology as an alien one. In a nutshell, the Sunni Arab tribes want to increase their role in governance, possibly aspiring to create their own self-rule experience in Eastern Syria and have better living conditions based on the huge oil revenues arising from the energy sources located in Eastern Syria.


The Visa Exemption Agreement Between America and Israel Enters the First Phase

The United States and Israel have signed an agreement under which Israel has lifted restrictions on Americans of Palestinian origin from entering any crossing or airport controlled by its security authorities in the West Bank, allowing them to travel freely in the West Bank. In return, Israel has been granted an exemption from the visa requirement for Israelis entering the United States.

After a long wait, due to Israel’s previous refusal to lift restrictions on Palestinians of American origin, Israel complied with the demand of the U.S. administration. It agreed to remove those restrictions, allowing Israelis to enter the United States without a visa, similar to citizens of about 40 other countries worldwide. This agreement was reached within a “reciprocity agreement,” paving the way for Israel to join the list of countries exempt from the U.S. entry visa requirement.


Riyadh Appoints Its First Ambassador to Palestine

Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed non-resident ambassador to Palestine, Nayef bin Bandar al-Sudairi, made a historic visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Tuesday and Wednesday,  presenting his credentials as “non-resident envoy” and also assuming the role of “consul-general in Jerusalem. Notably, Israeli authorities prohibit any Palestinian diplomatic activity in the city. Al-Sudairi is Saudi Arabia’s current ambassador to Jordan, and though he does not reside in Palestine, non-resident ambassadors possess the same diplomatic powers as their resident counterparts. Al-Sudairi’s presence in Ramallah marks the first appointment of a Saudi ambassador to Palestine and seems to reify Saudi Arabia’s purportedly heightened commitment to the Palestinian cause.

The Palestinian Authority has warmly welcomed this development, hailing it as a “historic milestone” that strengthens the developing fraternal relations between the two nations. On those same days, Israel’s tourism minister Haim Katz embarked on the first public visit to Saudi Arabia by an Israeli cabinet member, attending a U.N. tourism conference in Riyadh. This all takes place amid Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of a potential U.S.-brokered deal that could establish formal relations with Israel, an entity it has never officially recognized as a sovereign state.


Khalifa Haftar and Putin Meet to Discuss Libya’s Situation and Regional Dynamics

Military commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who controls eastern Libya, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, marking their first meeting since 2019. According to Russian state news, a Kremlin spokesperson confirmed the talks, in which “they discussed the situation in Libya and the region as a whole.”  Field Marshal Haftar’s visit followed previous discussions with Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who has been a frequent visitor to eastern Libya.

Haftar has a long-standing relationship with Moscow and relies on the Russian mercenary group Wagner for military support. Putin supports the Tobruk-based House of Representatives government, which rivals the UN-backed Government of National Unity in Tripoli. The meeting in Moscow underscores Russia’s continued involvement in Libyan affairs and its support for Haftar’s faction in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Despite UN Security Council resolutions urging the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Libya, hundreds of Wagner personnel remain in the east and southern desert areas under Haftar’s control. The future of Wagner’s Libyan presence remains uncertain following the death of its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in August. The recent flooding in the Libya’s eastern region further complicates the situation, as the aftermath has become increasingly politicized in recent weeks.