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The ‘Legacy’ of Russia's Wagner Group in the Middle East and Africa
Plus: Quran burning triggers global outrage, Iran Sues Canada, UN vote to establish an independent body for 130,000 missing Syrians, and more.
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The ‘Legacy’ of Russia's Wagner Group in the Middle East and Africa
The rebellion of the Wagner Group against the Russian state could have significant consequences for the group's activities in the Middle East and Africa and Moscow's ability to replace the financial and military networks established by the paramilitary organization in the region.
Over the past decade, Wagner has built a complex network of military, business, and political relationships in Libya, Syria, and Sudan, among others.
In addition to supporting the Russian military in Ukraine, Wagner has financed its operations through shell companies outside of Russia.
Under the control of Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner has been subject to sanctions by the United States and other countries for its investments in Sudan, Mali, and the Central African Republic.
The group is believed to have facilitated the transfer of billions of dollars worth of gold from Sudan to the UAE. The US Treasury Department has, in fact, recently imposed sanctions on UAE entities connected to Wagner and Prigozhin.
Wagner has played a crucial role in supporting Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar in his control over the country's southern and eastern regions. The conflict in Libya has effectively turned into a cold war with the involvement of Wagner. The US Department of Defense has stated that Wagner's support for Haftar was likely funded by the UAE, which, along with Russia and Egypt, supported the warlord. Wagner has deployed a significant number of fighters in Libya and has been involved in air operations and the control of key military bases and oil fields.
Syria was one of Wagner's initial operations outside of Europe, with the group deploying mercenaries to fight alongside the forces of Bashar al-Assad in 2015. The US military engaged Wagner fighters in Syria, and Russia's presence in the country has given it strategic access to the Eastern Mediterranean and control over lucrative oil and gas deposits.
In Sudan, Wagner has been involved in various activities, including working with the military and the Rapid Support Forces. The group has been accused of gold mining, spreading disinformation, and suppressing pro-democracy protests. Wagner has denied its presence in Sudan but has been accused by the US of supplying surface-to-air missiles to the Rapid Support Forces.
Wagner also operates in Mali, the Central African Republic, and other African countries, carrying out a range of operations across the continent.
UN General Assembly Approves Independent Body to Address Syrian Missing Persons Crisis
The U.N. General Assembly has passed a resolution by a vote of 83-11 with 62 abstentions, establishing an independent body to determine the fate of over 130,000 missing individuals from the Syrian conflict.
The resolution, led by Luxembourg, acknowledges the lack of progress in providing answers to the families of the missing after 12 years of fighting.
The new institution will investigate and support victims, survivors, and families, guided by principles such as impartiality, transparency, and protecting confidential information.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been directed to outline the institution's terms within 80 working days and report on its implementation within 100 working days.
Syria, along with Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran, voted against the resolution.
The Syrian conflict has caused the deaths of almost half a million people and displaced half of the country's population.
The resolution received strong support from over 100 civil society organizations and 23 U.N. human rights experts.
Quran Burning at Stockholm Mosque Triggers Global Outrage
Several countries, particularly those in the Middle East, have strongly condemned the burning of the Quran committed by an individual in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, on Wednesday, June 28.
The incident took place during a protest that had been authorized by the police. The man responsible, Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi who sought refuge in Sweden a few years ago, deliberately tore and set fire to pages from the sacred Quran coinciding with the celebration of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.
This act occurred outside the Stockholm Central Mosque and has generated widespread international condemnation, not only towards the act itself but also towards Sweden, which granted permission for the demonstration.
Deadly Air Strikes in Syria's Rebel-Held Idlib
At least 13 people were killed in two air strikes in the rebel-held governorate of Idlib, Syria.
Witnesses reported that the attacks targeted a market and a nearby building in the city.
The Syrian government claimed they coordinated with Russian aircraft to target a militant outpost.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, two children were among the casualties.
In a separate strike, a rebel fighter and several civilians were killed near Idlib, while six civilians and three militants died in an attack near the market.
Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the organization, described these Russian strikes as the deadliest in Syria this year and labeled them a massacre.
The strikes were reportedly a response to two drone attacks by rebel militants, including one in President Bashar Al Assad's hometown that killed a mother and child.
Idlib is now mainly controlled by militant Islamist groups, while Turkish-backed Islamist militias hold the nearby areas along the Syria-Turkey border.
The conflict in this region has persisted for years, with neither side able to fully establish control.
Syria's war has resulted in over half a million deaths and displaced approximately half of the pre-war population.
With support from Russia and Iran, the Assad regime has regained much of the territory lost in the early stages of the conflict, which began in 2011 following the brutal repression of pro-democracy protests.
Iran Sues Canada to International Court Over Alleged Violation of State Immunity
Iran has lodged a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Canada, alleging that Canada's permission for civil lawsuits against Iran for alleged acts of terrorism violates international law by infringing on Iran's state immunity.
The ICJ received the case shortly after the Canadian government imposed sanctions on Iranian judges for human rights violations in addition to existing sanctions against Iran.
Canada severed diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012 and designated it as a terrorism sponsor.
European Parliament Calls for ICC Investigation of Alleged Israeli War Crimes
The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee urged EU leaders to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) in investigating and prosecuting Israel for alleged war crimes in Palestinian territories.
The committee's draft resolution, proposed by Evin Incir of the Swedish Social Democrats party, received 41 votes in favor, with 24 opposing and nine abstentions.
The resolution, which will be voted on during the European Parliament plenum on July 15, refers to a December 2022 UN resolution initiated by the Palestinians.
This UN resolution requested the ICC to provide an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
The outcome of the upcoming vote and subsequent actions, if it passes, remain uncertain.
The resolution expressed concerns about the Israeli government's punitive measures against the Palestinian people, leadership, and civil society.
These measures include withholding funds and implementing a construction moratorium in Area C of the West Bank.
This refers to Israel's practice of withholding tax funds collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority due to their policy of providing stipends to families of imprisoned assailants.
Additionally, the resolution criticized Israel's demolition of homes and buildings without proper permits, including EU-funded schools in small Palestinian villages.
Furthermore, the European Parliament's resolution called for stronger ties between the EU and the Palestinian Authority.
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My name is Dario Sabaghi, and I am a freelance journalist interested in international news focusing on the MENA region.
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Cover photo: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters - The New York Times