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Media Summary

Netanyahu fails in bid to allow cameras in polling stations

BBC News and the Guardian report that warplanes have struck positions of Iran-backed militias near Syria’s border with Iraq. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 18 Iranian and pro-Iranian fighters were killed. It was not clear who carried out the overnight strikes in and around the town of Albu Kamal. But Israel has carried out hundreds of attacks on Iranian-linked targets in Syria during the country’s civil war. It has sought to thwart what it calls Iran’s “military entrenchment” in Syria and shipments of Iranian weapons to militant groups including Hezbollah. The IDF did not comment on whether it was behind the attack. Later on Monday the Israeli military said an Iranian-backed Shia militia on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus, had fired “a number of rockets” towards Israel.

The Independent and Reuters report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to bring in a law to allow cameras in polling stations for next week’s election, a move opponents said was effectively meant to intimidate Arab voters. The legislation would have allowed representatives of political parties to film voters at polling stations but was foiled when a parliamentary committee voted down the bill on Monday. Netanyahu has frequently raised the threat of voter fraud on the part of Israeli Arabs as a campaign tactic to mobilise his base, despite the lack of evidence substantiating his claims.

The Times reports that leading American supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have described his wife, Sara Netanyahu, as “completely crazy”. Excerpts from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson’s interviews with police last year as part of ongoing criminal investigations into the Israeli prime minister show one accusing Sara Netanyahu of saying that “Iran will come and attack [Israel] and it will be on your head”. Sara Netanyahu’s complaints came after she believed that their newspaper had published unflattering photographs of her.

The Guardian and Reuters report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has unveiled what he claims was a previously undisclosed Iranian nuclear weapons facility and accused Tehran of destroying the site to hide the evidence. “This is what I have to say to the tyrants of Tehran,” Netanyahu said. “Israel knows what you’re doing, Israel knows when you’re doing it, and Israel knows where you’re doing it.” Without providing details, he accused Iran of using the facility near Abadeh to “conduct experiments to develop nuclear weapons”. The prime minister was immediately accused of using sensitive intelligence to appear statesmanlike a week ahead of next Tuesday’s election.

Reuters reports that the UN nuclear watchdog told Iran on Monday there is no time to waste in answering its questions, which diplomats say include how traces of uranium were found at a site that was not declared to the agency.

Reuters reports that US President Donald Trump has stated that he could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “It could happen. It could happen. No problem with me,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Iran should straighten out because frankly they are in a very bad position right now,” Trump said.

The Times reports that Iran has confirmed that the Adrian Darya 1 has offloaded its oil in Syria. The FCO has not commented on the apparent breach of an agreement under which the tanker provided written guarantees that the cargo would not be sold to the Assad regime. British officials may be awaiting further confirmation. Although an Iranian government spokesman confirmed claims by state media that the vessel had sold its cargo, monitors of the trade said this was not visible from satellite images.

Reuters reports that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that the Trump administration was considering imposing sanctions on Turkey after its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defence missile system. “We’re looking at that, I’m not going to make any comments on any specific decisions, but we are looking at it,” Mnuchin told reporters outside the White House when asked if the Treasury was considering such sanctions. He did not specify any potential targets.

The Times and Reuters report that US President Donald Trump’s failed attempt to convene talks with the Taliban at Camp David caused a split among his inner cabinet. The idea was floated by Trump at a secret White House meeting a week ago, drawing rare opposition from Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser John Bolton. The plan’s collapse and its disclosure by the president in a series of tweets appeared to leave talks on a US troop withdrawal in limbo amid a surge in violence in Afghanistan. US security sources yesterday insisted, however, that communication with the Taliban was still alive despite Trump tweeting that he had “called off peace negotiations”.

The Financial Times has published a number of articles related to its special report entitled ‘Investing in Kuwait’ which examines the Kuwaiti government’s infrastructure spending plans, wide-ranging investment in energy, healthcare and education as part of the country’s long-term development vision – New Kuwait 2035.

Reuters reports that oil prices rose by 2 per cent on Monday after new Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman confirmed expectations that he would stick with his country’s policy of limiting crude output to support prices. Reuters reports that bin Salman claimed on Monday the world’s top oil exporter would keep working with other producers to achieve market balance and that an OPEC-led supply-curbing deal would survive “with the will of everybody”.

Reuters reports that Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has stated that Saudi Arabia wants to enrich uranium for its nuclear power programme, potentially complicating talks with Washington on an atomic pact and the role of US companies. Uranium enrichment has been a sticking point with the US, especially after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in 2018 that the Sunni Muslim kingdom would develop nuclear arms if regional rival Shi’ite Muslim Iran did.

In the Financial Times, Andrew England, Simeon Kerr, Ahmed Al Omran and Anjli Raval maintain that the replacement of Khalid al-Falih as energy minister in Saudi Arabia reflects Mohamed Bin Salman’s enthusiasm for an Aramco IPO: “Technocrat Khalid al-Falih fell from grace in ruthless shake-up by crown prince”.

Reuters reports that JPMorgan Chase & Co is close to winning the lead advisory role for Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering. Reuters reported last month that Aramco formally asked major banks to submit proposals for potential roles in its planned IPO.

The Financial Times reports that BAE Systems’ chief executive Charles Woodburn has defended his company’s dealings with representatives of the Saudi-led coalition: “We are a defence company. We comply with all the export licensing regimes. The UK has one of the toughest licensing regimes in the world”.

Reuters reports that Qatar has shortlisted international oil firms for a stake in its expanded North Field megaproject, but may still choose to go it alone unless majors offer it significant value.

In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins argues that the ‘arms fair’ held in London is an “inexcusable disgrace – it’s a stain on the nation”.

Reuters has published a feature on Israeli settlements in the West Bank using aerial photos of the settlements and nearby Palestinian villages.

New law for cameras in polling stations fails to pass committee: A controversial law that would have allowed party workers to film inside polling stations during next week’s election was rejected by a Parliamentary committee yesterday, the Israeli media reported. The governing Likud party proposed the new law as it claimed the cameras could be used to combat alleged voter fraud, primarily in the Arab-Israeli community, despite electoral and judicial authorities deeming the move unconstitutional. The bill fell after the Knesset Regulatory Committee deadlocked at 12-12, with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party ultimately voting against it. “This kind of oversight should not be managed by Netanyahu’s personal militia, who from the outset are not there to monitor voting, but to interfere in the election process and alter the results,” Lieberman said yesterday. The Likud, for its part, continued with the message that the left-wing opposition was planning to “forge” votes in order to “steal” the upcoming election.

Iraqi arms warehouse bombed by drone: Israeli media reported on an explosion at an Iraqi arms warehouse northwest of Baghdad, allegedly used by Iranian-backed Shiite militias. The explosion took place near the city of Hit, in Anbar province, at a base belonging to the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). Arab media reports indicated that shells exploded in nearby areas, likely confirming that arms were stored at the site. The explosion was likely due to a drone strike similar to those that have taken place in Iraq over the last two months targeting pro-Iranian elements. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously confirmed that Israel was attacking military sites inside Iraq.

Israeli drone crashes in southern Gaza Strip: An Israeli military drone crashed in the southern Gaza Strip overnight, the Israeli media reported. Palestinian sources claimed the drone was shot down “with the appropriate means” after it crossed over into the coastal territory. Reports indicated that Hamas recovered the remains of the drone. The IDF only confirmed that a drone crashed and said the incident was being investigated. It was the second IDF drone crash in enemy territory in 24 hours, after a similar incident occurred in southern Lebanon yesterday.