Can cannabis legalization rescue Lebanon’s ailing economy?

Can cannabis legalization rescue Lebanon’s ailing economy?
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A file photo taken on July 23, 2018 shows a cannabis plantation in the village of Yammoune in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley. (AFP/File Photo)
Can cannabis legalization rescue Lebanon’s ailing economy?
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Updated 27 April 2020

Can cannabis legalization rescue Lebanon’s ailing economy?

Can cannabis legalization rescue Lebanon’s ailing economy?
  • New law aims to regulate existing cultivation while making drug’s medical and industrial use legal
  • Experts welcome legalization considering the parlous state of the economy but with big caveats

DUBAI: The international media’s blanket coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic was interrupted on Tuesday by breaking news about Lebanon becoming the first Arab country to legalize cannabis for medical and industrial use.

Experts from different fields have welcomed the decision in light of Lebanon’s manifold problems compounded by the coronavirus crisis — but with big caveats.

Cannabis, also known as marijuana among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the cannabis plant used primarily for recreational or medical purposes.

Until now, Lebanon had banned the growth, sale and consumption of cannabis, even though legalization of production had been recommended in the past.

However, attitudes began to shift after the US consulting firm McKinsey & Company touted the legalization of cannabis in a study on how the government could revitalize the economy.

In 2018, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ranked Lebanon in the world’s top five producers of cannabis.

Last year, Raed Khoury, Lebanon’s minister of economy, said medicinal marijuana exports could generate $1 billion in annual revenue for Lebanon.

A supporter of cannabis legalization demonstrates outside of the Charleston Gaillard Center ahead of the Democratic presidential debate on February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (AFP/File Photo)

For a country with one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world, the industry’s potential for revenue generation can hardly be glossed over.

Among those expressing guarded optimism is Dr. Nasser Saidi, a former chief economist at the Dubai International Financial Center who was Lebanon’s minister of economy between 1998 and 2000.

The move to legalize marijuana for medical use makes a great deal of sense for Lebanon, he said, noting that the country has long been a producer of hashish.

“In particular, the crop has helped the poorer areas of Lebanon, mainly the Bekaa Valley, and allowed agriculturalists to survive because many of their other crops aren’t necessarily exportable,” Saidi told Arab News.

“For the more traditional crops like potatoes, beetroot, olives and others, there is a lot of competition, whereas for hashish there is much less competition.

“Lebanon can build its reputation as a source of quality hemp. Medicinal marijuana in particular can be an important high-value export product.”

Saidi draws a parallel between Lebanon’s decision to decriminalize cannabis production, manufacturing and its use with the policies of some advanced industrial countries.

Pointing out that the US and Canada have legalized use of marijuana, hemp and hashish without any negative fallout, he said: “There is no reason why Lebanon should not be able to successfully and securely decriminalize hashish.”

Saidi’s guarded optimism is echoed by Cyril Widdershoven, a director at Verocy, a Dutch consultancy which advises on investments, energy and infrastructure risks and opportunities in the Middle East.

He believes conditional legalization could be a step towards taking out the middlemen and halting the illegal trade.

“If this is meant to be the main target, some support should be extended to the decision,” Widdershoven said.

A file photo taken on July 23, 2018 shows workers cultivating plants at a cannabis plantation in the village of Yammouneh in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley. (AFP/File Photo)

“For a government, it can be very positive as it will bring, if properly regulated, additional taxes and income. Some amount of crime will get checked, though not all.”

Nevertheless, Widdershoven said much will revolve around how Lebanon defines “medical purposes.”

He said: “Is medical use the real objective or is it just a legal option to introduce cannabis in the open, without coming into conflict with other laws and regulations?” 

According to Widdershoven, “income from taxes is obviously a potential benefit, but Lebanon will need to introduce a system that can control and manage production, transport, sale and taxation.

“Without it, cannabis legalization for medical and industrial purposes is going to give rise to a semi-legal grey area.”

Similarly, Saidi, who served as vice governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon for two terms, said the new law should not amount to control of the business by Lebanese politicians.

“Hashish growers are afraid that legalization means the industry will come under the control of a government-licensing administration or body, which could then be open to abuse, corruption and clientelism,” he told Arab News.

“They will tell you they fear that licensing will be monopolized by politicians and their cronies, enabling the latter to control the production, distribution and export of hashish — to the detriment of the growers.”

Saidi said legalization should mean decriminalization with a light regulatory structure but not a strict licensing system.

“You cannot, in a country with Lebanon’s corruption levels, institute a system for the farming, manufacturing and distribution of hashish that can be monopolized by the state or captured by a corrupt political class and its cronies,” he said.

“The government can play a role in terms of ensuring the quality of medicinal hashish, particularly for export purposes, and monitoring for statistical, public-health and taxation purposes. But I would not favor a strict physical licensing system.”

Saidi sees a lot of hype surrounding the economic dividend of cannabis legalization.

A cannabis plant is seen during the opening of a cannabis (marijuana) clinic at the Department of Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine in Bangkok on January 6, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

According to one estimate, up to 100,000 hectares could come into hashish farming within a period of five to 10 years, with a crop value of $1 billion to $1.2 billion.

But Saidi does not see income from the crop as something that can put Lebanon’s public finances on a sustainable footing.

“We should allow producers to switch crops away — from low value-added crops like potatoes and sugar beet — to go into hashish, (as) it would help some of the poorest of the poor in Lebanon who eke out a subsistence income from agriculture,” he told Arab News.

“But it’s not a problem solver for the Lebanese government.”

Said added: “You can impose a tax, which is fine. Hashish consumption could be subject to VAT for local consumption to generate revenue for government, or to a production tax at a low rate.

“But again, I am not in favor of a licensing system to raise revenue because of the potential of corruption and bribery.

“Effectively, a licensing system would mean a highly inefficient regime for the benefit of politicians at the expense of growers. Licensing would become another form of political clientelism.”

An expert on Lebanon’s recreational drugs trade, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News that cannabis legalization was smart from the standpoint of Lebanon’s parlous economic situation and public finances.

However, he added, making cultivation of the plant legal is one thing while enforcement of the law without fear or favor is quite another.

He pointed out that Lebanon is the third-largest exporter of hashish after Afghanistan and Morocco, accounting for six percent of the world’s illegal supply of the drug, according the UNODC in 2012.

“This has made many people in Lebanon rich and powerful, specifically in the Bekaa Valley, where most of the cannabis is grown,” he said.

He wonders whether legalization will open opportunities for newcomers to enter the business or further enrich the players and politicians who control the business.

The anonymous expert said that he was unsure of the contours of a long-term strategy to decriminalize cannabis inside Lebanon for commercial purposes.

“These are basic questions that must be addressed if the legalization move is to make a positive impact on the economy,” he said.

Citing the tobacco industry as a cautionary tale, he said all Lebanese producers are required to sell only to government-approved authorities that produce and sell cigarettes, such as the Régie Libanaise des Tabacs et Tombacs.

“The risk is that the same situation could arise with cannabis. An element of corruption can completely wipe out the positive impact,” he said.

In his opinion, the Lebanese government wants a piece of the pie with the global legal cannabis market tipped to reach $103.9 billion by 2024.

“One can only hope that the Lebanese government transforms cannabis cultivation into a diversified income stream, with scope for local industries such as medicine, pharmaceutical, textile, wellness, and even tourism to flourish,” he said.

“But all this may be too much to ask given previous the government’s track record in other sectors.”



Mexico: Medical marijuana was legalized in 2017. The legalization of the drug for recreational purposes is expected to take place by April 30, 2020. According to Arcview and BDS, recreational marijuana sales in Mexico are expected to reach $582 million by 2024, with an additional $441 million in medical spending, for a combined $1.02 billion.

United States: Marijuana is legal in 11 states for adults over the age of 21 and legal for medical use in 33 states. The US marijuana industry’s economic impact is predicted to reach $77billion by 2022, according to Marijuana Business Factbook, while studies estimate the industry will produce at least 330,000 jobs by 2022.

Canada: In 2018, Canada become the second country in the world to implement legislation to permit a nationwide marijuana market. By the end of August 2019, cannabis inventories across the country had reached almost 400 tons. In total, 5,884,055 packaged units of cannabis were sold across the country for medical and non-medical purposes in 2019.

Paraguay: The principal producer of cannabis in South America legalized cannabis for medicinal use in 2007. However, the proposed framework for implementing a medicinal cannabis industry was not approved until 2018. That year the government opened licensing opportunities for businesses looking to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes in the country. The Senate also approved a separate bill permitting the personal growth of cannabis for medical use, provided users present authorized certificates.

Jamaica: Since decriminalizing marijuana in 2015, Jamaica now allows citizens to grow up to five cannabis plants, while the possession of two ounces or less has been downgraded to a petty offence. According to the US State Department, Jamaican farmers cultivate 15,000 hectares of cannabis every year. The government has also granted licenses to farmers who want to grow cannabis for medical, therapeutic or scientific purposes.

Morocco: According to a report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Morocco remains the world’s largest producer of cannabis, producing over three times more than the next highest contender, Moldova. The report suggested that cannabis production in the country has continued to grow, showing an increase from 35,653 tons in 2016 to 35,703 tons in 2017.

Nigeria: Nigeria has the highest cannabis usage worldwide with 20 million users. It is estimated that 20.8 million people in Nigeria consume the illegal commodity every year in a market estimated at $15.3billion. Two reports have stated that Nigeria has the highest rate of cannabis use in the world with 19.4 percent of its population over the age of 15 consuming the drug in 2019, and at least 12 percent consuming it monthly.

United Kingdom: The country was declared the world’s largest producer and exporter of medical cannabis by the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board in 2018. According to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), 95 tons of marijuana was produced in the UK in 2016 for medicinal and scientific use, accounting for 44.9 percent of the global total. The cannabis-based medicine ‘Sativex’ accounts for a significant proportion of UK legal cannabis production and is available on prescription.

Afghanistan: Over 10 years ago, Afghanistan was the largest supplier of cannabis, estimated at 1,500-3,500 tons a year, according to a UNODC report. Between 10,000 and 24,000 hectares of cannabis are grown every year in Afghanistan, with major cultivation occurring in 17 out 34 provinces.

India: In 2019, buyers in Delhi and Mumbai purchased 38.3 tons and 32.4 tons of cannabis respectively, despite the drug being illegal in these cities, according to data released by the Berlin-based data firm ABCD. Cannabis is sold at Rs315 per gram in Delhi and Rs329 per gram in Mumbai, which are the cheapest rates globally, says the report. In 2017, Uttarakhand became the first Indian state to allow farmers to cultivate hemp plants for industrial purposes. The drug is believed to have been sold and consumed across the country for decades.

UAE mulls movement restrictions on residents without COVID-19 vaccines

UAE mulls movement restrictions on residents without COVID-19 vaccines
Updated 21 April 2021

UAE mulls movement restrictions on residents without COVID-19 vaccines

UAE mulls movement restrictions on residents without COVID-19 vaccines
  • The UAE reports 1,903 new coronavirus cases and three fatalities
  • Abu Dhabi earlier approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

DUBAI: The UAE is considering imposing movement restrictions on individuals who remain hesitant to have themselves vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Dr. Saif Al-Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority.

“The vaccine is our best means to recover and return to a normal life … Delaying or refraining from taking the vaccine poses a threat to the safety of society and puts all groups, especially those most vulnerable to infection, at risk,” Dr. Al-Dhaheri said in reports from local media.

“Strict measures are being considered to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals and to implement preventive measures, such as restricting entry to some places and having access to some services, to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” he added, as he urged residents aged 16 and above to get vaccinated.

The UAE reported 1,903 new coronavirus cases and three fatalities related to the highly transmissible disease overnight, amid the government’s continued inoculation program for citizens and residents.

The country’s COVID-19 caseload now stands at 500,860 while total fatality count is at 1,559, a report from state news agency WAM said.

Health officials said that 113,621 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of jabs given provided to 9,788,826 for a distribution rate of 98.97 doses per 100 people.

Abu Dhabi earlier approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the second COVID-19 shot to be made available in the emirate after beginning a mass campaign using the Sinopharm vaccine that was trialed in the country.

Pfizer obtained emergency approval in the UAE in December and Dubai rolled out the vaccine during that month.

Libyan factions face international call to step up peace process

Libyan factions face international call to step up peace process
Updated 21 April 2021

Libyan factions face international call to step up peace process

Libyan factions face international call to step up peace process
  • Arab League, African Union, EU and UN call for accelerated efforts to improve security and fully implement ceasefire
  • UN chief Antonio Guterres says urgent and immediate action is needed or window of opportunity might be lost

The international Libya Quartet on Tuesday urged authorities in the country to step up their efforts to improve the security situation and build confidence, to help bring peace to the country and fully implement the ceasefire agreement.
The members of the Quartet — the League of Arab States, the African Union (AU), the EU and the UN — said they are ready to help with the 5+5 Joint Military Commission’s plans for a “robust, credible and effective” ceasefire monitoring mechanism.
On Friday the UN Security Council unanimously voted to send up to 60 international monitors to Libya to oversee the ceasefire, which was agreed in October between the two rival factions in the East and West of the country. Operational and logistical preparations for the mission are under way.
Speaking at the sixth meeting of the Libya Quartet, which was convened on Tuesday by the League of Arab States, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the monitoring team will initially be a “nimble” presence in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, but expand over time.
He also made it clear that after years of violence and suffering there is a window of opportunity for peace “but urgent and immediate actions are needed to make use of this narrow window.”
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the Quartet members called for the “immediate and unconditional” withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from the country as a prerequisite for fully restoring Libyan sovereignty and preserving national unity.
They also condemned continual violations of the UN arms embargo on Libya, and the threat posed by armed groups and militias. They called for “the sustained implementation of measures to fully identify and dismantle these groups, and ensure the subsequent reintegration of those individuals meeting the requirements into national institutions as outlined in the ceasefire agreement … without delay.”
The meeting also included discussion of the possible deployment of AU, EU and Arab League observer missions, “at the request of Libya’s authorities, and if the requisite conditions on the ground permit,” to assist the National Elections Commission in its preparations for the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for December.
The importance of the elections taking place in “a favorable political and security environment, so that they are held in an inclusive, transparent and credible manner and where all Libyans commit to respect their results and integrity” was emphasized.
Participants also encouraged Libya’s new Government of National Unity, and other relevant institutions, to uphold their commitment to appoint women to at least 30 percent of senior executive positions, and to promote a national, rights-based reconciliation across the country.

Yemen launches first round of COVID-19 vaccination campaign

Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF’s representative in Yemen, receives the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a medical center in Aden, Yemen April 20, 2021. (Reuters)
Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF’s representative in Yemen, receives the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a medical center in Aden, Yemen April 20, 2021. (Reuters)
Updated 21 April 2021

Yemen launches first round of COVID-19 vaccination campaign

Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF’s representative in Yemen, receives the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a medical center in Aden, Yemen April 20, 2021. (Reuters)
  • The 12-day campaign was launched in the temporary capital Aden and 13 Yemeni governorates
  • The campaign aims to reach 317,363 people in 133 districts

RIYADH: Yemen launched the first round of its COVID-19 inoculation campaign on Tuesday in the temporary capital, Aden.
The campaign is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).
Yemeni Minister of Public Health and Population Qasim Buhaibeh, Minister of Civil Service and Insurance Abdul Nasser Al-Wali, Governor of Aden Ahmed Hamed Lamlas, Yemen’s representative for UNICEF Philippe Duamelle, and director of the WHO office in Aden Noha Mahmoud all received the vaccine in a show of support, Saba News Agency reported.
Yemen received 360,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 31, part of a consignment from COVAX expected to total 1.9 million doses this year.
Buhaibeh said this was the first step toward reaching the ministry’s goal of administering 12 million vaccines by the end of the year, urging doctors, the elderly and those with chronic diseases to register to receive the jab.
Duamelle said frontline workers, the elderly and those with certain health problems would be prioritized.
“The launch of the campaign against the coronavirus is an important day in Yemen’s history,” he said, adding that the health minister and other ministers have taken the vaccination confirming its safety.
The 12-day campaign aims to reach 317,363 people in 133 districts across 13 Yemeni governorates under the control of the internationally recognized government.
There has been a dramatic spike in coronavirus infections in Yemen since mid-February, further straining a health system battered by the conflict.
The government’s health ministry has previously said the COVAX vaccines will be free, and distributed across the country. COVAX is co-led by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and the WHO to provide COVID vaccines to low-income countries.
Tuesday’s rollout covered only government-held parts of the country, said Ishraq Al-Seba’ei who is with the government’s emergency coronavirus committee. But she said 10,000 doses were being sent to Sanaa via the WHO.
Yemen’s emergency coronavirus committee registered 42 confirmed cases and six deaths on Tuesday. It has recorded 5,858 coronavirus infections and 1,132 deaths so far though the true figure is widely thought to be much higher as the war has restricted COVID-19 testing.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia, which controls the capital Sanaa and much of the north have provided no figures since a couple of cases last May.
Meanwhile, KSrelief said it has provided support for protection projects within Saudi Arabia’s grant for the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2020. 
The center cooperated with UNICEF to provide protection services by enabling children and their families to access psychosocial support and mental health services, totaling $4 million.
(With Reuters)

Shadow war no more: The tussle between Iran and Israeli spy agency Mossad

A grab of a videoconference screen of an engineer inside Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant, shown during a ceremony headed by the country's president on Iran's National Nuclear Technology Day, in the capital Tehran. (AFP/File Photo)
A grab of a videoconference screen of an engineer inside Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant, shown during a ceremony headed by the country's president on Iran's National Nuclear Technology Day, in the capital Tehran. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 21 April 2021

Shadow war no more: The tussle between Iran and Israeli spy agency Mossad

A grab of a videoconference screen of an engineer inside Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant, shown during a ceremony headed by the country's president on Iran's National Nuclear Technology Day, in the capital Tehran. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Natanz nuclear plant sabotage lays bare vulnerability to betrayal at the hands of own population
  • Analysts say Tehran’s tepid response is a sign of its desperation for sanctions relief above all else

LONDON: Analysts have said that the blast that struck Iran’s most critical nuclear facility on April 11 is another significant event in a decades-long shadow war between Tehran and its regional adversary Israel.

They say the sabotage has not only exposed Iran’s vulnerability to betrayal at the hands of its own population, but its tepid response has revealed its desperation for sanctions relief above all else.

Unnamed intelligence officials from Mossad told Israeli media and the New York Times last week that the mysterious Natanz explosion was their handiwork. And, according to Yossi Mekelberg, associate fellow with the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, it is a continuation of the spate of blasts, blackouts, and fires that swept across the Islamic Republic last year — but with one major difference.

“What has changed from last year is how public it is. (Israel) is ready to take responsibility. From a shadow war it has moved to the forefront,” Mekelberg told Arab News.

“This confrontation has been taking place for two decades now, at least. Cyberattacks, assassinations of scientists, attacks on ships — this is something that is ongoing. What you have seen in the last year or so is that it is becoming open, from covert to overt.”

In the past year alone, Iran has been rocked by a relentless series of attacks, assassinations, and sabotages. The country’s top nuclear scientist was killed in a sophisticated attack.

Their entire nuclear archives were stolen and smuggled out of the country, and nuclear, military, and logistics sites across the country have suffered from a series of mysterious setbacks.

An image grab from footage obtained from Iranian State TV IRIB on April 17, 2021 shows the portrait of a man identified as 43-year-old Reza Karimi, saying the intelligence ministry had established his role in last week's "sabotage" on the Natanz nuclear facility. (AFP/File Photo)

According to Mekelberg, these incidents have not only hindered Iran’s economy and nuclear program, but also exposed a fundamental weakness in the regime.

“They have a real issue inside their nuclear program,” he said. “The idea that their top scientist, they couldn’t protect him, and that someone managed to take your nuclear archives out of the country — that is not something you can simply put in your pocket.”

Iranian state television named 43-year-old Iranian national Reza Karimi as the prime suspect in the April sabotage — but said he had already fled the country in the hours before the blast occurred.

Mekelberg and other experts believe the involvement of an Iranian national is indicative of the regime’s core vulnerability: Turncoats within its population, and even within the nuclear program itself.


Iranian oil

* $40 - Price per barrel of oil used in Iran’s budget calculations.

* 300,000 - Estimated oil exports in barrels per day (bpd) in 2020.

* 2.8m - Iranian oil exports in bpd in 2018.

“They have a real issue with security. I assume that the more things like this happen, the more paranoid they become about who they can trust, who is working with foreign agencies. Obviously, someone is,” Mekelberg said.

Olli Heinonen, a non-proliferation expert and distinguished fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center, believes the sophistication of the Natanz attack means there is little doubt that local collaborators from within the regime enabled it.

“Those who have designed and executed these actions have insider information and highly likely local contributors,” Heinonen told Arab News.

This handout satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies on January 8, 2020 shows an overview of Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, south of the capital Tehran. (AFP/Maxar/File Photo)

Like Mekelberg, Heinonen highlighted Iran’s apparent ineptitude in defending even its most critical nuclear facilities and pointed to the stark contrast between the country’s record and another global pariah state’s nuclear program.

“It is worth noting that we have not heard about similar incidents in North Korea,” he said. “It is evident that the (Iranian) security forces have not been able to protect the assets as the leadership had expected.

“This does not come as a surprise. Not all Iranians, including technical professionals, buy the reasonability of the enrichment efforts, the investments for which could be used better elsewhere, even within the nuclear program.”

Tehran has admitted that the attacks caused serious damage at the Natanz facility. Last week, Alireza Zakani, a regime hardliner who heads the Iranian parliament’s research center, referred to “several thousand centrifuges damaged and destroyed” in an interview on state television.

A handout picture released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on August 25, 2014, shows an alleged Israeli drone that was shot down above the Natanz uranium enrichment site. (AFP/File Photo)

“From a technical standpoint, the enemy’s plan was rather beautiful,” the head of the Iranian parliament’s energy committee said. “They thought about this and used their experts and planned the explosion so both the central power and the emergency power cable would be damaged.”

Heinonen said the attacks have “certainly slowed production” of 20 percent enriched uranium, which is above the enrichment level needed for nuclear power, but far below the 90 percent required for weapons-grade uranium.

However, he cautioned that production could begin to ramp up again within three months of the attack, and Tehran’s promise to begin enriching uranium to 60 percent in response to the attack could act as a springboard toward rapid development of a nuclear bomb.

“In a short term (60 percent enrichment) does not contribute much to breakout time, but it demonstrates the fact that uranium enrichment is mainly designed to build a nuclear latency; to be in a position to relaunch in short interval a full nuclear weapon acquisition program, if such a decision is made,” he said.

The response to the attacks is part of a delicate balancing act by Tehran, according to Nader Di Michele, an Iran-focused analyst at political risk consultancy Prelia.

This handout powerpoint slide provided by U.S. Central Command damage shows an explosion (L) and a likely limpet mine can be seen on the hull of the civilian vessel M/V Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019. (AFP/File Photo)

“They do not want escalations but the government has to show a response in terms of its foreign policy. That could be aimed at international actors or even its domestic population,” he told Arab News.

Beyond increasing uranium enrichment, it was reported that unknown actors targeted an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the following days. However, Di Michele thinks the damage caused by that attack was, by design, minimal compared with the devastation caused by the Natanz attack.

“There always has to be a response to these attacks, but I think the Iranian delegation understands that there is a limit to what they can do if they want sanctions relief.”

Di Michele said if the ongoing negotiations in Vienna prompt a lifting of sanctions and release of various assets that, in turn, deliver a financial boost to the regime, “we can never be sure what proportion of that would go to support which activities.”

He added: “It can be assumed that a proportion of those assets released would go toward foreign policy activities. What those entail, I couldn’t speculate on.”


Twitter: @CHamillStewart

Turkey logs highest daily COVID-19 deaths since pandemic started – data

Turkey logs highest daily COVID-19 deaths since pandemic started – data
Updated 21 April 2021

Turkey logs highest daily COVID-19 deaths since pandemic started – data

Turkey logs highest daily COVID-19 deaths since pandemic started – data
  • Turkey registered its highest daily toll of 346 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday
  • Total cases stood at 4,384,624 while the total death toll rose to 36,613

ISTANBUL: Turkey recorded 346 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Tuesday, registering the highest daily death toll since the beginning of the pandemic.
The data also showed the country recorded 61,028 new coronavirus cases in the same period.
The total number of cases stood at 4,384,624 while the total death toll rose to 36,613, according to the data.
Turkey currently ranks fourth globally in the number of daily cases based on a seven-day average, according to a Reuters tally.