Iran announced on Monday that it would exceed the stockpile limit on low-enriched uranium set by the JCPOA, the 2015 agreement that the United States unilaterally withdrew from in 2018. The agreement sets a limit of 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to 3.67%, and on July 7th Iran announced that it had exceeded the stockpile limit for lower enriched uranium and begun to stockpile uranium up to 4.75% enriched. Although even 4.75% enriched uranium is significantly less than what would be needed to produce a bomb (about 90%), the move to disregard the stockpile limit signals Iran’s determination to break completely from the JCPOA if world powers aren’t willing to provide the economic benefits it was originally promised. President Trump has warned that “maximum pressure” will continue as punishment for Iran’s further disregard of the agreement.
On Tuesday, Carole Rackete, the captain of a ship carrying over 40 refugees and migrants from Libya, was released after being arrested at the Italian port of Lampedusa for breaking a recent decree barring refugee ships from docking. Rackete was arrested for aiding illegal immigration and threatening national security, and faced a fine of up to $57,000, according to far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. Rackete explained that she had rescued the passengers from an inflatable raft on the coast of Libya on June 12 and had no choice but to declare a state of necessity in Italian shores because the situation on board was “more desperate than ever’’ after two weeks at sea. Rackete’s decision to save the migrants was applauded by many human rights groups and more than 1.1 million dollars have been raised for her through two online campaigns. Her arrest has also prompted France and Germany to criticize Italy’s new anti-immigrant policies, leading to potential diplomatic tensions. Yet Italy’s move towards populism and nationalism isn’t isolated — it reflects a broader trend of anti-immigrant attitudes in Europe and the rest of the world. UNHCR estimates that 18,488 people were lost at sea while crossing the Mediterranean since 2014.
On Wednesday, American rapper Nicki Minaj accepted an invitation to headline Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah World Fest, a music and culture festival on July 18th. The festival is one of many state-sponsored cultural events the kingdom has put on in the past year, seen by many as an attempt to appear more liberal in the wake of the Khashoggi incident, which damaged many of Saudi Arabia’s relationships. The decision has been met with criticism from all angles. Saudi feminists have called the government hypocritical for attempting to foster international goodwill by performing liberality — Saudi women in attendance, for example, will still have to wear the abaya. As one woman said in a Twitter video since deleted, “She’s going to shake her ass and all her songs are indecent and about sex and shaking ass and then you tell me to wear the abaya. What the hell?” Human rights groups have called for Minaj to withdraw in protest of Saudi Arabia’s widespread human rights abuses. On the other hand, the Saudi organizers have said that inviting Minaj shows that Saudi “accepts everyone,” but the controversy highlights Saudi Arabia’s unique position as a conservative, Muslim monarchy actively attempting to court liberal international opinion. Update: On July 9th, after much controversy surrounding her upcoming show in Saudi Arabia, Minaj decided to back out of the Jeddah World Fest.
On Friday, Iraq celebrated the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s naming of the ancient city of Babylon as a World Heritage Site. The 4,300 year old city was once the greatest and largest city of its time and is home to a rich history of ancient civilization. UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — designates places “that are of outstanding universal value to humanity” as World Heritage Sites. Being designated as such a site protects Babylon in international treaties and is likely to increase tourism. The prime minister of Iraq proclaimed the designation as “another victory for the Iraq of civilizations that was and will always be a lighthouse to the world.” In recent years, many of Iraq’s important historical sites were damaged or destroyed by ISIS, including the ancient city of Hatra and a 3,000 year old palace at Nimrud.
The crisis in Sudan was tentatively resolved on Friday, almost exactly one month since the country drew global attention for the military’s violent crackdown on civilian protests. Sudan’s military government had been refusing to hand control of the country over to civilians following the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir in April. See our summary of the beginning of the crisis here. However, on Friday military and civilian leaders announced that they had come to an agreement to share power until elections could be held. With help from the African Union, the two sides agreed to rotate power between military and civilian leaders: a military general will lead a joint council for the first 21 months, after which a civilian leader will take power for 18 months. The military also agreed to stay out of the government once a leader has been democratically elected. The African Union praised the agreement as “a consensual and balanced peace agreement towards a democratic transition and civilian rule in Sudan,” but concerns remain about the military’s willingness to hand over power once their time is up. For the time being, however, the Sudanese people seem relieved that the crisis is over and progress towards civilian rule is being made.