Week of July 15

A man stands in front of the Bent Pyramid of Sneferu, in Dahshur, south of Cairo, in Egypt, which was opened to the public on 13 July, 2019. Credit: EPA

Another ancient Egyptian site opened last week for the first time since 1965, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The Bent Pyramid of Sneferu is over 4,000 years old and features unique bent sides that break into two different angles, as opposed to having straight lines from the bottom to the top. The pyramid was one of two built for Sneferu, the pharaoh who founded the Fourth Dynasty. It is thought that it was built in three discrete stages. First the structure was intended to have a slope of nearly 60 degrees. This was reduced to 55 degrees and the base was enlarged. Finally, when the pyramid was almost forty-five meters high, the slope was reduced again to forty-five degrees. Ancient builders likely changed the shape of the pyramid when cracks began appearing in the structure. While the bottom half of the pyramid still has its original limestone casing, the top half has lost it. Inside the structure, archaeologists have found stone, clay, and wooden sarcophagi, as well as ancient stone-cutting tools. The Bent Pyramid is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been restored over the past few years. Egypt has been announcing more and more archaeological discoveries in recent years in hopes of boosting tourism. Tourists will be allowed inside of the structure. 

The brother of one of the bombers at concert in Manchester, England, in 2017, was extradited from Libya and arrested in London on Wednesday. Hashem Abedi was extradited based on suspicions that he helped his brother Salman plan the May 2017 bombing of an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22 people and injured more than 500. Tripoli had been stalling since the extradition request was initially made in November 2017, even though Tunisian counter-terrorism group Rada arrested Hashim shortly after the attacks. Rada, a group aligned with the government, explained that they suspected Abedi had aided his brother in the attacks. Abedi was set to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday. British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt stated that “whoever is found responsible for this great evil must face justice. It is right that Abedi will now face criminal proceedings in the UK.” Abedi was denied bail after appearing in court on 22 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and one count of conspiring to commit the bombings.

On Wednesday, two Defense Department officials announced that the U.S. is sending approximately 500 additional troops to Saudi Arabia as a show of force against Iran. Tensions have dramatically escalated in recent months, with six oil tankers damaged in the Gulf of Oman and an American drone being shot down by Iran. So far, the Trump administration has sent over 2,000 troops to the Gulf to deter Iran, although Trump emphasizes that war with Iran is not [p-part of his plan. American relations with Saudi Arabia have also been tense as of late, with the House moving to block Trump’s order to sell billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In an attempt to demolish the PKK insurgency in its neighborhood, Turkey coordinated an air operation in northern Iraq after a Turkish diplomat was allegedly killed by a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) at a restaurant shooting in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region that borders southeastern Turkey. “Operation Claw-2” began on Friday with air strikes, artillery and ground forces targeting caves and shelters used by members of the PKK. trikes and artillery. Turkey’s first “Claw” operation began in May. This time, Turkish jets hit the Qandil mountains, which have been a constant target of Turkish military incursions for the last 25 years due to their position as a hiding spot for PKK militants escaping raids in southeastern Turkey. According to security forces in Erbil, the gunmen in the restaurant was a 27-year old from Turkey’s Kurdish capital Diyarbak?r and was already wanted by Erbil’s security forces. Turkey’s increasing military involvement in northern Iraq is likely to increase tensions with both Baghdad and Erbil. Particularly, these operations reflect the ongoing downward trend in KRG ( Kurdistan Regional Government)-Turkish relations, which have been worsening since the sudden blow after Turkey’s harsh reaction to the KRG’s independence referendum in 2017.

Also on Friday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps seized at least one British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, according to Iranian state media. The strait is a chokepoint for 20% of the world’s oil. There seemed to be no apparent reason for the seizure and was lauded by Iranian TV announced, which released a video of what appeared to be the Stena Impero’s crew (presumably to ensure their well-being), but has ignored calls from the international community to release the tanker. The move, arguably Iran’s most aggressive since the deterioration of Iranian-Western relations following the U.S.’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, is seen by many as irreparably damaging the fragile detente in the Strait. This followed another shipping interference earlier in the week: the U.A.E.-flagged Riah, disappeared on Tuesday and has not been located since. Iranian officials first claimed they towed the vessel for repairs following technical difficulties, but later announced that they had seized the vessel for smuggling nearly 1 million liters of fuel out of Iran. The Riah has not been released, despite denials of the smuggling charge from its charterer and calls from the U.S. to free the vessel.

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